Surrender of Japan | World War II

Surrender of Japan | World War II


The Japanese Emperor Hirohito proclaimed his surrender on August 15 and signed it on September 2, 1945, ending World War II. A massive Allied invasion of Japan was expected by late July 1945, as the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had grown ineffective. The United States, laterally with the British Empire and China, demanded the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945. Japan's leaders (the Supreme Council for Direction of the War, often known as the "Big Six") discreetly pleaded with the publicly neutral Soviet Union to mediate peace on Japanese conditions. The Soviets were secretly preparing to attack Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea (along with South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands) to fulfil secret promises they had completed to the US and the UK at the Tehran and Yalta Meetings. On 6 August 1945, around 8:15 a.m. local time, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Sixteen hours later, President Harry S. Truman urged Japan to surrender, warning of "unprecedented destruction from the air." Following the Yalta agreements but in breach of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan late on August 8, 1945, and invaded Manchukuo just after midnight on August 9, 1945. Hours later, the US launched a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. After this, Emperor Hirohito intervened and instructed the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War to adopt the Potsdam Declaration's terms for ending the war. After several more days of secret discussions and a failed coup d'état, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's capitulation to the Allies on August 15. On August 28, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers occupied Japan. On September 2, officials from the Japanese government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, ending hostilities. However, isolated militaries and peoples from Japan's far-flung forces through Asia and the Pacific declined to surrender for months and years later, some even until the 1970s. The atomic bombings' role in Japan's unconditional surrender and ethics were widely contested. The Treaty of San Francisco come in into force on April 28, 1952. After four more years, Japan and the USSR signed the Joint Declaration of 1956, officially ending their state of war.


The Marianas and Philippines campaigns. The Japanese had been defeated for nearly two years by 1945. After the loss of Saipan in July 1944, General Kuniaki Koiso took over as Prime Minister, declaring that the Philippines would be the final battleground. Admiral Kantar Suzuki replaced Koiso after Japan lost the Philippines. In early 1945, the Allies conquered Iwo Jima and Okinawa. It was to be a base for the Allied invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, Operation Downfall. Following Germany's collapse, the Soviet Union covertly redeployed battle-hardened men from Europe to the Far East to counterbalance the million-strong Kwantung Army.

The Allied submarine warfare and coastal mining devastated the Japanese commerce fleet. As a result, Japan relied on imported raw materials, particularly oil, from Manchuria and other East Asia and the Dutch East Indies with limited natural resources. The loss of Japan's merchant fleet and industrial sector wreaked havoc on the war economy. Coal, steel, iron, rubber, and other vital supplies production was halved. In addition, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) has become ineffective due to losses. Four cruisers, six aircraft carriers, and one battleship remained in combat after strikes on the Japanese shipyard at Kure. Lack of gasoline prohibited the usage of 19 warships and 38 submarines.

Defence Preparations

Faced with the danger of a Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Japan's last source of natural resources, the Imperial War Journal determined in 1944. The only option left for Japan's 100 million citizens is charging the enemy and killing them. To counter the Allied approach, the Japanese Imperial High Command planned Operation Ketsug, a full-scale defence of Kysh. It was a significant change from the invasions of Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Instead, almost 3,000 kamikazes would target the amphibious transports before troops and goods were discharged on the beach.

They planned to deploy another 3,500 kamikazes, 5,000 Shin'y suicide motorboats, and the last submarines and destroyers the last of the Navy's active fleet to the beach if this did not work. Three thousand planes would have been left to protect the remaining islands if the Allies had fought through this and successfully landed on Kysh. The strategy of the last stand at Kysh assumed Soviet neutrality.

Supreme Council for the Direction of the Combat

The Supreme Council for the Direction of Combat founded in 1944 by Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso consisted of the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministers of the Army, Navy, Army General Staff, and Navy General Staff.

The Suzuki cabinet was established in April 1945 with the following members:

  • Admiral Kantar Suzuki
  • Shigenori Tg, Foreign Minister
  • General Korechika Anami, Army Minister
  • Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai
  • General Yoshijir Umezu, CGS
  • Admiral Koshir Oikawa (later substituted by Admiral Soemu Toyoda)

These offices were all ostensibly appointed by the emperor and directly accountable to him. Nonetheless, Japanese civil law required Army and Navy ministers to be active duty flag officers. In contrast, Japanese military law prohibited serving officers from holding political office without prior permission from their respective service headquarters, which might be revoked at any time. The Japanese Army and Navy thus had the legal power to nominate (or refuse to designate) their respective ministers, as well as the legal right to remove them from office.

Strict constitutional convention necessitated (and still dictates) that a prospective Prime Minister or an incumbent Prime Minister could not enter or retain office if he could not fill all cabinet slots. Thus, the Army and Navy could prevent undesirable regimes from forming or bring an existing government to an end.

Following the emperor's desires, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Kichi Kido was present at specific meetings. However, preventing General MacArthur's arrival, the Japanese "deliberately destroyed, concealed, or forged most of their secret wartime documents."

Japanese Leadership Divisions

Suzuki's military-dominated cabinet backed war prolongation. Surrender was inconceivable for the Japanese, who had never been invaded or lost a war. Only Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy Minister, wanted the war to conclude quickly. Historian Richard B. Frank says:

Although Suzuki saw peace as a distant goal, he had no intention of achieving it quickly or on terms acceptable to the Allies. Moreover, he did not say he wanted the conflict to end soon in his remarks at the senior statesmen's conference. Except for one, Suzuki's cabinet picks were not pro-peace.

