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Alliance in Doubt
American Reaction to the 1960
US-Japanese Security Treaty Crisis
(Part III)

by Nicholas Evan Sarantakes
 Elsewhere in this issue:


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Ralph D. Sawyer on Chinese Warfare: The Paradox of the Unlearned Lesson. "From any reasonable perspective China’s continuity has been cultural rather than political, its heritage throughout one of incessant conflict as different peoples, states, and popular movements fought to control its populace and resources."

Minxin Pei asks, Is China Unstable? "China... will face rising instability if the regime fails to undertake significant political reform in the next decade."

Carl Fritz on China in 1945: One Man's Experience. "My unit was an air service group, and when the war ended members of the unit were widely scattered all over China."

Thomas D. Grant on Taiwan Trouble. "Taiwan had almost all the traits of a separate state, except that it never claimed to be a separate state."

Joseph J. Borich on US-China Relations: Springtime Ice Beginning to Melt. "Since mid-June, there have been several signs that bilateral relations may be gradually improving."

Other articles in this issue:   

David Brown on policy implicataions for the US one year after the outbreak of the financial crisis in Southeast Asia:
"The Treasury Department has played too prominent a role . . . . The Secretary of State should be [more] visibly involved in defining and implementing U.S. policy."

Other recent articles in American Diplomacy:

Walter A. McDougall, in Religion in Diplomatic History, took a different look at the Westphalian system of nation-states and the role played by religion: "Americans have been prone to justify their behavior abroad in Protestant Christian terms, however much they may disagree about what constitutes right and wrong." [Summer 1999]

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In early June, the bulk of newspaper editorial commentary supported Eisenhower in his determination to visit Japan. The official position of several editorial boards was that seeing the trip through to the end served the best interests of Japanese democracy. An editorial in the New York Herald Tribune held that the President should stick with his planned schedule; to do otherwise would deliver a death blow to the Kishi government, legitimize mob rule, and essentially take sides in a political struggle between the Kishi and his political rivals that had little to do with the United States. The editors of the Washington Evening Star agreed: “The hostile demonstrations will detract from the usefulness of the visit, but the adverse consequences of cancellation by Mr. Eisenhower, it seems to us, would be much greater. Popular government will not survive for long in any free country if the duly chosen representatives of the majority are going to bow every time the mobs and the hoodlums take to the streets.”

Others argued that delaying the trip would undermine the U.S. position in international affairs. The editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer declared, “We commend President Eisenhower for reaffirming his intention to visit Japan at the time originally scheduled for his good-will mission. He thus demonstrates that the United States is not going to let itself be intimidated by a noisy mob.” In Baltimore, their counterparts on The Sun agreed: “A decision to cancel or defer would look like a bow to the Japanese Socialist and Communist minority that has been making such a fuss against the visit. It would look timorous. It would mean ‘loss of face’ by the President in many parts of the East. It might even mean the compromising of the new United States-Japanese security treaty and in that case a damaging blow at our general military position in the Far East.” Despite the strength of their support, however, many journalists had little enthusiasm for Eisenhower’s undertaking. The editors of The Sun noted that the President’s previous trips abroad were less successful than generally thought. “Whatever happens in the course of this particular goodwill mission, let it be the last of its kind.”22 Editorials in a number of other papers voiced similar reservations and made a fairly obvious observation that Eisenhower should alter his plans if the Japanese were unable to protect him.23

There were also signs in the media that a partisan division was forming about the presidential excursion. The editors of the Louisville Courier-Journal took a strong stand against the goodwill trip. “There is a time and a place for everything, we are told. In deference to that sound old rule, we doubt that this is the time for President Eisenhower to set out on another sweeping ceremonial tour. We doubt even more strongly that Japan is the place at this moment for him to visit.” These journalists took an inventory of the political situations in all of the countries where the President planned to stop, noting that each one was in a turbulent period of crisis. “It is very difficult to see how the forces friendly to America in any of these areas could benefit just now from an Eisenhower visit.” Why then was he making such a journey? Writing for a paper that had been Democratic since its founding, the editors found an explanation within the context of the forthcoming presidential election. “The only logical answer is that it is being prompted by strategists of the Republican Party.”24

