The most pressing problem facing General Douglas MacArthur as the post war ruler of a devastated Japan was the prospect of famine. MacArthur immediately set up feeding stations throughout Japan in order to feed the tens of millions of Japanese who had been left completely indigent as a result of the War. News of this filtered back to the states and was ill received in an America still angry from a War begun by a sneak attack and in the throes of mourning 400,000 war dead. The Joint Chiefs of Staff warned MacArthur against the gratuitous use of US supplies to relieve Japan.
As always throughout his career MacArthur simply ignored an order he did not agree with and used 3.5 million tons of food stockpiled for the invasion for famine relief. He wrote to Washington emphasizing that the Japanese were now the responsibility of the United States. He would simply not allow them to starve as the Japanese government had allowed Allied POWS to starve. In his most powerful message he ended it by stating “Give me bread or give me bullets.” MacArthur won, and the US would feed a nation that most Americans during the War wished to see obliterated. It was MacArthur’s shining moment.