497 Ball to Chifley

Report (extracts) TOKYO, 30 August 1947

TOP SECRET

REPORT TO THE PRIME MINISTER ON A MISSION TO JAPAN

I was appointed British Commonwealth Member on the Allied Council for Japan on February 26th, 1946. I took up this post on March 1st and arrived in Tokyo on April 3rd. At the beginning of April, 1947, I was appointed Head of the Australian Mission in Japan. On July 30th, 1947, I gave Dr. Evatt my resignation from both posts, expressing my readiness to carry on for some weeks until my replacement could be arranged.

Since the Minister's visit to Japan it appears that the Commonwealth Government feels dissatisfaction with the work of this Mission. In this report I shall try to describe the main conditions under which I have had to work in Japan.

THE ALLIED COUNCIL FOR JAPAN

(1) S. C.A.P.'s attitude I find it hard to see how the Council could have been made an effective or important Allied instrument. S.C.A.P. strongly opposed its establishment, and when established against his protest he treated it from the beginning with contempt. S.C.A.P.'s attitude was expressed in he following ways- (a) At the opening Meeting of the Council on April 5th, General MacArthur made it clear that he interpreted the Council's Terms of Reference in a way that would make it an obscure and unimportant part of the Occupation. He emphasised that its powers were purely advisory whereas the Terms of Reference provide that, in certain circumstances, it was necessary for S.C.A.P. not merely to consult the Council about projected measures but to secure its unanimous prior approval. I was instructed, however, not to raise this issue on the Council.

(b) At the Second Council Meeting General Courtney Whitney, representing S.C.A.P., addressed the Council for over three hours.

His attitude was rude and blatant, his tone one of frivolous derision. The key note of his tirade was that the Council had not been brought to Tokyo 'to pry into the Supreme Commander's armour'.

(c) S.C.A.P. consistently blocked the Council's channels of information. He laid down an extremely cumbersome procedure by which Council members desiring information about the Occupation, should request it in writing from the Secretary General. The request was then 'routed' through devious channels in G.H.Q. to the particular Section possessing the information. The answer was returned through the same channels. I only asked for information in this way twice. In each case, what I wanted to know could have been given to me or one of my officers in perhaps ten or fifteen minutes' conversation. It took from three to four weeks to receive evasive replies in writing.

General Chu, the Chinese Member, summed up the position aptly as early as May 7th, 1946, when I asked him whether he had any plans for the next Council Meeting. He replied-'What is the use of saying anything? We cannot give advice without information. We cannot get information without asking questions. But behind every question the S.C.A.P. representative seems to suspect some impertinent intention to criticise the work of the Supreme Commander.' (d) With two or three exceptions, S.C.A.P. has refrained from asking Council advice on the most important issues that have faced the Occupation during the last eighteen months. He has never asked for Council advice on the food question, on the dissolution of the Zaibatsu or on the new Constitution. On the other hand, he did, for a period, load the Agenda with a series of highly technical questions with which the Council was not the proper or competent body to deal. The Council, for example, was asked for its advice on the most effective methods of vaccinating and innoculating repatriates.

(e) S.C.A.P. has resisted every effort to make the Council a deliberative body. He has taken the line that Council Meetings merely provide each member with an opportunity of expressing his Government's point of view and has always tried to avoid having to put the question to a vote.

Moreover, when, on certain occasions, Council Members have asked the Chairman whether he could indicate S.C.A.P.'s reaction to the advice given by the Council, the Chairman has insisted that this was an improper question. The Supreme Commander could be relied upon to give the advice of Council Members the importance it deserved. Council Members would, in due course, by reading official reports and newspapers, discover for themselves how far the Supreme Commander had been able to act on their advice.

(2)The Reasons for S.C.A.P.'s Attitude General MacArthur and his representatives have always sought to justify their 'toughness' with the Council in terms of the Soviet danger. They have claimed that the Soviet Member's sole interest in the Council was to use it to sabotage S.C.A.P.'s work and to undermine his prestige. It would be impossible to give information to the British or Chinese Members and deny it to the Soviet Member. It was therefore necessary to clamp down on any information which might be used by the Soviet member in criticism of S.C.A.P. Moreover, since the Soviet Member was utterly unscrupulous and only understood the language of force, it was necessary to 'bash him down' whenever he raised an issue. It would have been useless and dangerous to have tried to examine and discuss issues on their merits.

