Landing in Japan

The Occupation of Japan would require U.S. troops to help rebuild the devastated nation. The Eighth Army in Yokohama and the 6th Army in Kyoto would supply 460,000 troops led directly by MacArthur. Even though there was no armed resistance after Japanese surrender, the U.S. presence in Japan included troops, Civilian personnel, teachers, lawyers, engineers and missionaries which lasted almost two decades. By 1948, however, most occupying troops were sent home.
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Souvenir Medals of the Occupation

by David L. Burrows

 On Aug. 14, 1945, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signed the unconditional surrender papers for Emperor Hirohito, thus committing Japan to accept the Potsdam Declaration, on Aug. 14, 1945. Later that day, the emperor called a meeting of his cabinet and instructed them to accept the Allied terms immediately, explaining “I cannot endure the thought of letting my people suffer any longer.” Following the surrender of the Japanese government and the landing of Gen. McArthur in Japan in September 1945, the Potsdam Declaration served as legal basis for occupation by allied forces.

On Aug. 14, 1945, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signed the unconditional surrender papers for Emperor Hirohito, thus committing Japan to accept the Potsdam Declaration, on Aug. 14, 1945. Later that day, the emperor called a meeting of his cabinet and instructed them to accept the Allied terms immediately, explaining “I cannot endure the thought of letting my people suffer any longer.” Following the surrender of the Japanese government and the landing of Gen. McArthur in Japan in September 1945, the Potsdam Declaration served as legal basis for occupation by allied forces.

Prior to the end of the war with Japan, the Allied Powers issued the Potsdam Declaration that called for Japan’s unconditional surrender. By August 1945, bombing had destroyed 50% of urban Japan and over two million Japanese citizens had been killed. With the dropping of two atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war in Manchuria, Emperor Hirohito on August 9, 1945, decided to accept the provisions of the surrender. By August 15, 1945, the war was over. Between 1945 and 1952, General Douglas MacArthur’s U.S. occupying forces led enacted widespread military, political, economic and social reforms.

 The Army and Air Force Occupation Medal shows a Japan bar for forces in the Japan Occupation. The reverse features Japanese boats with Mt. Fuji in background.

The Army and Air Force Occupation Medal shows a Japan bar for forces in the Japan Occupation. The reverse features Japanese boats with Mt. Fuji in background.

As early as September 1945, MacArthur had taken charge of the Supreme Command of Allied Powers and began to rebuild Japan. After the formal surrender on on the battleship Missouri, on September 2, 1945, MacArthur flew into Yokohama and established his headquarters in the Hotel Grand.

The Occupation of Japan would require U.S. troops to help rebuild the devastated nation. The Eighth Army in Yokohama and the 6th Army in Kyoto would supply 460,000 troops led directly by MacArthur. Even though there was no armed resistance after Japanese surrender, the U.S. presence in Japan included troops, Civilian personnel, teachers, lawyers, engineers and missionaries which lasted almost two decades. By 1948, however, most occupying troops were sent home.

 One of the early Japanese Occupation souvenir medals is rectangular and depicts Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms.

One of the early Japanese Occupation souvenir medals is rectangular and depicts Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms.

MEDALS FOR OCCUPATION

During this period of Occupation of Japan, occupying Army and Air force personnel who served 30 consecutive days in Japan between September 3, 1945, and April 27, 1952, would receive the Army of Occupation Medal. The design for the Navy and Marine Occupation Japan Medal was similar to the Army and Air Force’s medals but used a different obverse and different Navy and Marine reverses. Interestingly, the clasps on each variety of Occupation medals were similar to the clasps used by the Army and Navy on WWI Victory medals.

 A later 1945 version recognizes the complete responsibility of American forces for all of the home Islands of Japan by including an American Flag in the design.

A later 1945 version recognizes the complete responsibility of American forces for all of the home Islands of Japan by including an American Flag in the design.

While the Military Occupation of Japan Medals are well- known to collectors, lesser known are the many souvenir medals brought home by both military personnel and civilians who served during the Occupation. The first medals appear to have been made by the Japanese. These had a definite Japanese motif showing a pagoda and Mt. Fuji with an inscription on the reverse, “In Memory of Landing in Japan 1945.” A later version in 1945 shows Mt. Fuji with a large American Flag and traditional Japanese cherry blossoms. The same version has appeared with a 1946 date.

