The Sykewarriors on Japanese National Character
What PWD did for Germany, the Foreign Morale Analysis Division (FMAD) of the Office of War Information (OWI) did for Japan. Sponsored by the OWI in cooperation with the Military Intelligence Service of the War Department, FMAD grew directly out of the experience of the Sociological Research Project at the Poston Relocation Center for Japanese-Americans. Alexander Leighton directed both projects, and the FMAD analysis of Japanese morale was based on the very same "fundamental postulate" about human nature that had animated the earlier effort to make the "psychiatric approach in problems of community management" indispensable to administrators.
The thirty or so analysts who staffed FMAD made their first task to seek out exploitable cracks in the fighting spirit of the Japanese military,
widely perceived to be unstoppable, even fanatical. Their study of Japanese national character, based on the same sorts of data used by PWD, pointed to the same soft spots in morale: powerful irrational and weak rational motives, perceptual distortions, and the likelihood that whatever individual autonomy existed would be corrupted through contact with crowd sentiment and behavior. FMAD concluded, as PWD had, that since emotional forces were of greater salience than conscious political ideals in motivating Japanese soldiers, psychological warfare strategies that rationally attacked Japanese imperialism or calmly advocated democratic ideals could have had few if any positive results. Emotional appeals had a far more dramatic effect.
Of particular importance, they found, was the emotional role of authority, and especially the image of Japanese emperor Hirohito. Direct attacks of any kind on the emperor, however cathartic they might be for Americans, were unlikely to lower Japanese morale and even threatened to backfire by rallying the Japanese military around a highly emotional symbol. "One cannot," Alexander Leighton and a colleague warned, "successfully attack with logic that which is not grounded in logic." FMAD experts considered this finding, and the eventual policy decision to allow the Japanese emperor to remain on the throne, to be among the greatest political successes of wartime behavioral experts. For them, it proved that the psychological approach to policy was an extraordinary scientific advance over the dubious, if conventional, reliance by policy-makers on mere intuition or the whims of personal experience. There was, however, little evidence to show that the many confidential studies of Japanese character FMAD did for the War Department, or similar studies for the State Department, actually affected this important policy decision. Indeed, had the experts been clearly heeded in this case, and had Truman announced early on a U.S. willingness to allow Hirohito to continue as emperor, it is possible that the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could have been avoided.
The foundations of Japanese civilian morale were just as emotional, with roots in distinctive childrearing, eating, and schooling habits. For example, it was suggested that "weaning trauma" frequently coincided with the arrival of siblings, fast meals recapitulated the denial of infantile needs for pleasure, and teachers smothered competition and enforced strict obedience among students—all contributing factors to an aggressive Japanese national character. Contrary to popular U.S. opinion that Japanese resolve was unwavering, FMAD research showed a sharp decline had already begun in Japanese civilian morale that would eventu-
ally lead to surrender. Reports like FMAD's "Current Psychological and Social Tensions in Japan" suggested that anger, aggression, displacement, apathy, panic, and hysteria were highly sensitive elements in Japanese national character, and ought to be as significant as food shortages and economic pressures in the calculations of military planners.