Contributor: C. Peter Chen
With the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed by atomic weapons, the will of the Japanese leadership was tested. Then it came the news that the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, with troops crossing into northeastern China an hour later. These three reasons led to Emperor Showa's decision to break the deadlock at his council which debated fruitlessly whether or not to respond to the Allies' call for unconditional surrender. The Emperor said at the Imperial conference:
The council obeyed the Emperor's edict, and started the negotiation process with the Allies through the neutral Switzerland, making only one demand that Emperor Showa would not be removed from power.
Surprising most of Japan, Emperor Showa of Japan announced his intention to surrender to the Allies unconditionally over public radio on 15 Aug 1945. It was the first time Japanese commoners heard an Emperor's voice, and most of them did not understand his Imperial court dialect, adding to his mysteriousness. His message, however defeated, did not once include the word "defeat", perhaps reflecting his refusal to face the reality that Japan had lost the war. His radio address was translated as follows:
To our good and loyal subjects:
After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union that our Empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well- being of our subjects is the solemn obligation that has been handed down by our Imperial Ancestors, and we lay it close to the heart.
Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self- preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.
But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone-- the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state and the devoted service of our 100 million people--the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.
The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, and those who met with death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.
The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and suffering to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.
Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, and of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.
All you, our subjects, we command you to act in accordance with our wishes.
Despite the Emperor's urging, a small group refused to admit defeat. A group of military servicemen, many of them special attack pilots, mutinied. Believing that the Emperor had been abducted by defeatists, they attacked the Imperial Palace, killing the general of the Imperial Guard Division before the small rebellion was subdued. This small rebellion made the Allies nervous. By sending Douglas MacArthur to Japan, would they be sending the Allied commander into a trap? MacArthur did not believe so, and he was right. Upon reaching Atsugi Airfield outside of the naval district of Yokohama, he was treated with utmost respect. Two Japanese divisions guarded the roadway between the airfield and Yokohama's New Grand Hotel, with their backs facing MacArthur, which was the same respect they would give the Emperor. As MacArthur planned the formal surrender, he also immediately embarked on a mission to free prisoners of war, including his comrade of the Philippines days Jonathan Wainwright from a camp in Mukden in northeastern China.
Tokyo Bay Surrender Ceremony
The date of Japan's formal surrender was 2 Sep 1945, and it took place aboard American battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. That morning, the Japanese delegation boarded American destroyers for Missouri. Toshikazu Kase of the Foreign Ministry was a member of the delegation, who noted his impression of the Allied show of force in Tokyo Bay as he approached in USS Landsdown.
After Kase arrived, he observed that
"We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored", said MacArthur to start the ceremony. Amidst American, British, and other Allied warships, Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu "[b]y Command and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government" and General Yoshijiro Umezu "[b]y Command and on behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters" surrendered. For the Allies, MacArthur represented the United States and the Allied command, Chester Nimitz represented the United States, Hsu Yung-Ch'ang for China, Bruce Fraser for the United Kingdom, Kuzma Derevyanko for the Soviet Union, Thomas Blamey for Australia, Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave for Canada, General Jacques LeClerc for France, Conrad E.L. Helfrich for the Netherlands, and Leonard Isitt signed the surrender document for New Zealand. British Arthur Percival and American Jonathan Wainwright, generals who were imprisoned by the Japanese early on in the war, were invited to witness the historical event.
The text of the instrument of surrender was as follows:
We, acting by command of and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the Heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain on 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.
We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under the Japanese control wherever situated.
We hereby command all Japanese forces wherever situated and the Japanese people to cease hostilities forthwith, to preserve and save from damage all ships, aircraft, and military and civil property and to comply with all requirements which may be imposed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by agencies of the Japanese Government at his direction.
We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Headquarters to issue at once orders to the Commanders of all Japanese forces and all forces under Japanese control wherever situated to surrender unconditionally themselves and all forces under their control.
We hereby command all civil, military and naval officials to obey and enforce all proclamations, and orders and directives deemed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to continue to perform their non-combatant duties unless specifically relieved by him or under his authority.
We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever actions may be required by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by any other designated representative of the Allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that Declaration.
We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters at once to liberate all allied prisoners of war and civilian internees now under Japanese control and to provide for their protection, care, maintenance and immediate transportation to places as directed.
The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender.
Signed at TOKYO BAY, JAPAN at 0904 on the SECOND day of SEPTEMBER, 1945
By Command and on Behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government
By Command and on Behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters
Accepted at TOKYO BAY, JAPAN at 0908 on the SECOND day of SEPTEMBER, 1945, for the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the interests of the other United Nations at war with Japan.
DOUGLAS MAC ARTHUR
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers
United States Representative
Republic of China Representative
United Kingdom Representative
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Representative
Commonwealth of Australia Representative
L. MOORE COSGRAVE
Dominion of Canada Representative
JACQUES LE CLERC
Provisional Government of the French Republic Representative
Kingdom of the Netherlands Representative
LEONARD M. ISITT
Dominion of New Zealand Representative
When all signed the document, MacArthur approached the microphone and drew the war to a close: "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed."
As a precaution, Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance commanded a full carrier task force some distance off Japan in preparation of any foul play by the Japanese. The worst case scenario did not play out, and Spruance did not have the need to launch any combat missions on 2 Sep 1945.