During this early first phase of the Occupation an interesting version appeared showing a Dragon over clouds in an oval shape. The reverse had the familiar slogan, “In Memory of Landing in Japan 1945.”

 The Navy and Marine version of the Japanese Occupation medal has a nautical theme. The reverse features one of two possible configurations that depict an Eagle sitting on a horizontal anchor.

The Navy and Marine version of the Japanese Occupation medal has a nautical theme. The reverse features one of two possible configurations that depict an Eagle sitting on a horizontal anchor.

By 1946, the most common souvenir medal was a 37mm bronze or silver medal with the image of the Ernie Pyle Theater in Tokyo crowned with a large “Victory.” Formerly known as the Takarazuko Gekijo building, The Ernie Pyle Theater became the Eighth Army Headquarters. The U.S. Army Special Services provided live shows, musical programs, and movies to occupying forces at the theater.

 The theme on this oval shaped souvenir medal is an early design with the addition of the familiar, “In Memory of Landing in Japan.”

The theme on this oval shaped souvenir medal is an early design with the addition of the familiar, “In Memory of Landing in Japan.”

The reverse was similar to other Occupation medals, showing Mt. Fuji through the clouds and “Memories of Landing in Japan 1946.”These circular examples have been seen with dates 1946, 1947, and 1948, as well as undated.

Beginning in 1947, the Ernie Pyle Theater design was produced in a hexagonal shape. It still incorporated the same elements of the obverse and reverse of the circular version. 

 The old Takarazuke Theater (renamed the Ernie Pyle during the occupation) was returned to Japan and now replaced by a high-rise entertainment and office complex.

The old Takarazuke Theater (renamed the Ernie Pyle during the occupation) was returned to Japan and now replaced by a high-rise entertainment and office complex.

The design also appeared in a smaller, souvenir version with a 30mm scalloped edge, though it has no date on the reverse. A second, scalloped design has the “Victory” inscription, but the scene depicts a building and bridge. This version was also undated. 

Another Occupation medal appeared during the 1945-1952 era in the form of a 35mm x 30mm shield with “Victory” above the “Headquarters of the U.S. Army Forces Pacific.” The reverse on featured an outline of the Japanese Islands and the inscription, “To Memory of Landing in Japan.”

 The Ernie Pyle Theater Medal honored the most-read and well-loved correspondent of U.S. newspapers. A sniper on Okinawa killed Pyle on April 18, 1945.

The Ernie Pyle Theater Medal honored the most-read and well-loved correspondent of U.S. newspapers. A sniper on Okinawa killed Pyle on April 18, 1945.

The Occupation of Japan allows collectors to acquire an interesting range of medals, perhaps with more still to be discovered. The U.S. Occupation of Japan affected every aspect of Japanese life allowing for reforms that helped the nation’s economy grow. Without the U.S. Occupation, Japan may have not developed into a reliable democracy and become a strong US partner. While nobody knows how many American Servicemen and women have passed through Japan since 1945 or during the Korean and Vietnam wars, but it probably is in the millions. Today, there are still 46,483 U.S. military men and women stationed in Japan.

 The hexagonal design appeared in the years of 1947-1949, and utilized the same design themes as the earlier, circular Ernie Pyle Theater medals.

The hexagonal design appeared in the years of 1947-1949, and utilized the same design themes as the earlier, circular Ernie Pyle Theater medals.

 The Ernie Pyle Theater Medal honored the most-read and well-loved correspondent of U.S. newspapers. A sniper on Okinawa killed Pyle on April 18, 1945.

The Ernie Pyle Theater Medal honored the most-read and well-loved correspondent of U.S. newspapers. A sniper on Okinawa killed Pyle on April 18, 1945.

 Other shapes of souvenir medals depicting the General Headquarters of the U.S. Army Forces Pacific included a shield.

Other shapes of souvenir medals depicting the General Headquarters of the U.S. Army Forces Pacific included a shield.

 The Mt. Fuji design continued on many of the reverses of various souvenir medals, regardless of shape or design.

The Mt. Fuji design continued on many of the reverses of various souvenir medals, regardless of shape or design.