Although this is the declared reason for S.C.A.P.'s hostility to the Council, I believe that he has continuously used the Russians as an alibi. Perhaps the deeper reason for General MacArthur's attitude is to be found in his own temperament and character. I think that he would have, in any case, strongly resisted the emergence of any body in Japan which might have, even in the smallest way, diverted attention from himself (3) My Instructions I very rarely received any instructions about the line I should take on the Council.

This meant that I had to use my own discretion on almost every question. Indeed, I may say that the only general instructions I ever received were those which you yourself gave me informally during your visit to Tokyo in May, 1946. As I understood it, it was my duty- (a) to try to maintain the right of the British Commonwealth to express a distinct and independent point of view on Occupation policy.

(b) while doing this, to seek to avoid any statement or action which might be construed as a serious breach between the United States and the British Commonwealth.

In other words, I was not to be a cypher but not to be a nuisance.

This course was beset with difficulties because the general tendency of S.C.A.P. Headquarters was to suspect that behind every mild enquiry there might be some intention 'to pry into the Supreme Commander's armour'. Moreover, to express even partial agreement with the Soviet Member in opposition to the United States Member on even a secondary question of procedure meant running the risk that this action would be construed as 'lining up with the Soviet against General MacArthur'.

I have, accordingly, shown great restraint in the Council. The statement I telegraphed to the Minister on October 22nd, 1946, remains true-

'FOR THE MINISTER FROM MACMAHON BALL No. 24.

Your No. 134.

1. I have been consistently cautious about supporting Derevyanko on Council. On questions of substance, he and I have always taken separate and independent lines, though, at some points, these lines have converged ...

2. On some procedural questions, we have been in agreement, but even there, I think in every case we have had the concurrence of the Chinese Member. On several questions of procedure which Derevyanko considered vital, I have declined to support him. Where I have supported him has been on his right to seek information from S.C.A.P. ...' [1]

Whenever we have been given an opportunity to do useful work on the Council I have tried to make the most of it. The Ten Point Programme on Land Reform which I submitted to the Council in the middle of last year was warmly applauded by S.C.A.P. The Japanese Land Reform Act includes most of its substance and much of its detail. [2] The recommendations I made on the control of the coal mining industry are nearly identical with the steps Mr. Katayama [3] and the Social Democratic Party are now trying to take. My recommendations on the stabilization of prices and wages and on economic policy generally have been of considerable assistance to S.C.A.P. and the Japanese Government. These contributions to the Council have not, however, received much publicity. I think they have been of [some] value.

ADMINISTRATIVE DIFFICULTIES

From the day of my appointment I have come up against a series of administrative difficulties which have hampered me in this work.

[matter omitted] [4]

THE MINISTER'S VISIT

(1) The Preliminaries I received an immediate telegram, dated June 2nd, 1947, which read, inter alia- 'From a tactical point of view, it would be most useful if the Supreme Commander issued a personal invitation to the Minister to visit Japan in the immediate future.' The following day I telegraphed to the Minister a personal and most cordial invitation from MacArthur. I was greatly puzzled when I received a later telegram, dated June 11th, stating that- 'It seems likely that a message will come from MacArthur in the near future inviting the Minister to Tokyo.' The Department explained that they had not received the telegram from me transmitting MacArthur's invitation, though our check with the signals people showed that it had been delivered to the Department of External Affairs. It was not until June 16th that I received a personal telegram from the Minister instructing me to convey to MacArthur his acceptance of the invitation. That meant a lag of fourteen days in accepting the invitation. It was in the same telegram that the Minister instructed me, as I understood his wording, to try to secure from MacArthur a press statement referring to the Minister's close war-time association with MacArthur during his command of the South West Pacific, and also to ask MacArthur to arrange for a S.C.A.P. aircraft to transport him to and from Japan.

