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Posted on Aug 23, 2007 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Yokohama’s New Grand Hotel – MacArthur’s First Japanese Home

By Mo Ludan

Subscriber and ACG web article contributor, Mo Ludan, offers readers a rare opportunity to “walk through history” with this article and photo gallery about Yokohama’s New Grand Hotel, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur’s first stop in Japan after the end of hostilities in the Pacific Theater in August 1945. Ludan is the author of a previously-posted web article on the Dai Ichi building, MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters.

On the night of March 11, 1942, under orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a reluctant General Douglas MacArthur and a party of 20 prepared to leave his embattled troops on the Philippine island fortress of Corregidor and head for Australia to organize a new Allied force there.

They boarded four 77-foot motor torpedo (PT) boats, commanded by a young U.S. Navy Lieutenant named John S. Bulkeley.  They were ordered to breakthrough the Japanese blockade and traverse a distance of 600 miles across uncharted waters buffeted by 20-foot waves – a dangerous trip equivalent to the distance from Chicago to Buffalo, or Los Angeles to Tucson.

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PT 41 would carry its precious cargo, the General, accompanied by his wife Jean, and their 5-year old son Arthur.  As Lt. Bulkeley later recounted:  “Each passenger was allowed one suitcase weighing not more than 35 pounds.  The General did not have an ounce of personal luggage, not even a razor (he had slipped a toothbrush in his pocket).” (1) Jean was taking one dress, her coat, and a pant suit.  Her suitcase had a label attached to it that read “New Grand Hotel – Yokohama.”(2)

Five years earlier, the MacArthurs set sail from Manila to the city of Yokohama to stay briefly at the historic hotel on their honeymoon.  Among the hotel’s guests were such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Babe Ruth, and the Duke of Gloucester.

Three and a half years later, after the war had been won, MacArthur would spend his first three nights as pro-consul of Japan in the New Grand Hotel.  The great ol’ hotel was miraculously untouched by the intense fire-bombing of General Curtis LeMay’s B-29s as the rest of Yokohama lay in smoldering ruins.

Curiously, the New Grand Hotel faces the Port of Yokohama, the same spot where another resolute American hero, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, and his Japanese counterpart, High Commissioner Hayashi Daigaku, shook hands on March 31, 1854 to end Japan’s 200-year isolation.  The historic agreement was signed next to a camphor tree that still stands today.(3)   The Commodore’s task then was no less perplexing than was MacArthur’s in 1945.

At 2:19 PM, August 30, MacArthur’s silvery plane, “Bataan,” a converted C-54, touched down on Atsugi Airfield (a former kamikaze home base), 15 miles from Yokohama.  MacArthur was welcomed by the U.S. Eighth Army Commander, General Bob Eichelberger.  A jovial MacArthur said simply: “Well, Bob, it has been a long, hard road from Melbourne to Tokyo but as they say in the movies, this is the payoff.”(4)

A caravan of old cars, trucks and motor bikes — led by a sputtering, bright red fire engine that kept exploding and stalling — finally made it to the harbor an hour later.(5)   The motley collection of vehicles was the best the Japanese could round up in their war-torn city.

At the door of the New Grand Hotel, Yozo Nomura, an elderly Japanese dressed in a morning coat, waited nervously for the Supreme Allied Commander.  When MacArthur arrived, he bowed and welcomed him.  The General asked “How long have you been the manager of the hotel?”  Nomura hastened to correct him.  “I am not a manager.  I am the owner.  Welcome.  I wish to offer my respects to you.  During your stay, we’ll do our very best to service you and I hope you’ll like the room I’m going to show you.”(6)

He showed him to Room 315 and the connecting rooms.  At only 688 square feet, Suite 315, was humble as chief executive abodes go.  The main contents of the living room consisted of a writing desk, a vanity table and two mirrors.  There was an adjoining bedroom and toilet.  That was pretty much it. The bedroom and toilet have since been upgraded, but the rest of the intricately hand-curved furniture are well preserved.(7)Nomura also offered MacArthur a private dining room.  But he shook his head and answered that he would eat in the regular dining room with his officers.(8)

After Nomura departed, MacArthur tried to take a nap, isolating himself from the chaos in the lobby below.  There, “brass” from the various services jockeyed for rooms.  In all, 159 general officers from all Allied armies and navies found quarters in the hotel, including the former British commander of Singapore, Gen. Arthur E. Percival who had survived years of imprisonment in Northern China, and the Soviet representative, Lt. General Kuzma N. Derevyanko.(9)   Outside, Soldiers of the 11th Airborne Division were pitching tents in front of the hotel.

