The dominant school of literature on the occupation of Japan stresses the role of Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur in "saving" Hirohito and the imperial institution from the harsh policy intended by officials in Washington and the American public. MacArthur's role in emperor policy was actually much less influential than is commonly believed. Washington's choice to retain Hirohito and the imperial institution evolved out of a wartime assumption that the emperor was central to U.S. plans for postwar Japan and East Asia. Rather than a flash of inspiration from the supreme commander, American policy toward the emperor represented a confluence of motivations that crystallized in the early days of the occupation.

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