Virginia Gentleman: Your book, “A Land of Mystery, Magic and Mayhem”, is a memoir of your childhood in post war Japan. What motivated you to tell the story?
John Taylor: “This is not a simple memoir--but a historical memoir. The book is inundated with historical data from many ages. In order to be educated, one must know history. At the least, be familiar. Otherwise, the individual is not educated. In terms of motivation one key event happened. On June 7, 2007 I was attending a Smithsonian seminar regarding Japan and America with several high profile people such as Ryozo Kato--Japan's ambassador to the U.S and former senator Howard Baker--a former U.S ambassador to Japan and a number of others. This is when the bell rang for me to tell mystory. My concern for whales and dolphins being illegally killed by Japan caused me to be engaged in the Q & A session. I was outraged to hear Kato deny the illegal whaling but elated when Senator Baker said the ambassador's retort was poppycock! (Pure B.S.) a truthful politician amazed me because politics is a whore's game."
Virginia Gentleman: Where in Japan did you live?
John Taylor: “Northern Homshu: Jinmachi, Japan. Sendai,
Japan (where the tsunami hit).”
Virginia Gentleman: What motivated you to join the Army, specifically the 82and Airborne?
John Taylor: “Being reared in a military household and living on many army bases in the U.S. and abroad--i.e.,
Japan, Austria and Germany in the post WWII years. I am an eyewitness to history--even without my three college degrees. Also my reverence for the great General Macarthur and Mathew Bunker Ridgeway--a former WWII paratrooper with
the 82nd Airborne Division.”
Virginia Gentleman: Douglas MacArthur believed that Emperor Hirohito should not be executed or imprisoned. Why did he feel Hirohito was important in re building Japan?
John Taylor: “Hirohito was a war criminal--willy-nilly! But, the general knew he would be essential to a successful occupation. The Emperor was a titular head--before and post WWII. MacArthur knew if Hirohito were tried as a war criminal, all hell would break loose in terms of guerilla warfare, chaos and impossible to establish a democracy in this war-torn country. The General said he would need a million more troops to establish order. MacArthur wanted to establish a balance of power with geopolitical allies. The Emperor was essential for that to happen. And, The Emperor was an aristocrat like MacArthur. For this reason, The General had empathy for The
Emperor--as one aristocrat to another.”
Virginia Gentleman: It has been said that MacArthur set up the conditions that led to a modern, prosperous Japan. What were some of the key things he did?
John Taylor: “The General rebuilt Japan in his own image. The litany follows: He saved the Japanese people from
starvation, fashioned a second opening (1854--first with Mathew Perry), rebuilt ravaged and famished cities like Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atomic bombs were unnecessary.
MacArthur established a secular state based on a new constitution (1947) which the present PM Abe, a right wing nationalist asshole, who wants to beat down the MacArthur constitution. Established police departments.
Dismantled the arms industry--made Japan a pacifist state. Revised the out-of-date Shinto-based systems which only required six years of schooling. Established vocational, technical and university level schooling.
Established government by law--not men. An important component of democracy. MacArthur ruled through the Diet, cabinet and The Emperor, adding multiple advisers to the aforementioned--an example of indirect democracy. Created Article 9 in the constitution, preventing Japan from ever becoming a military state. Established free press. Established women's rights! Removed The Emperor from a divine status, in effect, humanizing him. Sent the Emperor on "hat tipping tours" to meet the hoi polloi--i.e., the common folk. Established labor unions. Life expectancy was
raised during The General's rule. 69 for men and 74 for women.”
Virginia Gentleman: What was Truman’s reason for firing MacArthur?
John Taylor: “Truman hated The General on a personal level. Called him a prima donna, a brass hat and a son-of-a-bitch. MacArthur had no respect for Truman as he felt Truman was unfit and beneath him. Truman had no college degree and was a country bumpkin. The General technically violated the Constitution by denouncing Truman policies vis-à-vis China. The constitution says the military is under civilian rule and the President is the Commander-in-chief. MacArthur wanted to bomb the Chinese sanctuaries along the Yalu river. "No substitute for victory"was his mantra. Truman and the JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) felt MacArthur would start WWIII--which was pure nonsense. The JCS also hated the General.”
Virginia Gentleman: The Japanese people seem today like a peace loving people, yet committed incredible atrocities during World War II. What are some of the reasons for the rise of militarism in Japan in the 20’s?
John Taylor: "The Spirit Of Bushido"--history of the warrior code--The Samurai! Japan ruled for centuries by
the Tokugawa Shoguns. During WWII, General Hideki Tojo ran the show--not The Emperor. But Hirohito gave imperial sanction to the war crimes--i.e., beheading American flyboys. The Japanese are used to regimentation. I.e., group rule and structure of the society.”
Virginia Gentleman: At the end of your book you say that people tend to become more understanding and forgiving, as they grow older. What are some good historical examples of that?
John Taylor: “Former President George H.W. Bush was present at the funeral of the Emperor in 1989. Bush attended the December 7, 1991 Pearl Harbor memorial with Japanese and American vets in the audience. He said: "I hold no rancor in my heart for my former enemy." Remember this: Bush was shot down by a Japanese zero during WWII.”
Virginia Gentleman: What do the Japanese think of Douglas MacArthur today?
John Taylor: “Very good query. I hear nothing on Japanese public TV (NHK) or from the American press as talking points on TV and radio vis-à-vis MacArthur's framing of modern Japan. This energizes short sidedness, was (and is) a big time motivation for my story. I want the world in general and America and Japan in particular to recognize what the General did for this geopolitical friend in Asia!”