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A Defense of Faith

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SCAP and Japan’s Religious Rehabilitation in the Early Cold War

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

At the outset of the U.S. Occupation of Japan following the end of World War II, the Truman administration charged General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), with the primary goals of demilitarizing and democratizing the defeated nation. MacArthur received broad authority and little oversight for his management of this project, which he in turn used to accomplish his mission as he saw fit. For his part, the general firmly held that the promotion of Christianity served the objectives of the U.S. occupation and larger Cold War aims. This essay demonstrates that MacArthur sought to use his power to make Christian proselytizing in Japan a critical part of his agenda. He repeatedly argued that a Christian-oriented Japan would keep communism from taking root in the nation and create a lasting, strong, and democratic U.S. ally in the Cold War in Asia. Religious conversion would make a significant contribution to achieving the overall goal of purging Japan of its militarism and antagonistic past and fashioning a friendly nation in the image of the United States.

Affiliations: 1: California State University, Sacramento


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