A few editors took extreme positions and questioned the utility of the alliance with Japan. These journalists thought the Japanese were in process of defining the very nature of their domestic political order and alignment in the Cold War. With these considerations in mind, editorial writers on the staff of a few papers argued that the United States should rethink the wisdom of aligning itself with a nation of such uncertain resolution.25

Political temperatures rise in Japan
The protests in Tokyo escalated on June 10 and forced such fundamental questions to the forefront of American thinking. White House Press Secretary James C. Hagerty arrived in Japan to make final arrangements for Eisenhower’s visit. The People’s Council decided to stage a small demonstration at the airport and present Hagerty with a letter protesting the pending presidential visit. The Japanese Communist Party was a strong force within the Council and pushed the organization into a political confrontation. When Hagerty’s plane landed at the airport, he and MacArthur quickly got into a waiting limousine and headed for the embassy. In doing so he decided against taking an available Marine Corps helicopter, believing that as a representative of the President of the United States that he could not back down in the face of a Communist challenge. As the car left the terminal complex and reached the access bridges to the airport, it met up with a crowd numbering between 8,000 and 10,000 people. The protesters quickly surround the car and forced it to stop. Chanting in English “Go Home Hagerty” and “Go Home Yankee,” the mob smashed the windows of the vehicle and were in a position to overturn the car as they rocked it and picked up its right side. Hagerty sat inside, unable to understand what the crowd was yelling. After about fifteen minutes, the police arrived and waded into the crowd, attempting to make room for the Americans to leave. Half an hour later the protesters had given enough room for the Marine helicopter to land and retrieve Hagerty and MacArthur. An Associated Press reporter covering the incident wrote, “No move was made to reach inside, unlock the limousine’s door and seize the three Americans.” A correspondent for United Press International took a more dramatic view and said that Hagerty and MacArthur would have been killed were it not for the actions of the police.

Five days later, on June 15, one of the largest and most violent demonstrations took place. A crowd of 70,000 gathered in front of the Diet. Around 4:30 p.m. a group cut its way through the fence and rushed onto the grounds of the Diet Building. For the next twelve hours police and protesters battled one another with rocks and clubs. The police also used high pressure fire hoses and tear gas. Approximately 4,000 people made it into the compound and overturned and burned a number of vehicles. The police drove the mob back in the early morning, but only after arresting 196 people. There were also hundreds of injuries to individuals on both sides and one fatality.26

The attack on Hagerty and the bloody riots of June 15 led many Americans to believe that that Eisenhower’s trip would play a large role in determining the fate of Japanese democracy and orientation in the Cold War. Columnists Max Lerner and Harold Martin thought the President was putting his life in jeopardy with the visit. Many other journalists agreed that the President would be in danger. The trip was now a high-level gamble, but most observers thought Eisenhower had few options; the future of Japan was at stake and this was worth the risk he was taking with his life.27 The editors of the Washington Evening Star disagreed and asked him to call off the trip. “We think that Mr. Eisenhower, in the light of all that has happened, ought not to go to Tokyo.”28

Eisenhower cancels Japan trip
As Americans debated the merits of the presidential expedition, Eisenhower began heeding the concerns he and others had and initiated efforts to cancel the trip. He had little concern about the future of Japanese democracy, but wanted to avoid being pulled into an internal Japanese dispute. Herter instructed MacArthur to meet with Kishi and tell him that unless he could guarantee the President’s safety, the Prime Minister should request that the President delay his visit until another time. The ambassador did as instructed and Kishi stalled; his political survival was at stake. But the police had informed him that there was no way they could promise with a hundred percent certainty that there would be no attacks on Eisenhower; guarding the 11.6 mile route between the airport and the palace was beyond their resources. After the riot of June 15, Kishi had to admit defeat and formally requested that the President postpone his visit.29

Through inept coordination, Eisenhower inflicted on himself the scenario he had feared; the cancellation of the trip came after he had departed on his Pacific trek and waves of recrimination did indeed follow in the United States. A number of critics blamed the President’s “personal diplomacy.” The editors of the Wall Street Journal argued that officials within the administration were basing their approach on a faulty assumption about world affairs. “The trouble lies in the naive notion that good national relations can be created by friendly personal relations between the heads of states or by friendly visiting.” An editorial in Life magazine called the cancellation “the gravest setback for the Eisenhower foreign policy in seven years” and said the United States needed foreign policy goals other than simple anticommunism. The editors of the Des Moines Register agreed, complaining that U.S. policy in the Far East had been too negative. Members of Congress were more specific in blaming the President, being careful, though, to avoid mentioning him by name. Senator Olin Johnston of South Carolina blamed him for “7 years of drifting, weak foreign polices.” His colleague from Missouri, Stuart Symington, said, “The United States has suffered a serious loss in prestige among all people as a result of its determination to tailor its over-all strength, technological and psychological as well as physical, to the balancing of the budget.”

