On this day in 1945, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, bringing an end to World War 2.
By the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. The Japanese navy and air force were destroyed, and a naval blockade and intensive bombing of cities had left the country and its economy devastated. By June, the Japanese island of Okinawa had been wrested from the enemy; the fitting out for a bloody, massive invasion had begun.
On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM local time, the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb “Little Boy” over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Sixteen hours later, American President Harry S. Truman called again for Japan’s surrender, warning them to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”
Late in the evening of August 8, 1945, in accordance with the Yalta agreements, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and soon after midnight on August 9, 1945, the Soviets invaded the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Later in the day, the U.S. dropped a second devastating atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
At 12:00 noon Japan standard time on August 15, the Emperor’s recorded speech to the nation was broadcast:
“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.”
MacArthur arrived in Tokyo on August 30, and immediately decreed several laws: no Allied personnel were to assault Japanese people; no Allied personnel were to eat the scarce Japanese food; flying the Hinomaru or “Rising Sun” flag was severely restricted. On September 2, aboard the Missouri, Japanese Foreign Minister Shigemitsu signed for the Japanese government, while Gen. Umezu signed for the Japanese armed forces; it was not quite all over.
Allied civilians and military personnel alike celebrated V-J Day, the end of the war, yet isolated soldiers and personnel from Japan’s far-flung forces throughout Asia and the Pacific refused to surrender for months and years afterwards, some even refusing into the 1970’s.
But for two serious bombs, Robert J. Oppenheimer’s quirky crew and one petulant new President, millions of Allied and Japanese lives could have been dashed on the rocks of a religious refusal to surrender; a goodly sum of you reading this might not be here today.
And here the lesson endeth.