The American Experience: MacArthur (1999)
Commentary by Joe Mangano, November 2001

I have the "The American Experience" video collection and have seen the Biography of General Douglas MacArthur a few times. In it I noticed a very derogatory reference made about Emperor Hirohito by Carol Gluck, Professor of History at Columbia University.

When the Japanese surrendered in 1945 after the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. occupation of Japan began. Gen. MacArthur was in complete charge of virtually everything in Japan at that time. The General ordered a photo to be taken of himself and the Emperor together. This photo was published in Japanese newspapers. In 1945 the Japanese as a race, were significantly shorter than Americans. The emperor was about 5' 3" or 5' 4". MacArthur appears to be nearly 6' tall. The photo clearly shows the size difference between the two men. Carol Gluck says,

That was a very shocking picture. There is MacArthur in an open shirt, as the Japanese press always says, "no necktie". There is, there is MacArthur with no necktie and towering over this little man, who is the larger, allegedly larger, than life symbol of the Japanese Empire and the descendant of the Sun Goddess, looking meek and small.

I saw the photo. There was nothing shocking about it. Hirohito stood straight, erect, had a proud body posture, looked straight at the camera, head held upright. There was no indication in anything about Hirohito that would indicate meekness. The only difference was in the physical height of the two men. Obviously, in the opinion of Ms. Gluck, Hirohito's shorter height meant he was somehow meek and inferior to MacArthur, on that basis alone. That is the implication in her statement. Isn't it shocking that a man we all thought was so powerful is just a little shrimp after all!

MacArthur was a very clever man. He knew unconsciously that people view short men in this light, and the purpose of the photo was to emphasize that. And this, I believe, compounds the problem, so ingrained, that people do it without thinking about it. What needs to be done is this issue must be put into the light so that we can begin to improve the situation.

A transcript of the episode is available at the PBS Web site.