The United States declared victory over Japan in World War II on V-J Day, August 15, 1945, following Japan’s unconditional surrender. On September 2, 1945, the date of Japan’s formal surrender, General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), took control over Japan, but the U.S. government had decided upon basic policies beforehand. SCAP also worked through existing parliamentary institutions and the bureaucracy. General Order Number One assigned the task of demobilizing the Japanese armed forces to the Japanese themselves, a task they completed in two months. MacArthur and his staff, however, would not let the Japanese decide the nature and scope of subsequent reform. When Japanese leaders prepared a draft providing for modest revisions in the Meiji Constitution, U.S. officials instantly rejected it and formulated a new document. Effective in May, 1947, the American-written constitution swept away all vestiges of elitism, militarism, and authoritarianism. Trials punished war criminals, and 200,000 military, government, and business leaders who had supported the war were purged.
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