Other Surrender Ceremonies
The surrender ceremony at Rabaul, New Britain took place on 6 Sep 1945 aboard the British carrier Glory.
Surrender ceremony in Korea took place in the Government Building in Seoul on 9 Sep 1945.
There were a number of surrender ceremonies in China. The first major ceremony took place in Hunan Province at the Zhijiang Airfield in Zhijiang County at 1600 hours on 21 Aug 1945. On 9 Sep 1945, General Yasuji Okamura of the Japanese China Expeditionary Army formally surrendered all Japanese troops in the entire China-Burma-India theater in a surrender ceremony in the ceremonial hall of the Chinese Military Academy at the capital city of Nanjing. On 25 Oct 1945 in Zhongshan Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, Chinese representative Chen Yi accepted the Japanese surrender of the island.
Bruce Gamble, Darkest Hour
Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences
Dan van der Vat, The Pacific Campaign
Japan's Surrender Interactive Map
Japan's Surrender Timeline
|21 Jul 1945||The Allied leadership threatened Japan with destruction if it did not surrender.|
|10 Aug 1945||Faced with the threat of more atomic bombs and the menace of the Soviets, Japan announced that it was willing to surrender provided the future status of the Emperor could be assured.|
|11 Aug 1945||US Secretary of State James Byrnes rejected the Japanese surrender terms offered on the previous day, citing the refusal for any Japanese preconditions. Meanwhile, American aircraft continued conventional bombing of Japanese cities.|
|12 Aug 1945||Emperor Showa ordered his government to surrender.|
|14 Aug 1945||The Japanese Imperial Council accepted Emperor Showa's order to surrender to the Allies powers' surrender terms. In turn, Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki notified the Allies that Japan was accepting the Potsdam Declaration.|
|15 Aug 1945||Emperor Showa addressed his nation via radio, announcing the end of the war. Meanwhile, the Japanese government informed the Allies its willingness to meet the unconditional surrender terms. In response, the US government ordered all hostilities to cease in Asia. A group of Japanese Army officers made a coup d'état attempt by attacking the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan; it ended in failure.|
|19 Aug 1945||Japanese troops were told by their government that surrendering under the terms of a ceasefire would not be considered a loss of honour under the Bushido code which demanded fighting to the death. As a result thousands began laying down their arms. Meanwhile, more than 100 Allied warships waited off the coast of Japan for the order to enter her ports.|
|21 Aug 1945||The first major Japanese surrender ceremony in China took place at the Zhijiang Airfield in Zhijiang County, Hunan Province at 1600 hours.|
|24 Aug 1945||Japan agreed that the first Allied troops on the homeland would be paratroopers.|
|28 Aug 1945||In Japan, an advance guard of 150 US airborne troops landed at Atsuki airfield outside Tokyo; they were the first Allied troops to set foot on the Japanese mainland.|
|29 Aug 1945||US troops made an administrative landing near Tokyo, Japan, starting the occupation.|
|30 Aug 1945||A British battle squadron led by the aircraft carrier Indomitable entered Hong Kong to reoccupy the Crown Colony. Meanwhile, the main Allied forces began going ashore on mainland Japan.|
|31 Aug 1945||Around 1,000 Allied prisoners of war from camps in the Tokyo, Japan area were transferred to hospital ships offshore.|
|1 Sep 1945||Two US Marine Corps aircraft dropped surrender terms to the Japanese garrisons on Wotje and Maloelap Atolls in the Marshall Islands.|
|2 Sep 1945||V-J Day: Japan signed the surrender document aboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.|
|3 Sep 1945||General Tomoyuki Yamashita surrendered Japanese troops in the Philippine Islands to US Army General Jonathan Wainwright.|
|4 Sep 1945||Japanese troops on Wake Island surrendered.|
|5 Sep 1945||Destroyer HMAS Vendetta entered Simpson Harbor, New Britain in preparation of the surrender ceremony.|
|6 Sep 1945||Carrier HMS Glory and her task force arrived off Rabaul, New Britain in the morning. At 0900 hours, sloop HMS Hart picked up Hitoshi Imamura and Jinichi Kusaka at Kabanga Bay, who would sign the surrender documents aboard HMS Glory at 1127 hours which surrendered 139,000 remaining personnel at Rabaul plus all forces in Australian territory in the South Pacific.|
|8 Sep 1945||The Japanese Navy Northern Fleet surrendered to the Americans at Mutsu Bay, Japan.|
|9 Sep 1945||Americans Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid and Lieutenant General John Hodge accepted the surrender of all Japanese forces in Korea in the General Government Building in Seoul, Korea.|
|9 Sep 1945||Japanese Army General Yasuji Okamura, Commander-in-Chief of the China Expeditionary Force, signed a surrender document at Nanjing, China on behalf of 1,000,000 Japanese troops and handed it to General He Yingqin, acting on behalf of Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek.|
|13 Sep 1945||Captain Hisayuki Soeda surrendered Nauru and Ocean Island surrendered to Australian troops.|
|13 Sep 1945||Japanese forces in Burma surrendered to the Allies.|
|16 Sep 1945||Japanese troops surrendered in Hong Kong.|
|1 Dec 1945||The last Japanese resistance unit in Saipan, Mariana Islands surrendered.|
|30 Jun 1951||A group of Japanese soldiers in the Mariana Islands, who had previously refused to believe that Japan had surrendered in 1945, finally surrendered to Lieutenant Commander James Johnson of the US Navy.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935