Next day, August 31, General Jonathan Wainwright, the defender of Corregidor, came in from his 3-year captivity in Manchuria to see his old boss at the New Grand Hotel. MacArthur was at dinner when an aide announced Wainwright’s presence in the hotel. The Supreme Commander jumped up and said, “Show him in at once.”  Suddenly the door opened and a spectral figure stood there leaning on his cane.  MacArthur stared intently at the man who had taken his place in Corregidor and now bore the burden of having surrendered to the enemy.  He noticed his sunken eyes and pitted cheeks; he was shocked by his snow-white hair and skin like “old shoe leather.”  The two generals embraced.  An obviously moved MacArthur held the bony man in his arms and called huskily, “Jim, Jim.”  Wainwright could only cry, “General,” before his voice broke.(10)

Years later, President Truman, who personally disliked MacArthur, wrote that MacArthur had kept Wainwright waiting and had given him a cold reception. The charge to which the recently departed General (he had died on April 5, 1964) could not respond drew a sharp reply from an officer who was at the scene.  (See full text of Maj. General Hugh J. Casey’s letter(11)).

MacArthur’s first three nights as pro-consul of Japan gives the world an insight into the man’s character, vision, leadership, and humanity.  Alone in room 315 during those three nights, the General pondered a constitution that would hopefully withstand the test of time and make Japan the longest-living democracy in Asia.

Today, Yokohama is a gleaming, vibrant, modern city that has fully recovered from the ravages of war. It retains its traditional Western-style character as seen in its quaint shops, classical  buildings, broad streets and relaxed ambience.  Visit www.yokohama.jp/en to learn more about this charming city. For more information on the MacArthur Suite and Hotel New Grand, as it is called today, visit www.hotel-newgrand.co.jp/english.

1)  William B. Breuer, Sea Wolf: A Biography of John D. Bulkeley, USN, p. 57

2)  George W. Smith, MacArthur’s Escape, p. 186

3)  The New York Times, December 26, 1999

4)  William Manchester, The American Caesar, p. 445

5)  William Craig, The Fall of Japan, pp. 292-293:  MacArthur moved toward the caravan of cars lined up to escort him into Yokohama.  En route he reviewed Soldiers of the 11th Airborne Division.  At one point, he paused to talk to some enlisted men.  When the General was announced, one of them reached for his gun to present arms.  By mistake he grabbed a bamboo pole.  As MacArthur walked by, he stopped and said quietly, “Son, I think you’re in the wrong army.”  The sergeant blanched and murmured, “Yes, sir.”  Chuckling, MacArthur moved on.

6)  Craig, The Fall of Japan, p. 294

7)  The Japan Times, April 28, 2002

8)  The East Magazine, Sept/Oct 2002, vol. 38, no. 3.  Kasuga Mansion Roppongi #200, Minato-ku, Tokyo:  The hotel prepared a lunch of walleye, mackerel, and cucumber garnished with vinegar.  The General ate a single bite and put down his knife and fork.  His subordinates wanted to sample his evening meal before he ate.  He would not permit it.  The hotel staff were grateful for the gesture of trust.  It was an expression of trust in the hotel and in the Japanese nation, but it was also a sign of MacArthur’s hunger.  He had skipped the earlier meal, and by evening was too hungry to share his hamburger with anyone for any reason.

That evening the 11th Airborne Division scoured Yokohama for eggs for MacArthur’s breakfast.  The next morning, the General ate one egg instead of his customary two.  When he learned that a nightlong search had yielded but a single egg, he realized the severity of the food shortage. Thereupon he issued an order that was contrary to the practice of conquering armies throughout history: Occupation troops were not to eat local food but only their rations.  It proved to be one of his most popular orders.

9)  Following the surrender, Truman’s accommodative State Department negotiated membership of Great Britain and Soviet Russia in the newly created Allied commission to monitor and advise the Supreme Commander in Tokyo.  The Russians demanded a partition of Japan, the occupation of the northern half of Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island following their seizure of the northernmost island of Sakhalin, and a 3-power-zone Tokyo similar to postwar Germany and Berlin.  As narrated by Theodore and Donna Kinni in No Substitute for Victory:

“When MacArthur refused, Lt. Gen. Derevyanko, Stalin’s representative, threatened to take action without U.S.  approval.  MacArthur later said, ‘I told him that if a single Soviet soldier entered Japan without my  authority, I would at once throw the entire Soviet mission, including himself, into jail.’ The Russians chose not to test his resolve.”