After the war, Suzuki and his supporters claimed they were quietly working for peace but could not publicly endorse it. Their website claims that the discrepancy between their public activities and supposed behind-the-scenes effort is due to haragei, a Japanese concept. Nevertheless, many historians disagree. Butow, Robert J. C.

Its vagueness raises concerns that relying on this "craft of bluff" in politics and diplomacy may have been deliberate deceit based on a desire to play both ends against the middle. While this assessment does not reflect Admiral Suzuki's character, it is true that from his appointment till his resignation, no one knew what Suzuki would do or say next.

Japanese authorities always envisioned a negotiated peace. Their prewar plans anticipated fast expansion and consolidation, eventual battle with the US, and a settlement that allowed them to keep at least some of the new land they had seized. By 1945, Japan's leaders agreed that the war was a failure but divided on terminating it. A diplomatic initiative to urge Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, to broker a solution between the Allies and Japan; and hardliners who preferred fighting one last "decisive" battle that would inflict so many deaths on the Allies that they would be inclined to grant more generous terms. Following the costly but indecisive Battle of Tsushima, both strategies were based on Japan's experience in the 40-year-old Russo–Japanese War.

Prince Fumimaro Konoe warned the emperor that an internal revolt could threaten the imperial family more than loss as the war continued.

According to Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita's diary, the emperor replied that seeking peace was premature "until we make one more military gain". In February, Japan's treaty division discussed "unconditional surrender, occupation, disarmament, militarism removal, democratic reforms, war criminal punishment, and the status of the emperor." They rejected Allied-imposed disarmament, Allied-punishment of Japanese war criminals, and notably occupation and deposing the emperor.

The Soviet Union announced on April 5 that it would not repeat the five-year Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact which had been contracted in 1941 following the Nomonhan Occurrence. At the Tehran Conference in November–December 1943, after Germany was beaten, the Soviet Union would join the war against Japan. At the Yalta Discussion in February 1945, the US promised the Soviets it would declare war on Japan within three months after Germany's surrender. The announcement worried the Japanese since they had gathered forces in the south to oppose the impending US onslaught, leaving their northern islands susceptible to Soviet invasion. Therefore, they went to tremendous lengths to ensure the Japanese that "the period of the Pact's validity has not expired," said Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

The Big Six first extremely debated ending the war in May, although none on terms acceptable to the Allies. The sessions were restricted to all but Big Six, Emperor, and Privy Seal. No 2nd or third echelon officers to avoid assassination attempts by fanatical army commanders. However, only Foreign Minister Tg understood that Roosevelt and Churchill may have already made concessions to Stalin to pull the Soviets into the war against Japan. Following these conversations, Tg was authorized to approach the USSR, attempting to retain neutrality or (in the unlikely event) create an alliance.

According to the Army staff's "The Fundamental Policy to Be Followed Henceforth in the Conduct of the War," the Japanese people will fight until extinction rather than surrender. The Big Six accepted this policy on June 6. (Tg voted no, while the other five voted yes.) Suzuki's documents at the same conference suggested Japan's diplomatic approach to the USSR be as follows:

Given that the US is a future adversary, it is essential to remind Russia that she owes Japan her victory over Germany because we remained neutral.

As early as June 9, the emperor's close aide and advisor, Marquis Kichi Kido wrote a "Draft Plan for Controlling the Crisis Situation," predicting Japan's ability to wage modern war and the government's ability to control civil unrest would be gone by year's end. The Imperial Household and the national polity may be safeguarded, but we cannot be sure that we will not suffer the same destiny as Germany. Kido suggested that the emperor stop the war on "extremely liberal conditions." Assuming the former European colonies gained independence, Kido recommended Japan resign from its colonial holdings to recognise the Philippines' independence. Finally, Kido advocated that Japan disarm, but not under Allied control, and be "happy with minimum defence" for a while. Japan could cede areas obtained before 1937, including Formosa, Karafuto, Korea, the erstwhile German islands in the Pacific, and even Manchukuo, which was not in Kido's plan. With the emperor's permission, Kido approached the "Big Six" of the Supreme Council. Tg was beneficial. Suzuki and the Navy Minister, Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, were cautiously sympathetic. Hesitant Army Minister General Korechika Anami said diplomacy must wait until "after the United States has suffered tremendous losses" in Operation Ketsug.

In June, the emperor lost faith in his military victory prospects. He learnt about the Japanese army's weakness in China, the Kwantung Army's weakness in Manchuria, the navy's inferiority, and the Home Islands' army's weakness. The emperor received a report from Prince Higashikuni concluding that "the coast defence and the divisions prepared for the decisive fight" lacked armaments. The emperor says: I was told that enemy bomb remnants were used to manufacture shovels. It validated my belief that we could not win the war.

On June 22, the emperor convened the Big Six. "I urge that concrete measures to end the war, unhindered by present policies, be explored and efforts made to implement," he said first. It was agreed to ask the Soviets for help. Like Switzerland, Sweden, and the Vatican City, other neutral states were willing to help make peace. Still, their tiny size limited their ability to do more than relay the Allies' surrender terms to Japan. The Japanese wanted to persuade the USSR to represent Japan in negotiations with the US and UK.

Soviet Union Negotiation Attempts

On June 30, Tg instructed Japan's ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato, to develop "strong and lasting friendship." Sat discussed Manchuria and "whatever the Russians want to bring up." Aware of the circumstances and their commitments to the Allies, the Soviets replied by delaying rather than promising the Japanese. On July 11, Sat met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, but no results. Tg told Sat on July 12 to say the Soviets: Recognizing that the current war is causing increasing suffering and death among the peoples of all warring states, His Majesty the Emperor urges its swift conclusion. Nevertheless, as long as England and the US demand unconditional surrender, the Japanese Empire must struggle to preserve the Motherland's honour and existence.

