Why Do Retired Generals Become Peace Advocates? Let Us Create a Curriculum for Peace in Our Military Academies


Read in Japanese.

By Akio Matsumura

During September in 1973 I found myself beginning a two hour bus ride, headed for the outskirts of Jakarta. I was with the Japanese Parliamentary Study Mission on Population and Development, headed by former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. We had already had very fruitful visits to India and Thailand, and were now moving through Indonesia.

General Draper and Akio in Naples, Florida 1974

All parliamentarians and three foreign special guests — General Draper, former Maryland Senator Joseph Tydings, and Mr. McDonnell — sat in their own private car, while the rest of us—government bureaucrats, population experts, media and staff—traveled behind by bus. As the youngest member of the group I sat at the back of the bus. Before we departed, a member of the Japanese Embassy staff came to the back of the bus, saying that General Draper was calling for me. General Draper and Mr. Tatsuo Tanaka, Member of Parliament and deputy head of the mission, were sitting together when I got to the car, with the staff member from the Embassy. General Draper wished to speak with me during the trip, and asked me to sit in the car instead of the staff member. Meanwhile, Mr. Tanaka seemed to be uncomfortable next to General Draper, and excused himself to the front seat because he wanted to operate the video camera, so the front seat would be a better location. So, I ended up next to General Draper in the back, to the astonishment of the embassy staff. Mr. Tanaka assured them it was the request of General Draper, and we began the two hour ride.
General Draper had spoken with Mr. Kishi earlier, and had discussed Mr. Kishi’s wish to establish the Japanese Parliamentary Group on Population and Development—the first in the world. Mr. Kishi had already made it clear to the General that it was critical to establish the US parliamentary group as well, which would create an extended network throughout several countries.

Now I understood why I was called into the car. I was scheduled to move to London with my family to work for the IPPF in 1974. General Draper asked that I work with Senator Tydings to establish the US parliamentary group from the IPPF office. Ever since this car ride I have stayed true to this assignment, working diligently alongside parliamentarians to this day. Later in Jakarta I separated from the group to attend the IPPF 21st Anniversary Conference in England while the mission continued on to its final stage in the Philippines.
I received a call from General Draper months later in 1974, inviting me to his home in Naples, Florida, to continue our discussion from the car ride in Jakarta. We talked all through the morning and well into the afternoon when Mrs. Draper interrupted: “Darling, why don’t you stop talking and let Akio swim.” Eyeing the beautiful swimming pool, I thought it was a wonderful suggestion. But General Draper said, “Akio is the one who wishes to talk.” Her suggestion was gone.

I stayed that night and was invited to dine with General Draper and his colleague, Major General Hugh John Casey, General Douglas MacArthur’s Chief Engineer. General Casey arrived in Japan at the end of August, 1945, as an advance team to General MacArthur. He was stationed in Japan with the US Occupational Forces. At dinner, General Casey told a story revealing his wonderful character, which I wish to share here:

During the Christmas holidays in 1945, General Casey invited many Japanese children to his home in Roppongi. The morning of the event, he and his wife, in the spirit of charity, decided to do the following after mutual consultation: “Even if, by any chance, children end up stealing something, we should not blame them.”

Fifty children came, and half of them wore shoes with holes or wooden shoes they had outgrown. The other half were barefoot. So, the couple quickly ordered their maid to make preparations for foot washing. The children entered a large hall after washing their feet and waited for the hosts. And when the couple entered the hall, they ran into an incredible scene. The fifty children were sitting on their knees, neatly lining up from the shortest to the tallest. They were completely surprised at the children’s good manners in spite of their insufficient shoes and hunger. This presented how wonderful the Japanese were and how Japan with such children was certain to have an amazing recovery.

While speaking at length with these two US generals at dinner that night, I couldn’t help but think how lucky Japan was to be under such quality leaders. General Draper was the Under-Secretary of War in Washington DC, and General Casey, serving under General MacArthur, executed the policies in Japan. I still wonder if Japanese generals were of this caliber during the occupation of China, Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia. I have to admit that it was unlikely.

Discussing peace issues with the generals, I began to wonder why retired generals seem to always become great advocates for peace. General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, General Marshall, and General Draper all followed this path. I see a common reason.

As a military leader, the general is always walking on a tightrope between being a winner or a loser, leading in war and peace. They carry their nation’s destiny on their shoulders. After feeling this tremendous pressure and seeing what goes into a war, becoming a strong peace advocate seems a more natural course than in any other profession I can think of.

With this in mind, I pose a question. War has always been a part of human history, and it seems that it will continue to be in the near future. Why not establish a curriculum for peace in our military academies, a curriculum to which our retired generals could contribute greatly?

With this simple foresight, tremendous gains could be made in achieving peace more quickly.   History shows that it is far more trying to reconstruct and maintain peace after a war than it is to enter one in the first place.  Our world is in dire need of military leaders who are up to that challenge. When will we begin the peace curriculum?