As I have already reported to you in my telegram of July 31st it was within the same short period that I was instructed to ask MacArthur to cancel the projected Antarctic whaling expedition and to earmark a group of Japanese whaling vessels for Australia. I have reported in my telegrams of July 31st and August 2nd, the embarrassment and, I am afraid, annoyance which I subsequently felt when I learnt of the Minister's appeal through B.C.O.F. to MacArthur for air transport and his subsequent direct appeal.

I may have been quite wrong in allowing myself to be concerned with these questions. I recognise that it was my job to carry out instructions, not to formulate or criticise them. Yet it is very difficult to be merely a robot. I knew from unofficial State Department sources that there was some anxiety in that Department about the Minister's visit to Japan. It was an open secret here that for a long time, and particularly since General Marshall's appointment, there was a growing distrust between the State Department and S.C.A.P. There was certainly strong anxiety in the State Department that MacArthur might, during the Minister's visit, make some 'unilateral' arrangement with him which would short circuit the State Department. In the meantime, members of MacArthur's personal staff were trying gently and tactfully to explain to me that to send the 'Bataan' on a double return trip to Australia to transport the Minister would 'certainly get General MacArthur in bad with the people at home'. In these circumstances, I felt it was very unfortunate for the Minister to persist three times with a request which I felt certain MacArthur was bound to refuse. I felt the self-respect of Australia was involved, though I recognise that it was not my business to have any feelings about the matter at all.

(2) The Minister's First Two Days at Kure I had done everything in my power to organise the details of the Minister's visit in the way he had instructed. I went to meet him at Kure, determined that every member of this Mission would go flat out to help the Minister in whatever way he could to make his mission a success. There had been considerable difficulties in arranging an itinerary since communication with the Kanimbla had been most unsatisfactory and the Minister several times changed his mind about the instructions he sent me. On his arrival, however, quick action was taken to line up a definite itinerary.

During his first two days at Kure, particularly as a result of his inspection of the Naval Arsenal, the Minister expressed many times his concern at the military potential that appeared to remain in Japan and spoke of the need for strict and comprehensive controls by the Allies. He warmly applauded me for my work on the Allied Council and particularly, for a 'stand' I was reported to have taken at the last Meeting. [5] He appeared to be giving me the fullest support and emphasised the independent and critical attitude which Australia must take on Japanese questions.

After his arrival in Tokyo, the Minister had a long talk with MacArthur. The press here reported that the Minister, on his return from this talk, was described by one of MacArthur's personal staff as being 'as happy as a schoolgirl with two holidays'. The following day, International News Service reported that it was understood Dr. Evatt had come here 'in order to identify himself with General MacArthur'. I was very concerned at this report and expressed my concern to the Minister. He said he was not worried about it.

I then noticed what seemed to be a very marked change in the Minister's general attitude towards the Peace Settlement and to me. He showed no interest at all in the summarised reports of conditions here which we had prepared for him. He said it was 'useless to hold post mortems'. It was necessary, he said, to think about the future. He mentioned the need for taking into account the changes in public opinion in Allied Countries since the war, that there was not now the same bitterness against the Japanese that there had been two years ago. He spoke of the difficulties of securing Allied personnel to establish any comprehensive or detailed control over Japan after the Peace Treaty. He spoke of the great success achieved in the disarmament of Japan. He thought some kind of control might be necessary for perhaps ten years.

At the same time the Minister appeared to take some pains, as I have previously reported, to dissociate himself from me, if not publicly to repudiate me. In private conversation, he conveyed the very clear impression to a number of people here that he greatly deplored 'the anti-American attitude' I had taken. At the only two social functions at which the Minister himself took the initiative in deciding which Australians he wished to have with him-at a party given to American officers who had been in Australia and at the Press Club luncheon-he deliberately excluded me from this group. During his visit here he made public statements giving the highest praise to the work of General Robertson, but when asked to express his confidence in me at the Press Club luncheon, declined to do so. At this luncheon a number of correspondents were very interested in a question prepared by one of them. The question was 'Does what Dr. Evatt has said since he has been in Tokyo mean the repudiation of the line taken until now by Mr. Macmahon Ball on the Allied Council?' I understand that this correspondent was dissuaded from asking his question by a member of the Minister's personal staff.