However, he could not reach Moscow before the Potsdam Conference. Sat told Tg that Japan could only expect "unconditional surrender or terms close to it." As for Tg's effort, Sat questioned whether it supported significant components of Japan's power structure in answer to Molotov's call for specific proposals.

On July 17, Tg said: Our fighting strength is still capable of significant blows to the adversary, but we cannot have thoroughly assured peace of mind. Please remember that we are not asking for Russian assistance in exchange for complete surrender.

Sat clarified: Of course, I made an exemption for the imperial family in my earlier telegram calling for unconditional submission or roughly identical terms.

On July 21, Tg repeated, in the name of the cabinet: From a foreign and local standpoint, it would also be unwise and challenging to pronounce particular parameters quickly.

A team of American cryptographers cracked most of Japan's codes, including the Purple code used to encrypt high-level diplomatic correspondence. Because of this, messages between Tokyo and Japan's embassies were delivered almost as promptly as expected.

Soviet Intentions

Concerns about security dominated Soviet Far East policy. Unrestricted access to the Pacific Ocean was one of them. Accordingly, Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands might blockade the year-round ice-free sections of the Soviet Pacific coastline, including Vladivostok. Their main goal was to acquire these regions and liberate access to the Soya Strait. Secondary goals were Chinese Eastern, Southern Manchuria, Dairen, and Port Arthur leases.

As a result, Stalin and Molotov led the Japanese to believe that Soviet-mediated peace was possible. In their contacts with the US and UK, the Soviets insisted on strict respect to the Cairo Declaration, which the Allies reaffirmed at the Yalta Conference. The Japanese must unconditionally surrender to all Allies. Lessening this criterion would have prolonged the conflict. It would allow the Soviets to take Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, northern Korea, South Sakhalin, the Kuriles, and possibly Hokkaid (starting with a landing at Rumoi).

Manhattan Project

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt commanded the start of a vast, top-secret endeavour to create atomic bombs. The Manhattan Project employed hundreds of thousands of Americans at secret sites around the country, and on July 16, 1945, the prototype weapon was detonated during the Trinity nuclear test.

As the project came to a close, American strategists considered using the bomb. Following the Allies' general plan of ensuring definitive victory in Europe first, the first atomic weapons were expected to be used against Germany. Nevertheless, it was becoming increasingly clear that Germany would be defeated before any bombs could be used. Groves convened a committee in April and May 1945 to choose targets. The target cities could not have been damaged by conventional bombardment. It would provide an accurate assessment of the atomic bomb's damage. The Committee chose 18 Japanese cities. It included Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura and Niigata. Administrator of War Henry L. Stimson, who had go to see Kyoto on his honeymoon and knew of its cultural and historical significance, insisted on its removal off the list.

After Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, Truman was not briefed on the project by Stimson until April 23, 1945, eleven days after assuming the presidency.

On May 2, 1945, Truman approved the Interim Committee, a report on the atomic bomb. He was assisted by a Scientific Panel consisting of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, and Arthur Compton. The Committee concluded on June 1 that the bomb should be dropped on a war facility surrounded by workers' residences without warning or demonstration. The Committee's mandate did not include using the bomb, but its deployment was assumed. The Committee re-examined the bomb's use, asking the Scientific Panel if a "demonstration" of the weapon should be employed before actual battlefield deployment. The Scientific Panel confirmed this on June 21.

Truman played a minor part in these debates. At Potsdam, he was thrilled by the success of the Trinity test, and people around him noted a shift in his attitude. Nevertheless, contrary to later retellings (including Truman's embellishments) of the narrative, Truman was not involved in any decision-making surrounding the bomb other than backing Stimson's play to remove Kyoto from the target list.

Events at Potsdam

As of 16 July to 2 August 1945, the top Allied commanders met in Potsdam. The Soviet Union, the UK, and the USA were represented by Stalin, Churchill (later Clement Attlee), and Truman.


Although the Potsdam Conference focused on European issues, the war with Japan was also discussed extensively. Truman informed the British delegation of the successful Trinity test early in the conference. As a result, an American board that had fought intensely for Soviet participation at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences was forced to reevaluate their position. That the Soviets might gain territory beyond what had been pledged at Tehran and Yalta and that Japan might be divided after the war, as had happened in Germany, was high on the US priority list. Unfortunately, Truman gave Stalin vague signals about a potent new weapon without details. Stalin knew about the atomic bomb before the other Allies did, but he did not seem impressed by its potential.

The Potsdam Declaration

The Potsdam Declaration was issued, outlining "Unconditional Surrender" and clarifying what it meant for the emperor and Hirohito personally. The US sought to eliminate the office and possibly trial him as a war criminal, while the UK wanted to keep it, possibly with Hirohito still in power. The Soviet Government had to be consulted, even though it was not initially a party to the proclamation. The Potsdam Declaration went through many revisions before everyone agreed on it.

On July 26, the Britain, US, and China issued the Potsdam Declaration, which warned, "We will not depart. There are none. We will not wait." Furthermore, the declaration stated for Japan: the end of "those who have duped and misled the Japanese people into embarking on world conquest." occupation of "Allied-designated locations in Japanese territory."

Japan's sovereignty shall be restricted to Honsh, Hokkaid, Kyushu, Shikoku, and other minor islands determined by us. Japan's prewar empires, including Korea and Taiwan, and all recent acquisitions, were to be torn away, as proclaimed in the Cairo Declaration in 1943.

