Historical photos from the Japanese Surrender Ceremony, 1945

On September 2, 1945, Japanese delegates prepared by the Department of War and presented President Harry S. Truman signed the official instrument of surrender. It stipulated the complete surrender of Japan in eight short paragraphs.

The opening words, "We are acting for and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan," reflect the importance attached to the role of the Emperor by the Americans who drafted the document.

The brief second paragraph went straight to the center of the matter: "We declare the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and all Japanese Armed Forces and all Armed Forces under Japanese control, wherever located. "

Before the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were elements within the Japanese government that were trying to find a way to end the war. In June and July 1945, Japan attempted to enlist the help of the Soviet Union to act as a mediator in the negotiations.

There was no direct communication with the United States about the peace talks, but American leaders were aware of these maneuvers because the United States had long been intercepting and decoding many internal Japanese diplomatic communications.

From these blockades, the United States learned that some within the Japanese government advocated outright surrender. Some diplomats abroad have contacted home to request just that.

From the responses of these diplomats received from Tokyo, the United States learned that whatever Japan could agree would not surrender, as a "negotiated peace" involving a number of conditions.

These conditions would, at a minimum, require that the Japanese home islands not remain occupied by foreign forces and even allow Japan to retain some of its wartime conquests in East Asia.

Many within the Japanese government were extremely reluctant to discuss any concessions, which would mean that for them a "negotiated peace" would amount to little more than just a ceasefire where the Allies were ready to stop attacking Japan. had agreed to.

After a twelve-year Japanese military offensive against China and a three-and-a-half year war with the United States (beginning with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor), American leaders were reluctant to accept anything less than a complete Japanese surrender.

A possible exception to this was the personal position of the emperor himself. Although the Allies had long publicly demanded an "unconditional surrender", there was some discussion privately of exempting the emperor from war trials and allowing him to remain as formal head of state.

Finally, in Potsdam, the Allies went with both "a carrot and a stick", trying to encourage those in Tokyo who had advocated for peace with assurances that Japan would eventually be allowed to form its own government. while combining these assurances with vague warnings of "prompt and complete annihilation" if Japan does not surrender immediately.

No explicit mention was made of the emperor remaining as the ceremonial head of state. Japan publicly rejected the Potsdam Declaration and on July 25, 1945, President Harry S. Truman ordered to launch nuclear strikes on Japan as soon as possible.

After the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the Japanese government met and considered what to do next.

Emperor Jun was urging Japan to find a way to end the war, but the Japanese Minister of War and the chiefs of both the army and navy maintained their position that Japan should wait and see if the Soviets could get through. Mediation may still produce something less than surrender.

Military leaders also hoped that if they could hold off until a ground invasion of Japan began, they would be able to inflict so many casualties on the Allies that Japan could still win some sort of settlement agreement.

This was followed almost simultaneously by the Soviet declaration of war on Japan on August 8, 1945 and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki the next day.

Another Imperial Council was held on the night of 9–10 August, and this time the vote on surrender was a 3 to 3 tie. For the first time in a generation, the emperor personally broke the tie by ordering Japan to surrender, moving beyond his usual ceremonial-only role.

On August 10, 1945, Japan offered to surrender to the Allies, with the only condition being that the emperor be allowed to remain the nominal head of state.

Emperor Hirohito gave different reasons for the surrender to the public and the military: Addressing the public, he said, "The enemy has begun to plant a new and most brutal bomb whose power to damage is, indeed, incomparable." ...

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