It was in these circumstances that I felt I could not possibly carry on and gave the Minister my resignation.

I think my personal reason for resignation needs no further explanation. I do, however, feel that the political issue involved may be of far reaching importance to Australia. It seems to me a serious mistake to suppose that we can draw a sharp dividing line between Japan under the Occupation and Japan after the Peace Treaty. We cannot dismiss the analysis of developments in Japan during the Occupation as a mere holding of postmortems. If all of S.C.A.P.'s claims about the success of the Occupation are to be accepted, then only the mildest and loosest control will be necessary after the Treaty. If the actual situation in Japan is very different from S.C.A.P.'s official description of it, then much more careful and sustained controls may be necessary after the Peace Treaty if the renewal of Japanese militarism is to be avoided.

I am particularly sorry not to be present at the Canberra Conference. Since, however, the Minister did not display the faintest interest in any information or views about Japan which I was eager to place before him while he was here and since he clearly wished to dissociate himself from me, my presence in Canberra would not only have been useless, but would quite possibly have been a source of irritation to the Minister.

I fully recognise that it is for the Minister and not for me to make Australia's policy towards Japan. I fully recognise that it is for him and not for me to decide whether he should suddenly change his policy and outlook. I do, however, wish to point out, on the negative side, that never at any time during my eighteen months on the Council has the Minister even indirectly suggested to me that I was not faithfully and accurately carrying out his policy and, on the positive side, that until his first talk with MacArthur, he actively approved of what I had been doing.

CONCLUSION

May I be permitted a personal footnote? During the last two and a half years I have been entrusted with three tasks by the Commonwealth Government-at San Francisco, in the Netherlands East Indies and in Japan. I did not seek, either directly or indirectly, appointment to any one of these three posts. In February, 1946, I resigned my permanent position as Head of the Department of Political Science in the University of Melbourne and gave up my other work in order to accept this post.

I did this gladly because I felt then that the work here would be very important. The Allied Council has turned out to be something like a fiasco. Throughout my term here I have tried to send accurate and objective reports on Japan under the Occupation. I believe these reports have been of some value. I have carried out my work with complete loyalty to the Commonwealth Government and done my best to maintain good and friendly relations with the representatives of other nations on the Allied Council and with all Allied Missions in Japan. I have for long felt great frustration in the work of the Allied Council here and have found the social obligations of this kind of post unpleasant and tedious. For these reasons I informed the Department some months ago that I wished to leave Japan by this August. When, however, it became likely that the Peace Settlement might be made earlier than expected, I expressed my willingness and eagerness to help in any way that might be considered useful. I naturally regret that I shall not now be able to take any further part in this work. I also regret that after these eighteen months' service your Government appears to consider that my efforts have resulted in discredit and failure.

I have no doubt that a Government may exercise great freedom in its treatment of its officers. The officer is in a poor position to defend his own work or his reputation. To do so would, in most cases, mean serious breaches of official confidence. However, I can not believe that a Government which seeks to repudiate and discredit those who have served it well is acting justly and wisely.

I hope you may be good enough to grant me a personal interview on my return to Australia.

1 For full text of cablegram see Volume X, Document 173.

2 See E.E. Ward, Land Reform in Japan 1946-1950,the Allied Role Tokyo,1990,PP.58-74,and Annex III which contains the full text of the Commonwealth proposals.

3 Tetsu Karayama, leader of the Socialist Parry, became Prime Minister of Japan on 23 May.

4 This section of the report chiefly concerned staffing difficulties, but also mentioned office supplies and administrative expenses.

5 This meeting was held on 23 July and dealt with land reform.

Ball objected to the reading of a paper outlining the difficulties encountered by other countries seeking land reform and the time required to implement change. Atcheson interpreted Ball's action as an 'inadventitious siding with the Soviet member. . .' See Atcheson to the Secretary of State, 1 August 1947, US Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, vol. VI, pp. 267-8.

[AA: A1838,3103/10/6, i]