"The Japanese military personnel shall be allowed to return home, disarmed, to live peaceful and productive lives."

"We do not want to enslave or destroy the Japanese race or nation, but tough impartiality shall be imposed out to all war criminals, including those who have cruelly treated our prisoners,"

Clement Attlee, Vyacheslav Molotov, Ernest Bevin, Joseph Stalin, William D. Leahy, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S. Truman

However, the declaration stated: "The Japanese Government must remove all impediments to the Japanese people's democratic resurrection. The fundamental human rights of freedom of speech, religion, and opinion must be established." "Japan may preserve industries that will sustain her economy and allow her to collect just reparations in kind, but not those that will allow her to re-arm for war. To this purpose, raw materials must be accessible, not controlled. Japan may eventually participate in global trade relations."

As soon as these objectives are achieved, and a peacefully inclined and accountable administration has been constituted, the occupying Allies forces will be withdrawn from Japan.

The term "unconditional surrender" was only used once in the declaration: "We demand that the Japanese government declare the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed troops and provide reasonable assurances of their good faith. Japan faces immediate and complete devastation."

The declaration did not refer to the emperor, as anticipated. As a result, it was unclear if Hirohito was to be viewed as one of those who "misled the people of Japan" or a war criminal, or whether he would be part of a "peacefully inclined and responsible government."

The "rapid and utter annihilation" line has been interpreted as a warning regarding US nuclear weapons which had been verified effectively on the first day of the conference.

Conversely, the proclamation explicitly mentioned the devastation wreaked on Germany in the final phases of the European war. As a result, readers easily misinterpret the declaration's conclusion on both sides, unaware of the atomic bomb's existence.

Japanese Response: On July 27, the Japanese government contemplated its response. The Big Six's four military members intended to reject it, but Tg persuaded the cabinet not to do so until he heard from Moscow. Nevertheless, it should be understood that the cautious language of Potsdam appeared "to have caused a great agreement of thought" on the part of the signatory governments " they seem to have taken pains to save face for us on several points." The next day, Japanese newspapers claimed that the declaration had been rejected. For his part, Prime Minister Suzuki met with the press and said: I see the Joint Proclamation as a repetition of the Cairo Declaration. The government, on the other hand, gives it little importance. Silence is the only way to kill it (mokusatsu). We will not relent until the conflict is won.

Mokusatsu means "refusing to react on" or "ignoring (by staying silent)". However, Suzuki's intended meaning has been debated. "There is no substitute but instant, unqualified surrender if we want to avert Russia's participation in the war," Ambassador Sat wrote on July 30. "Our time to proceed with measures for ending the war before the enemy landing on the Japanese mainland is short, yet, it is difficult to decide on definite peace conditions here at home all at once," Tg wrote to Sat on August 2.

Manchuria, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

August 6: Hiroshima

On August 6, around 8:15 a.m. local time, Colonel Paul Tibbets, piloting a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, southwest Honsh. Tokyo received confused reports that an air raid had flattened Hiroshima with a "blinding glare and powerful blast" throughout the day. They afterwards heard President Truman's broadcast declaring the first atomic bomb usage and promising: We are now ready to obliterate productive Japanese enterprises above ground in any city. We will demolish their ports, factories, and communications. We will utterly destroy Japan's ability to wage war. Potsdam's ultimatum of July 26 was given to save the Japanese people from destruction. However, their commanders refused the request. If they do not accept our terms today, they might expect a catastrophic deluge from the sky.

Because the Japanese Army and Navy had their atomic-bomb programs, they knew how difficult creating one would be. The Japanese military ordered its independent experiments to ascertain the cause of Hiroshima's devastation. Captain Soemu Toyoda, Chief of the Naval General Staff, said the US could only make one. Expecting a reaction like Toyoda's, American planners prepared to deliver a second bomb immediately after the first to reassure Japan.

August 9: Soviet invasion and Nagasaki

On August 9, at 4:00 a.m., the Soviet Union broke the Neutrality Pact, declared war on Japan, signed the Potsdam Declaration, and invaded Manchuria. When the Russians invaded Manchuria, they ripped through an elite force, stopping when they ran out of gas. The 100,000-strong Soviet 16th Army invaded Sakhalin's southern side. Their orders were to mop up Japanese opposition there and then assault Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost home island, within 10-14 days. The 5th Area Army, entrusted with defending Hokkaido, had two divisions and two brigades stationed on the island's east coast. The Soviet strategy intended for a westward invasion of Hokkaido. The Soviet declaration of war altered the estimation of the remaining manoeuvring time. Japanese intelligence predicted a months-long delay in the US invasion. Conversely, Soviet forces might be in Japan in 10 days. The Soviet invasion decided to terminate the conflict urgently.

After the Hiroshima bombing and the Soviet entrance, Prime Minister Kantar Suzuki and Foreign Minister Shigenori Tg agreed that the government must end the war immediately.  Nevertheless, the Japanese Army's top brass ignored the report, severely underestimating the attack's scope. Instead, they prepared to impose martial law on the nation, stopping anyone trying to make peace. "The Soviet Union has declared war and begun hostilities against us," Hirohito told Kido.

10:30 Supreme Council meeting Suzuki, fresh from a meeting with the emperor, stated the conflict could not continue. Tg indicated they could accept the Potsdam Declaration's provisions if guaranteed the emperor's position. Navy Minister Yonai noted that they could no longer wait for better circumstances. Nearly an hour into the meeting, news came that Nagasaki, on Kysh's west coast, had been blasted by a second atomic bomb (called "Fat Man" by the United States). By the end, the Big Six had divided 3–3. General Umezu, General Anami, and Admiral Toyoda insisted on three new terms that amended Potsdam: Japan handled their disarmament, Japan dealt with any Japanese war criminals, and no occupation of Japan.

