Sitting at Pearl Harbour, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that marked the end of WWII, we reflect on the two days that changed the world forever. The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour and the September 2, 1945 signing of the surrender on the Battleship USS Missouri.
Japan did not surrender when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshim on August 6, 1945. Two days later the Soviets declared war on Japan and attacked Manchuko, a Japanese puppet state in Manchuria. A day later on August 9, Nagasaki was hit by another atomic bomb. Still the Japanese political and military circles pushed for the war to continue.
Emperor Hirohito wanted an end to the war. On August 10, Japan offered to surrender to the Allies. Negotiations followed and on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito made a rare radio address supporting acceptance of the Allies terms.
This was the first time Japanese commoners ever heard their Emperor’s voice. Many did not understand his imperial dialect. After the speech, they listed to the radio announcers describe what he meant. Full transcript and audio are available here.
Following the Emperor’s radio address, most Japanese accepted the news. Some were angry, some were relieved, many were sad. Some refused to accept defeat and attacked the imperial palace. This small rebellion was subdued only after the general of the Imperial Guard Division was killed.
Preparations for the surrender ceremony were immediately underway. General Douglas MacArthur was named the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. He was to oversee the surrender ceremony. It was to be held on the September 2, 1945 on the American battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
There were hundreds of American warships in Tokyo Bay Harbour on the bright and sunny day of the ceremony. There were delegations from the allied forces, the Japanese, sailors, reporters and photographers all over the USS Missouri for the ceremony.
At this time, some gray clouds were hovering over Tokyo Bay. There were no cheers at the ceremony. Sailors watched in silent awe. A Japanese delegate later remembered:
“There were a million eyes beating us in the million shafts of a rattling storm of arrows barbed with fire. I felt their keenness sink into my body with a sharp physical pain. Never have I realized that the glance of glaring eyes could hurt so much.”
General MacArthur then gave is finest speech:
“It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past—a world founded upon faith and understanding—a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish—for freedom, tolerance and justice.”
The documents were signed by the allies and the Japanese. At 9:25 MacArthur returned to the Microphone and stated:
“Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always,” he said. “These proceedings are now closed.”
Just as the ceremonies concluded the gray skies opened up, just like in a movie and hundreds of allied planes flew over the harbour. They flew low and slow over the “Mighty Mo”. This was a show that the fighting was over. This was the end of WWII.