Eisenhower was not the only person blamed for the setbacks in Tokyo. A number of accusations were made against MacArthur. The ambassador had a number of bureaucratic rivals in the State Department and they used the riots as an opportunity to leak news to reporters blaming him for the catastrophe and even suggesting that he might be recalled as a result.30

A dominant theme in these reactions was that the island nation was in the early stages of a Marxist revolution. A headline in the Los Angeles Times blared, “JAPAN NEAR REVOLUTION AS MOB STORMS PARLIAMENT.” A page one editorial in that paper announced, “A little band of devoted Reds skillfully seized the opportunity of domestic unrest to bring Japan to the verge of revolution.” Columnist David Lawrence observed, “Today the left wing, inspired by Moscow, has turned Japan toward communism and a loss of the freedoms that democracy has given the Japanese people since World War II.” Several other columnist agreed that the ringleaders of the mob were working under orders from Moscow. The editorial board of the Washington Evening Star thought that the protesters were did not represent the bulk of the Japanese people but still feared that they might take control of the government. “The persistency and violence of their demonstrations have nonetheless reached a point where they threaten to paralyze, if not destroy, the country’s democratic legislative processes under a government freely elected by a large majority.” The editors of the Chicago Daily Tribune believed, “The question now becomes what Mr. Kishi can do to save his country from falling into anarchy and from being pried loose from its military alliance with the United States. If the Kishi government were to fall, there can be little doubt that any successor regime would, at the best, be neutral if not positively inclined toward the Moscow-Peking axis.” If such a development were to happen, then United States might have to concede the entire western Pacific. While more optimistic than their Chicago counterparts, the editors of the Kansas City Times suggested that no less was at stake. The editorial board of the Birmingham News thought Kishi had to impose martial law and arrest his political opponents, if Japan were to be saved from disappearing behind the Iron Curtain.31


Continue reading Sarantakes 1234 • Bibliography


End Notes (Part III)

22. Washington Evening Star, June 8, 1960; New York Herald Tribune, June 8, 1960; The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 4, 1960; Baltimore Sun, June 8, 1960; Chicago Daily News, June 7, 1960.

23. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 3, 1960; The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 8, 1960; Washington Evening Star, June 8, 1960.

24. Louisville Courier-Journal, June 2, 1960.

25. The Denver Post, June 1, 1960; The Wall Street Journal, June 8, 1960.

26. New York Herald Tribune, June 11, 1960; Packard, Protest in Tokyo, 288-290, 294-297.

27. New York Post, June 13, 1960; The Atlanta Constitution, June 14-16, 1960; The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 11, 1960; The Indianapolis Star, June 16, 1960; The Boston Herald, June 11, 1960; The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13, 1960; Chicago Daily Tribune, June 10, 1960; New York Journal-American, June 11, 1960; The Providence Journal, June 11, 1960; Fort Worth Telegram-Star, June 14, 1960.

28. Washington Evening Star, June 12, 1960.

29. Packard, Protest in Tokyo, 293, 300; Schaller, Altered States, 156-158.

30. The Wall Street Journal, June 17, 1960; New York Daily Mirror, June 12, 1960; New York Herald Tribune, June 19, 1960; Life, June 27, 1960, 32-33; The Des Moines Register, June 21, 1960; The Denver Post, June 23, 1960; The Washington Daily News, June 23, 1960; The Washington Post, June 17, 1960; Congressional Record, 86th Congress, 2d. session, 13209.

31. Los Angeles Times, June 16-17, 1960; Lawrence’s column can be found in the Washington Evening Star, June 17, 1960; for the few of other columnists see Max Lerner in the New York Post, June 1, 1960; Roscoe Drummon in the Chicago Sun-Times, June 21, 1960; and Peter Edson in The Washington Daily News, June 22, 1960; Washington Evening Star, June 17, 1960; Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1960; The Kansas City Times, June 17, 1960; The Birmingham News, June 17, 1960.

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