Truman said after the Nagasaki bombing: The British, Chinese, and American governments have adequately warned the Japanese people. We have set out the general terms of surrender. Nevertheless, our words were rejected. Since then, Japan has seen our atomic weapon in action. They can predict its future activities.

The first atomic bomb was dropped on a military facility in Hiroshima. Naturally, we wanted to avoid murdering bystanders in this first attack. Nevertheless, that attack is simply a foreshadowing. If Japan does not surrender, the war industry will be bombed, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths. Therefore, I advise Japanese residents to flee industrial cities immediately to avoid disaster. I understand the atomic bomb's devastating meaning.

This government did not take its production and use lightly. Nevertheless, we knew our foes were looking for it. We now know how close they came. Furthermore, we knew what would happen if they found it first. That is why we were driven to go on the risky and costly journey of discovery and creation. We beat the Germans in the discovery race.

We found the bomb and used it. We used it counter to those who attacked us at Pearl Harbor without warning, against those who starved, beat, and killed American POWs, against those who disregarded all international laws of war. We utilized it to end the anguish of war and save the lives of thousands of young Americans. We will employ it until Japan's ability to wage war is destroyed. A capitulation can only stop us.

Discussions of Surrender

The Japanese cabinet convened at 14:30 on August 9 to discuss capitulation. The cabinet split, with neither Tg nor Anami gaining a majority. Under suffering, a captured American P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, Marcus McDilda, informed his interrogators that the US had 100 atom bombs and that Tokyo and Kyoto would be destroyed in the next several days.

In truth, the US would not have received the third bomb until August 19 and a fourth until September. The Japanese government had no means of knowing the amount of the US stockpile and feared it might wipe out the Japanese race and nation. "Would it not be amazing for our entire nation to be destroyed like a beautiful flower?" Anami asked in the morning meeting. Cabinet adjourned at 17:30 without agreement. A second meeting from 18:00 to 22:00 h similarly ended in a stale Suzuki, and Tg then saw the emperor. Suzuki proposed an emergency Imperial session, which began before midnight on August 9–10. The Supreme Council agreed on Anami's four-condition plan, according to Suzuki. Other Supreme Council members spoke, as did Kiichir Hiranuma, President of the Privy Council, who described Japan's inability to defend itself and its domestic concerns, such as food shortages. The cabinet argued but could not agree. Towards 0200 (August 10), Suzuki finally addressed Emperor Hirohito, urging him to choose. The emperor said the participants recalled,

After carefully considering the situation at home and abroad, I have concluded that continuing the war will destroy the nation and prolong the carnage and brutality. I can no longer watch my innocent people suffer.

Those in favour of continuing hostilities assured me that by June, new divisions would be ready to meet the invader at Kujkuri Beach, east of Tokyo. However, even in August, the fortifications are not finished.

Some feel a decisive war is a key to national survival. Nevertheless, history shows that there has always been a gap between plans and results. I do not think Kujkuri's discrepancy can be fixed. How can we repel invaders if this is the shape of things?

Disarming Japan's courageous and loyal fighting men pains me. It is infuriating that people who devotedly served me are now being punished for starting the war. Nevertheless, now is the moment to suffer the unbearable. I stifle my tears and support the Foreign Minister's request to adopt the Allied proclamation.

General Sumihisa Ikeda and Admiral Zenshir Hoshina claim that Privy Council President Hiranuma then asked the emperor: "Your majesty, you share in this defeat. What would you say to the courageous spirits of your imperial founder and other imperial ancestors?"

Suzuki urged the government to accept the emperor's will once the emperor left. As a result, the Foreign Ministry informed the Allies early that morning (August 10) that Japan would admit the Potsdam Declaration but would not accept any peace conditions that "prejudice the prerogatives" of the emperor. That practically meant that the Emperor of Japan would retain absolute power.

August 12

James F. Byrnes wrote the Allied response to Japan's qualified acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, which the British, Chinese, and Soviet governments grudgingly agreed to. The Allies replied on August 12 (through the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department). It remarked about the emperor's status:

Ahead of capitulation, the Emperor and the Japanese Government will be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers, who will take whatever steps are necessary to implement the surrender terms. Following the Potsdam Declaration, the ultimate shape of the Japanese government shall be determined by the Japanese people. President Truman ordered no more atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan until the Japanese officially surrendered. However, news correspondents misinterpreted General Carl Spaatz's announcement that the B-29s were not flying on August 11 (because of bad weather) as a ceasefire declaration. Truman immediately ordered a halt to any additional airstrikes to avoid giving the Japanese the idea that the Allies had abandoned peace negotiations and resumed bombing.

Suzuki urged that the Japanese cabinet reject the Allied answer and insist on an express guarantee for the imperial system. Anami reiterated his call for no occupation of Japan. Tg warned Suzuki that there was no possibility of better conditions, and Kido conveyed the emperor's wish for Japan to submit. Finally, Yonai expressed his concerns about rising public unrest to the emperor:

The atomic weapons and the Soviet involvement in the conflict are, in a sense, divine gifts. So we do not have to pretend we left the war due to domestic issues. On that day, Hirohito surrendered to the royal family. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, then wondered if the conflict would go on if the kokutai (imperial sovereignty) was lost. "Of sure," the emperor said.

