Published Date

June 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

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

The first step in deciding what America and her allies should do, and how they should do it, is to make clear what we want to do.

We have basic principles set forth in the Atlantic Charter.1 These were incorporated in the United Nations Declaration of January 1, 1942. President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Premier Stalin reiterated their confidence in these principles on February 12, 1945, when they announced their joint report of the Crimea Conference in these words: “By this declaration we reaffirm our faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter, our pledge in the Declaration by the United Nations and our determination to build, in cooperation with other peace-loving nations, world order under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom and the general well-being of all mankind.”

On several occasions President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull made it clear that the Atlantic Charter applies to the Pacific as well as to Europe. The Cairo Declaration, referred to elsewhere in this pamphlet, is a brief statement dealing specifically with our intentions toward Japan and the Far East. Other conferences of the United Nations leaders at Washington, Casablanca, Moscow, Teheran, Quebec, and Yalta have dealt not only with the conduct of the war but also with the making of the peace.

In the fall of 1944 representatives of the four major allied powers met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington and drew up tentative plans for an international organization to maintain peace and security. Out of these conferences emerged certain basic aims as the foundations of our policy toward Japan after her unconditional surrender. At Yalta it was decided that a second United Nations conference should convene on April 25, 1945 at San Francisco to prepare the charter for an international organization along lines proposed at Dumbarton Oaks.

Government officials, military leaders, experts on Far Eastern affairs, and ordinary citizens may differ on how some of these goals are to be achieved, but in general they are probably agreed that:

  1. The Japanese must be prevented from starting another war.
  2. Japan must be stripped of the territories it has seized.
  3. Japanese war criminals responsible for lawless and inhuman acts against civilians and members of the armed forces of the United Nations must be punished.
  4. Japan’s economic fate must be such as to benefit rather than harm the world and particularly the peoples of East Asia.
  5. The Japanese people must learn to govern themselves in such a way as not to endanger their neighbors, with a view to Japan’s ultimate acceptance as a member of the family of nations.

Each of these aims is excellent and desirable, but in attempting to carry them out one part of the program may conflict with others. When this is the case it is necessary to determine which desired result is the most pressing and important.

Next section: How Can We Keep the Japanese from Future Aggression?

  1. Considerable misunderstanding about the Atlantic Charter arose when President Roosevelt disclosed at a press conference on December 19, 1944 that the Charter had never been signed as a formal document. The President explained that notes prepared at sea and agreed upon by Prime Minister Churchill and himself had been radioed from their warships in the Atlantic to the British and American governments for publication release. Their signatures, it was explained, were fixed to the entire announcement coveting their meeting and agreement on a joint declaration, not to the news release quoting the Charter’s eight points. All principles of the Atlantic Charter were subscribed to in the Declaration of the United Nations, formally signed on January 1, 1942 by 26 nations; France signed it on January 1, 1945, being the 36th nation to affix its signature. The Anglo-Russian Treaty of Mutual Assistance, signed at London on May 26, 1942, accepted the Atlantic Charter as a basis of peace settlements. These principles were further affirmed in the Moscow Declaration issued on November 1, 1943 by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China. Backed by these successive diplomatic instruments, the Charter has the standing of recognized international law. []