The compelling and meditative film Emperor depicts with fidelity
Bonner Fellers' character and
the complexities of finding the path toward justice and peace.
Bonner Fellers entered Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, in 1914. He became friends with a Japanese exchange student who introduced him to Japanese culture and history, including the writings of Lafcadio Hearn. He visited Japan 4 times prior to WWII. In 1934 he wrote an insightful and prescient thesis entitled "The Psychology of the Japanese Soldier." It foresaw Japanese behavior, including Kamikaze attacks, and suggested strategies to address Japanese militaristic tendencies.
From 1942-1946, Brigadier General Fellers was in the Pacific Theater under General MacArthur. Along with many other assignments, he led the psychological warfare effort against Japanese forces and the homeland. For this he was awarded a second Distinguished Service Medal. The citation reads in part, "Through his outstanding professional ability and resourcefulness, General Fellers contributed in a marked degree to Japan's surrender and the initial success of the military occupation."
During the first year of the occupation he was MacArthur's military secretary and Secretary General of the Allied Council for Japan. Due to his 30 year military experience and interaction with Japan, MacArthur relied on him for advice.
In 1971, Emperor Hirohito conferred on him the Second Order of the Sacred Treasure.
As Chief of the Joint Planning Section G-3, Gen. Fellers helped plan the Hollandia operation, which was the turning point in New Guinea with no loss of American lives. Following that he was MacArthur's military secretary and personal front line observer.
Fellers twice crossed the entire breath of Stalinist Russia by land on U.S. government assignment. In 1936 he traveled west to east, and in 1938 east from west. His experiences helped form his grave concerns about communism.
Bonner Fellers had 3 tours of duty in the Philippines: 1920, 1929-31, & 1936-1938. In 1936 he helped open the Philippine Military Academy, the Philippines' 'West Point'. He also was the liaison between MacArthur and Philippine President Manuel Quezon. For his contribution to the Philippines defense effort, President Quezon honored him with the nation's Distinguished Service Star.
For his role in freeing the Philippines from the Japanese, including his assignment thereafter as Director of Civil Affairs for the Philippines, in July 1946 Gen. Fellers received a second Distinguished Service Star from President Manuel Roxas.
In 1940-42, Colonel Fellers was stationed in Cairo as military attache and was the American observer of the various military campaigns preceding U.S. entry into the war.
Fellers' orders were to write comprehensive intellegence reports, which were transmitted in code. It was not in his control what code was used. He objected to the
code, but his concerns were dismissed. Unfortunately, Italian spies stole the code book from the U.S. embassy in Rome and shared the information with the Germans. The U.S. military did not in any way fault Fellers.
Upon his return he was promoted to Brigadier General and awarded a Distinguished Service Medal. The citation reads in part, "His reports to the War Department were models of clarity and accuracy. Colonel Fellers, by personal observation of the battlefields, contributed materially to the tactical and technical development of our armed forces."
In 1916 Fellers left Earlham College to enter West Point by direct appointment of Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, whose district included Feller's home town of Ridge Farm, Illinois. He graduated West Point in November 1918. He remained in the military until his retirement in 1946.
During 1924-29 he taught mathematics at West Point and in the late 1930's taught English. He attended the Army War College in Washington, DC, and the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In 1948 his retirement rank was established as Brigadier General.