August 13–14

On August 13, American B-29s dropped leaflets over Japan, describing the Japanese surrender offer and the Allied response. The leaflets, which rained down on the Imperial Palace as the emperor and his advisors gathered, influenced Japanese policymaking. The only option to achieve peace was to accept the Allied terms unconditionally, even if that meant dissolving the Japanese government as it existed at the time. No answer from the Big Six and cabinet was reached late at night. Doubtful Allies awaited the Japanese response. The Japanese were told to send an unqualified approval in clear, but instead, they sent coded communications about other things. The Allies interpreted this as a denial of the terms. The Allies suspected the Japanese were planning an "all-out banzai onslaught" based on increasing diplomatic and military traffic identified by Ultra intercepts.

A new round of assaults on Japan was ordered by President Truman "to show Japanese leaders that we mean commercial and are serious about getting them to accept our peace terms quickly." On August 14, over 400 B-29s bombed Japan during the day and over 300 at night in the Pacific War's most significant and most extended bombing operation. One thousand one hundred fourteen planes were operated with no losses. Bombardment B-29s from the 315 Bombardment Wing flew 6,100 kilometres (3,800 mi) to demolish the Nippon Oil refinery in Tsuchizaki, Honsh. It was the final refinery in Japan's Home Islands, producing 67% of their oil. The attacks would continue until the Japanese surrender was announced and for some hours afterwards.

Truman halted atomic bombings on August 10 after learning that another bomb for Japan would be ready in a week. He told his cabinet he could not bear killing "all those babies." On August 14, Truman told the British envoy that "he now had no choice but to order an atomic bomb dropped on Tokyo".

A military coup or an acceptance of the American demands awaited Suzuki, Kido, and the Emperor on August 14. The emperor met with senior military officers. Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, however, did not. Hata commanded the Second General Army, which had its headquarters at Hiroshima, and was ready to fight the "decisive war". Hata said he did not think the invasion could be stopped and agreed with the emperor. The emperor urged his generals to help him finish the war.

Anami, Toyoda, and Umezu argued for fighting again before the cabinet and other councillors, to which the emperor replied: I have carefully considered each of the counter-arguments to the opinion that Japan should accept the Allied response as is, without clarification or alteration, but my personal views have not changed. Therefore, please produce an imperial rescript to proclaim my decision to the nation. Finally, I implore you all to do your utmost to help us through the coming hard days.

The cabinet met quickly and unanimously agreed with the emperor. Nevertheless, unfortunately, much material relating to war crimes and the war responsibility of the nation's highest leaders was also destroyed. So, the Foreign Ministry ordered its ambassadors in Switzerland and Sweden to accept the Allied surrender terms. These orders arrived in Washington at 02:49 on August 14.

Senior commanders on remote fronts were expected to be complicated. On August 14, three Imperial Princes with military commissions were sent to deliver the news personally. On the other hand, Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda travelled to Korea and Manchuria, Prince Yasuhiko Asaka to the PLA and the PLA Fleet, and Prince Kan'in Haruhito to Singapore. It was finalized by 19:00 on August 14th, transcribed by the official court calligrapher, and submitted to the cabinet for signatures. Around 23:00, the emperor read it aloud to an NHK recording crew. In the office of Empress Kjun's secretary, court chamberlain Yoshihiro Tokugawa hid the record.

Attempted Coup D'etat (August 12–15)

The next day, Major Kenji Hatanaka, Lieutenant Colonels Masataka Ida, Masahiko Takeshita (Anami's brother-in-law), and Inaba Masao, and Colonel Okikatsu Arao, Chief of the Military Affairs Unit, spoke to War Minister Korechika Anami (the military minister and "most powerful figure in Japan besides the Emperor himself") and asked him to stop the Potsdam Declaration from being accepted. General Anami refused to declare if he would aid the treasonous officers. Even though they needed his help, Hatanaka and the other rebels chose to go alone. Hatanaka spent most of August 13 and 14 gathering allies, seeking Ministry backing, and polishing his strategy.

After the surrender meeting on August 13–14, senior army officials, including Anami, assembled in an adjacent room. All those present feared a coup d'état to prevent the capitulation; some may even consider staging one. "The Army will act following the Imperial Decision until the last," General Torashir Kawabe said after a brief pause. "This written consensus by the most senior officers in the Army operated as a tremendous firebreak against any attempt to inspire a coup d'état in Tokyo," Anami said.

On August 14, around 21:30, Hatanaka's rebels began their plot. It had entered the royal grounds, increasing the battalion's strength, probably to protect against Hatanaka's insurrection. Nevertheless, Hatanaka and Shiizaki persuaded Colonel Toyojir Haga, commander of the 2nd Regiment of the First Imperial Guards, that Generals Anami and Umezu, and the Eastern District Army and Imperial commanders Guards Divisions were all on board. Hatanaka also went to Shizuichi Tanaka's office, the army's Eastern commander, to convince him to join the coup. Tanaka declined, sending Hatanaka home. Hatanaka disobeyed. Originally anticipated that simply taking the palace and presenting signs of resistance would inspire the Army to resist capitulation. Despite his bosses' lack of support, this idea led him through the last days and hours. Hatanaka and his cohorts planned that the Guard would take over the palace at 02:00. The hours before that were spent persuading Army superiors to join the coup. "I with my death humbly make an apology to the Emperor for the enormous transgression," General Anami wrote in his seppuku note. It is unclear whether the crime was losing the war or the coup.

