75th Anniversary of Victory Over Japan
Shortly after noon Japan Standard Time on 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration in a radio broadcast to the Japanese people, finally ending World War II. A formal surrender ceremony was performed aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, on 2 September 1945.
After US atomic bombs devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, the Japanese indicated their readiness to surrender on 10 August. Immediately after the announcement, rather than surrender, some Japanese soldiers committed suicide, others executed prisoners of war.
Large numbers of Australian, British and American prisoners of war were murdered. At the Japanese Batu Lintang camp in Borneo, execution orders were discovered for the murder of approx. 2,000 POWs and civilian internees. The camp was liberated just four days before these were due to be carried out. Some Japanese soldiers continued to fight on isolated Pacific islands until at least the 1970s, with the last known Japanese soldier surrendering in 1974.
The Allies had been fighting Japan since 7/8 December 1941 when the Japanese invaded Thailand and attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and attaccked United States military and naval bases in Hawaii (Pearl Harbour), Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines.
By 1945, the Japanese had suffered a string of defeats for nearly two years in the South West Pacific, the Marianas campaign and the Philippines campaign. The Allied submarine campaign and the mining of Japanese coastal waters had largely destroyed the Japanese merchant fleet, combined with the strategic bombing of Japanese industry, had wrecked Japan’s war economy.
However, the fire-bombing of Tokyo did not bring about the intended result and Japan looked determined to fight hand-to-hand for every inch of the country. It took the shock and awe impact of devasting new weapons of mass destruction and the Soviet’s declaration of war to force Japan to surrender.
Finally realising that the Allies could follow through on their threats, the Empire of Japan submitted to the terms of the Potsdam Declaration:
“We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”
The Allies, including China, had lost over 4 million military personnel – the Japanese over 2.5 million – fighting the Pacific War. Almost 30 million civilians, most of them Chinese, had perished.