Published Date

June 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From What Shall Be Done about Japan after Victory? (1945)


Justice to Japan’s victims

So far we have been concerned with the proposals for preventing future Japanese aggression. But after Japan has been driven from the lands it has invaded, there remains the vast problem of restoring order and normal living conditions. In China, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Burma, and Malaya, millions of civilians have been killed, maimed, robbed, or driven from their homes.

Much of the damage done can never be made good. The dead cannot be brought back to life or the mutilated bodies of the living made whole. The many thousands of Chinese debauched by Japanese cheap opium cannot be restored to health. Priceless treasures of culture and religion, many of them centuries old, cannot be replaced by “something just as good.” In the course of the war, transportation systems, oil wells, mines, and plantations have been wrecked or seriously damaged. But the worst may be yet to come. It is very probable that the Japanese will practice a ruthless scorched earth policy when they withdraw from conquered territory.

Much of the vast property damage done by the Japanese will have to be repaired before the people of East Asia get back to bearable living conditions. Return to prewar standards may take many years.

Who is to pay for this great labor of reconstruction? Justice would demand the return of all property seized by the Japanese, including machinery and other loot carried to Manchukuo and Japan. Naturally all Japanese developments in Chinese territory not destroyed will be taken over by the Chinese government. But the payment of reparations by Japan to replace what it has ruined is no simple or easy problem. It is not covered in any of the agreements announced by leaders of the major allied powers. The payment of reparations by Japan is yet to be decided. The Crimea Conference set a possible precedent, however, when the participants “recognized it as just that Germany be obliged to make compensation for this damage in kind to the greatest extent possible.”

Next section: Can Japan Pay Damages?