Hatanaka and his troops surrounded the palace after 01:00. Captain Shigetaro Uehara (of the Air Force Academy) and Hatanaka proceeded to Lt. General Takeshi Mori's office to ask him to join the coup. Mori was with Michinori Shiraishi, his brother-in-law. As commander-in-chief of the 1st Imperial Guards Division, Moris help was vital. As a result, Hatanaka assassinated Mori, believing he would direct the Guards to put down the revolt. Osamu Uehara slew. It was the night's only murder. "Protecting" the emperor became much easier after Hatanaka used General Mori's official stamp to authorize Imperial Guards Division Strategic Order No. 584, a fictitious set of directives produced by his co-conspirators. Palace police disarmed and entrances barred.

 At night, eighteen persons were detained by Hatanaka's rebels, including Ministry employees and NHK workers sent to record the surrender speech. After that, the insurgents spent many hours searching for Imperial House Minister Star Ishiwata, Lord of the Privy Seal Kichi Kido, and the surrender speech recordings. The two guys were sheltering in the Imperial Palace's "bank vault". The Imperial House Ministry's outdated organization and layout made the search difficult. In addition, the rebels did not recognize several of the room names. The rebels found Yoshihiro Tokugawa. Despite Hatanaka's threats to dismember him, Tokugawa lied and said he did not know where the tapes or men were.

Like Captain Takeo Sasaki, another squad of Hatanaka rebels rushed to Prime Minister Suzuki's office to kill him. They machine-gunned the office, set it on fire, and then left for his house. Suzuki's chief secretary, Hisatsune Sakomizu, had warned him and departed minutes before the assassins came. After destroying Suzuki's home, they went to Kiichir Hiranuma's estate to kill him. The rebels set fire to Hiranuma's house as he fled. Suzuki spent the rest of August in police custody, sleeping in several beds.

The Eastern District Army was going to the palace to stop him, and he should surrender up. Seeing his strategy crumble, Hatanaka begged Tatsuhiko Takashima, Chief of Staff of the Eastern District Army, for 10 minutes on NHK radio to explain to the Japanese people what he was trying to do and why. Refused. Knowing that the Army opposed this revolt, Colonel Haga ordered Hatanaka off the royal grounds. Armed with a revolver, Major Hatanaka went to the NHK studios just before 05:00 to explain his actions. After an hour, Hatanaka gave up after receiving a call from the Eastern District Army. He gathered his men and exited the NHK studio.

Tanaka awoke to find the palace had been attacked. He confronted the dissident officers, chastising them for acting against the Japanese army's spirit. Finally, he persuaded them to return to camp. The rebels had held the royal grounds for much of the night but had failed to find the recordings. Hatanaka and Shiizaki travelled through the streets on motorcycles and horses to justify their activities. Hatanaka put his pistol to his head an hour before the emperor's announcement, around 11:00 on August 15. Shiizaki stabbed himself then shot himself. "I have nothing to repent now that the gloomy clouds have vanished from the Emperor's reign," Hatanaka wrote in his pocket.


Emperor Hirohito explained the surrender to both the people and the troops "The enemy has begun using a new and ruthless bomb, whose destructive power is almost unfathomable. If we keep fighting, not only will the Japanese nation be destroyed, but human civilisation as well." The Soviet Union has entered the battle against us. To continue the conflict would be the fundamental foundation of the Empire's existence," he stated to the military.

August 15, 1945, Capitulation Speech to the Japanese Community

On August 15, at midnight JST, the emperor read the Imperial Rescript on the End of War to the nation: After careful consideration of global trends and current conditions in Our Empire, We have decided to take unprecedented measures to resolve the current predicament.

We have directed Our Government to inform the governments of the USA, UK, China, and the USSR that Our Empire endorses their Joint Declaration.

Our Imperial Ancestors enjoined us to strive for the shared prosperity and happiness of all nations, as well as the protection and well-being of our subjects.

We launched the war on America and Britain to ensure Japan's survival and the stability of East Asia, not to infringe on other nations' sovereignty or pursue territorial expansion.

Nevertheless, now the war is nearly four years old. With all due respect to the military and naval forces and our loyal workers, Japan's war situation has not necessarily improved; the global trends have all shifted against her.

The adversary has also begun using a new, brutal bomb, whose destructive power is genuinely unfathomable, killing countless innocents. If we keep fighting, not only will the Japanese nation be destroyed, but human civilization.

As a result, how can we save millions of our subjects or atone before the venerable spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? That is why we directed the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

"Our nation's future trials and sufferings will undoubtedly be significant. We are acutely aware of your innermost feelings, our subjects. Our decision to endure the unendurable and suffer the insufferable has been dictated by time and fate."

The Emperor's Rescript was difficult for most listeners due to poor recording quality and the emperor's usage of the Classical Japanese language.

Moreover, the emperor made no mention of capitulation in his speech. However, it was quickly followed by a clarification that Japan had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies.

Many Japanese just listened to the emperor's address and went about their lives as finest they could, while some Army and Navy officials chose suicide instead of surrender. Of course, some people grieved in front of Tokyo's Imperial Palace. Still, the tears "reflected a range of sentiments... pain, remorse, bereavement and rage at having been tricked, abrupt emptiness and loss of purpose," writes author John Dower.

A coup or assassination attempt was foiled when Prince Higashikuni, the emperor's uncle, took over as Prime Minister on August 17. Japan's forces were still battling the Soviets and the Chinese when they finally surrendered. On August 18, Japanese fighters fought American reconnaissance bombers for the last time. The USSR fought until early September, capturing the Kuril Islands.

