Japan & Pacific
A Story of
Friendship & More
Bonner Fellers entered Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, in 1914. He became lifelong friends with Yuri Watanabe, 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. His friendships included the Hearn family and well-known educator, Michi Kawai. In 1934 he wrote an insightful and prescient thesis entitled “The Psychology of the Japanese Soldier.” It foresaw Japanese military behavior, including Kamikaze attacks, and suggested strategies to address Japanese militaristic tendencies. This study later became one of the manuals for American Officers.
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 "in recognition of your long-standing contribution to promoting friendship between Japan and the United States." An accompanying Foreign Ministry document states, "Bonner Fellers, as an officer in GHQ, saved the Emperor from being prosecuted as a war criminal."
As Chief of the Joint Planning Section G-3, Gen. Fellers helped plan the Hollandia operation, 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.