This had endeared the General to the Japanese people. During our visit to Yokohama, we met a retired Japanese banker who said, “If it were not for MacArthur-san, I’d be talking to you in broken English but with a thick Russian accent.”

10)  Craig, The Fall of Japan, pp. 297-298

11)  The New York Times, November 17, 1964.   TO THE EDITOR:

It is deeply  regrettable when an ex-President of the United States maligns one of our greatest Soldiers after his death when response by the individual is silenced.

I refer to former President Truman’s remarks about General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as printed in your issue of Nov. 16, quoting Mr. Truman’s charges in his TV series about General MacArthur’s “cavalier treatment” of General Wainwright on his release from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.  Mr. Truman’s statement that General MacArthur refused to talk to General Wainwright when he arrived in Yokohama (at the New Grand Hotel) in August 1945 or ask him to lunch or see him until 3 o’clock is wholly false.

I was present then and sat at General MacArthur’s table along with Lt. General S.J. Chamberlin, Maj. General L. J. Svendrup, Lt. General Derevyanko and his assistant, and several others when General Wainwright arrived.  The American officers present can confirm my statement.  General MacArthur, and not Mr. Truman, as the latter asserts, had dispatched the plane for General Wainwright as General MacArthur, in addition to seeking General Wainwright’s earliest release, had particularly wanted him to attend the Japanese surrender ceremonies scheduled for Sept. 2 on the U.S.S. Missouri.

As soon as General Wainwright entered the room, General MacArthur rose from his seat and proceeded directly to General Wainwright, clasping his hand and throwing his other arm around General Wainwright’s shoulder in a most affectionate embrace and greeting.  General Wainwright broke into tears at the reunion.  General MacArthur then seated General Wainwright on his right at our luncheon table with both reminiscing on many intervening events.  General MacArthur also directed that everything possible be done to insure General Wainwright’s comfort.

Although not mentioned in your news article, certain other statements made in Mr. Truman’s first broadcast of this series, such as the snide inference with respect to General MacArthur walking on water, and similar sarcastic and hateful remarks, are far below the dignity to be expected from one who has held the highest office in our land.

Hugh J. Casey, Major General, U.S.Army, Retired (Formerly Chief Engineer in General MacArthur’s HQ 1941-1949).

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7 Comments

  1. An interesting idea for an article and a very well-written article. It was interesting to read the letter from the officer explaining the actual circumstances of General MacArthur’s greeting of General Wainwright.

  2. I remember the New Grand Hotel, I lived and worked there from Nov 1947 to June 1950. The hotel was a part of the Eight Army Officers Club in those days. I was bar manager for the club part. Major Knowles was the Club Custodian. He was later replaced with Maj Rabb, as I recall. I knew Young Nomura quite well.

  3. I am not versed on if this is a “blog” or not but what an interesting study in history. I particularly liked the comparison in photos from 1945 and today. Great job.

  4. Very interesting. I was stationed near Yokohama from 1966 to 1968 and saw the Hotel New Grand many times. Also spent many hours in Yamashita Park. At the time I did not know history of the hotel just 21 years earlier.

  5. Check out Armchair General’s feature web article on “The New Grand Hotel,” which is located in Yokohama 17 miles south of Tokyo. The majestic, grand hotel survived the war and served as MacArthur’s first home in Japan.

    A few days later, the General moved his quarters to the U.S. ambassador’s official residence in Tokyo and his GHQ at six-story Dai-Ichi Mutual Life’s imposing world headquarters. Both structures miraculously survived the carpet bombing of the city.

    http://armchairgeneral.com/yokohamas-new-grand-hotel-macarthurs-first-japanese-home.htm/2

    Also check the FORUM’s Trackbacks/Pingbacks for the film on “Hits and Misses in the Movie ‘Emperor’ Armchair General.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Armchair General Magazine – We Put YOU in Command!Historical Hits and Misses in the Movie ‘Emperor’ | Armchair General - [...] (See “Yokohama’s New Grand Hotel: MacArthur’s First Home in Japan” article/photo gallery at http://armchairgeneral.com/yokohama%e2%80%99s-new-grand-hotel-macarthur%e2%80%99s-first-japanese... [...]

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