Potsdam Conference file photo

Potsdam Conference

16 Jul 1945 - 26 Jul 1945

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

The last of the major conferences during WW2 was held at Potsdam, code named Terminal. Immediately west of Berlin, President Truman was given a chance to tour the ravaged German capital while he waited for Stalin's arrival (the Russian leader was a day late). The meeting was held at the undamaged Cecilienhof Palace. Stalin's late arrival gave Truman's scientists one extra day to work on the Manhattan Project, and that one extra day seemed to be just enough for Oppenheimer's team to give Truman the resulted he wanted: On the same day that the leaders met at Potsdam, a successful atomic detonation was achieved at New Mexico's desert of Alamogordo under the code name Operation Trinity. By this point, the Americans had learned that Japan wished to end the war, partly by Japan's unrealistic pleas for Moscow to mediate a peace settlement between Japan and the Allied powers. However, the Americans also understood that, if war could not be stopped, many in Japan were prepared to fight to the bitter end, and the losses on both side would be tremendous should landings on the home islands become necessary. Understanding this about Japan, at Potsdam Truman made sure that Stalin would hold true to his promise that Russia would declare war on Japan three months after the surrender of Germany despite the news of the successful test atomic explosion; Truman was keeping his options open.

On 26 July, agreements were reached:

The Potsdam Declaration was also written (by Truman and Churchill, with input from Chiang Kaishek) and was broadcasted to the Japanese people by radio and dropped in pamphlets, both in the Japanese language. It promised "prompt and utter destruction" unless Japan forever renounced militarism, gave up the war criminals, return all conquered territories since 1895, and surrendered unconditionally.

Prime Minister Admiral Suzuki, upon hearing the declaration, was purposefully ambigious in his response while the cabinet debated Suzuki was buying time for himself before writing up his official response to Truman, Churchill, and Chiang. However, on the American side, this delay was completely misinterpreted as Japan's arrogance in continuing the war by ignoring the declaration. Historian Dan van der Vat commented: "Seldom can a misconstrued adverbial nuance have had such devastating consequences".

Source: the Pacific Campaign.

Potsdam Conference Interactive Map

Potsdam Conference Timeline

17 Jul 1945 At the Potsdam Conference in Germany, top Allied leadership set up a Control Council to administer occupied Germany.
18 Jul 1945 In Germany, the second plenary session of the Potsdam Conference was conducted.
20 Jul 1945 At Potsdam, Germany, Harry Truman declared that the Allies would demand no territory upon victory.
26 Jul 1945 The Potsdam Ultimatum was issued, threatening Japan with "utter destruction" if it did not surrender unconditionally.

Photographs

Cecilienhof Palace, Jul-Aug 1945, photo 1 of 3Cecilienhof Palace, Jul-Aug 1945, photo 2 of 3Cecilienhof Palace, Jul-Aug 1945, photo 3 of 3Truman aboard USS Augusta en route to Potsdam Conference, 7 Jul 1945, 1 of 3
See all 136 photographs of Potsdam Conference



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More on Potsdam Conference
Participants:
» Alexander, Harold
» Arnold, Henry
» Attlee, Clement
» Bevin, Ernest
» Byrnes, James
» Churchill, Winston
» King, Ernest
» Leahy, William
» Marshall, George
» Molotov, Vyacheslav
» Mountbatten, Louis
» Stalin, Joseph
» Stimson, Henry
» Truman, Harry

Location:
» Germany

Documents:
» Directive from US Joint Chiefs of Staff to Eisenhower Regarding the Military Occupation of Germany
» Potsdam Conference


Potsdam Conference Photo Gallery
Cecilienhof Palace, Jul-Aug 1945, photo 1 of 3
See all 136 photographs of Potsdam Conference



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Famous WW2 Quote
"We no longer demand anything, we want war."

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939