August 17, 1945, Capitulation Speech to the Japanese Military

Two days after Emperor Hirohito's surrender speech to people, he delivered "To the imperial commanders and men". Said he "We declared war on the USA and the UK three years and eight months ago. Our brave soldiers and sailors have battled heroically during this time, and we are truly thankful. However, continuing the conflict in the present internal and external conditions would only increase the ravages of war to the point of risking the Empire's very existence. With that in mind, and to maintain and protect our noble nationwide strategy, we are about to make concord with the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and Chungking."

Occupation and the Surrender Ceremony

The American people were informed of the Japanese acceptance of the surrender terms at 7 p.m. on August 14. The news of the war's end brought joy to allies. An American mariner kissing a woman in Times Square and news footage of the Dancing Man in Sydney has come to symbolize the immediate celebrations. Many Allied countries celebrate Victory over Japan Day on August 14-15. Most governments outside the US and UK were astonished by Japan's rapid surrender. The USSR planned to seize Hokkaido. Distinct to the Soviet occupations of East Germany and North Korea, President Truman vetoed these proposals.

Following Japan's surrender, US B-32 Dominator bombers based in Okinawa began reconnaissance missions over Japan to monitor Japanese compliance with the ceasefire, gather information to help establish the occupation, and test the Japanese fidelity. It was feared they would attack occupation forces. Japanese radars followed the B-32 during its initial reconnaissance trip, but it completed its mission unharmed. On August 18, Japanese naval fighters from Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Yokosuka Naval Airfield attacked a group of four B-32s above Tokyo. The Japanese pilots acted without the Japanese government's permission. Others argued that Japanese airspace should stay unaffected until a formal capitulation treaty was signed. The B-32 gunners kept them at bay, causing very minimal damage. They sent other reconnaissance flights to see if it was an isolated attack by diehards or Japan meant to keep fighting. The next day, two B-32s on a reconnaissance flight over Tokyo were attacked by Japanese fighters out of Yokosuka Naval Airfield, damaging one bomber. One bomber crewman died, and two others were injured. It was the war's final aerial battle. All Japanese aircraft had their propellers removed the following day, and Allied reconnaissance flights over Japan went unopposed.

On August 19, Japanese officials headed for Manila to see Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur and discuss the occupation. On August 28, 150 US troops flew to Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Japan was occupied. They were trailed by the USS Missouri, whose ships landed the 4th Marines on Kanagawa's southern coast. This division was flown from Okinawa to Atsugi Airdrome, 50 kilometres from Tokyo. Other Allies joined them.

MacArthur landed in Tokyo on August 30 and promptly imposed many rules. Allied troops were not to eat Japanese food. Strict restrictions on flying the Hinomaru or "Rising Sun" flag. The Japanese Instrument of Surrender was contracted in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, at about 9 a.m. The USS Missouri was carefully arranged to board dignitaries from throughout the world. Japan's Foreign Minister Shigemitsu and Gen. Umezu signed for the Japanese armed forces. The Surrender Ceremony onboard USS Missouri was meticulously organized.

Each signatory sat at a green felt-covered mess deck table and signed two unconditional Instruments of Surrender one leather-bound for the Allies and one canvas-backed for the Japanese. Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu contracted on behalf of the Japanese government, followed by Imperial General Yoshijiro Umezu. MacArthur signed for the Allies, followed by US Representative Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Eight additional Allies, including China, followed Nimitz. Commodore Matthew C. Perry flew the identical American flag on the USS Powhatan during his first of two missions to Japan in 1853. Perry's expeditions led to the Treaty of Kanagawa, which pushed Japan to open its borders to American commerce.

Investigations into Japanese war crimes commenced following the formal capitulation on September 2. Prince Chichibu, Prince Takamatsu, Prince Mikasa, and Prince Higashikuni urged the emperor to surrender so that one of the Princes might act as regent until Crown Prince Akihito reached the age of majority. So Hirohito was never tried because General MacArthur persuaded him he needed his support to control Japan later in September. The Global Military Tribunal for the Far East was established on January 19, 1946, with no members of the imperial family charged. September 2, 1945, is also acknowledged as V-J Day. In his declaration, President Truman stressed that "it is not yet the day for the formal proclamation of the end of war or suspension of hostilities." The government calls the day (which is not a national holiday) Senbotsusha o tsuit shi heiwa o kinen suru hi ('day for remembering the war dead and praying for peace').

Further Surrenders and Resistance

On September 2, senior Japanese military and civilian authorities surrendered the Caroline Islands to Vice Admiral George D. Murray aboard the USS Portland at Truk Atoll. Following the signing of the surrender instrument, numerous more surrender ceremonies occurred throughout Japan's Pacific possessions. Japanese forces in Southeast Asia surrendered on September 2, 10, 11, and 12 at Penang, Labuan, Sarawak, and Singapore. The Kuomintang took over Taiwan's Government on October 25. All American and British detainees were repatriated in 1947. In April 1949, China held almost 60,000 Japanese detainees. Some, like Shozo Tominaga, returned in the late 1950s. The surrender's logistical needs were enormous. After Japan's resignation, the Allies captured almost 5,400,000 Japanese soldiers and 1,800,000 Japanese sailors. The Allied efforts to feed Japanese POWs and civilians were hindered by destruction to Japan's infrastructure and severe famine in 1946.

The Treaty of San Francisco concluded the war between most Allies and Japan on April 28, 1952. The Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956 formalized the peace.

Japanese stragglers on Pacific islands refused to surrender (believing the declaration to be propaganda or considering surrender against their code). As a result, some may not be aware of it. The final known holdout, Teruo Nakamura, escaped from his hiding place in Indonesia in December 1974, although two other Japanese soldiers fought in southern Thailand until 1991.

Last updated: 2022-January-13
Tags: History World War II
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