With amazement and disappointment, we discovered in late October and early November that the beaten Russians seemed quite unaware that as a military force they had almost ceased to exist. - General Blumentritt
Events on Anniversary of USS Little Sinking
In my research, I found that several key WWII and post-WWII events took place in the years before and following the sinking of the USS Little on May 3rd, 1945.
The Battle of the Coral Sea Begins
May 3, 1942 - Three years before sinking of USS Little
On this, the first day of the first modern naval engagement in history, called the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese invasion force succeeds in occupying Tulagi of the Solomon Islands in an expansion of Japan's defensive perimeter.
The United States, having broken Japan's secret war code and forewarned of an impending invasion of Tulagi and Port Moresby, attempted to intercept the Japanese armada. Four days of battles between Japanese and American aircraft carriers resulted in 70 Japanese and 66 Americans warplanes destroyed. This confrontation, called the Battle of the Coral Sea, marked the first air-naval battle in history, as none of the carriers fired at each other, allowing the planes taking off from their decks to do the battling. Among the casualties was the American carrier Lexington; "the Blue Ghost" (so-called because it was not camouflaged like other carriers) suffered such extensive aerial damage that it had to be sunk by its own crew. Two hundred sixteen Lexington crewmen died as a result of the Japanese aerial bombardment.
Although Japan would go on to occupy all of the Solomon Islands, its victory was a Pyrrhic one: The cost in experienced pilots and aircraft carriers was so great that Japan had to cancel its expedition to Port Moresby, Papua, as well as other South Pacific targets.
Japanese War Crimes Trial Begins
May 3, 1946 - One year after sinking of USS Little
In Tokyo, Japan, the International Military Tribunals for the Far East begins hearing the case against 28 Japanese military and government officials accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during World War II.
On November 4, 1948, the trial ended with 25 of 28 Japanese defendants being found guilty. Of the three other defendants, two had died during the lengthy trial, and one was declared insane. On November 12, the war crimes tribunal passed death sentences on seven of the men, including General Hideki Tojo, who served as Japanese premier during the war, and others principles, such as Iwane Matsui, who organized the Rape of Nanking, and Heitaro Kimura, who brutalized Allied prisoners of war. Sixteen others were sentenced to life imprisonment, and two were sentenced to lesser terms in prison. On December 23, 1948, Tojo and the six others were executed in Tokyo.
Unlike the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals, where there were four chief prosecutors, to represent Great Britain, France, the United States, and the USSR, the Tokyo trial featured only one chief prosecutor--American Joseph B. Keenan, a former assistant to the U.S. attorney general. However, other nations, especially China, contributed to the proceedings, and Australian judge William Flood Webb presided. In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed. Some observers thought that Emperor Hirohito should have been tried for his tacit approval of Japanese policy during the war, but he was protected by U.S. authorities who saw him as a symbol of Japanese unity and conservatism, both favorable traits in the postwar U.S. view.
New Japanese Constitution Enacted
May 3, 1947 - Two years after sinking of USS Little
On May 3, 1947, Japan's postwar constitution goes into effect. The progressive constitution granted universal suffrage, stripped Emperor Hirohito of all but symbolic power, stipulated a bill of rights, abolished peerage, and outlawed Japan's right to make war. The document was largely the work of Supreme Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur and his occupation staff, who had prepared the draft in February 1946 after a Japanese attempt was deemed unacceptable.
As the defender of the Philippines from 1941 to 1942, and commander of Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific theater from 1942 to 1945, Douglas MacArthur was the most acclaimed American general in the war against Japan. On September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, he presided over the official surrender of Japan. According to the terms of surrender, Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese government were subject to the authority of the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers in occupied Japan, a post filled by General MacArthur.
On September 8, Supreme Commander MacArthur made his way by automobile through the ruins of Tokyo to the American embassy, which would be his home for the next five and a half years. The occupation was to be a nominally Allied enterprise, but increasing Cold War division left Japan firmly in the American sphere of influence. From his General Headquarters, which overlooked the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo, MacArthur presided over an extremely productive reconstruction of Japanese government, industry, and society along American models. MacArthur was a gifted administrator, and his progressive reforms were for the most part welcomed by the Japanese people.
The most important reform carried out by the American occupation was the establishment of a new constitution to replace the 1889 Meiji Constitution. In early 1946, the Japanese government submitted a draft for a new constitution to the General Headquarters, but it was rejected for being too conservative. MacArthur ordered his young staff to draft their own version in one week. The document, submitted to the Japanese government on February 13, 1946, protected the civil liberties MacArthur had introduced and preserved the emperor, though he was stripped of power. Article 9 forbade the Japanese ever to wage war again.
Before Japan's defeat, Emperor Hirohito was officially regarded as Japan's absolute ruler and a quasi-divine figure. Although his authority was sharply limited in practice, he was consulted with by the Japanese government and approved of its expansionist policies from 1931 through World War II. Hirohito feared, with good reason, that he might be indicted as a war criminal and the Japanese imperial house abolished. MacArthur's constitution at least preserved the emperor as the "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people," so Hirohito offered his support. Many conservatives in the government were less enthusiastic, but on April 10, 1946, the new constitution was endorsed in popular elections that allowed Japanese women to vote for the first time. The final draft, slightly revised by the Japanese government, was made public one week later. On November 3, it was promulgated by the Diet--the Japanese parliament--and on May 3, 1947, it came into force.
In 1948, Yoshida Shigeru's election as prime minister ushered in the Yoshida era, marked by political stability and rapid economic growth in Japan. In 1949, MacArthur gave up much of his authority to the Japanese government, and in September 1951 the United States and 48 other nations signed a formal peace treaty with Japan. On April 28, 1952, the treaty went into effect, and Japan assumed full sovereignty as the Allied occupation came to an end.