While WWII’s official surrender of Japan took place in September 1945, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the country publically announced that it would acquiesce to Allied forces on August 14th of that year — thus ending the most destructive and deadly war the planet had ever known.
On that day, just after noon in Japan, Emperor Hirohito’s acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast over the radio, thus officially acknowledging WWII’s end.
The announcement sparked huge celebrations across the United States — everywhere from Times Square (shown above) in New York to the smallest rural towns to military vessels and bases around the globe.
The formal signing of the Japanese surrender would take place September 2, 1945 on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, and President Truman would declare that date as the “official” VJ Day.
However, it was that summer day in mid-August that saw a nation heave a collective sigh of relief as its long and bloody fight in the Pacific ended — and celebrations began. Here’s a look back.
Victory — and peace — at last!
Lubbock Morning Avalanche (Texas) August 14, 1945
Japanese surrender is complete and final
General MacArthur named to head Allied occupation force; Japs ordered to report to him; “Official V-J Day” will follow formal capitulation
Washington, August 14 — Japan surrendered unconditionally tonight. History’s most destructive war is over except for formalities.
President Truman released the stirring news at 6pm Lubbock time.
Arrangements still must be completed for the signing of formal surrender terms. Gen. Douglas MacArthur has been appointed Supreme Allied commander to receive the surrender. Then V-J Day will be proclaimed.
“Meantime,” the President announced, “the Allied armed forces have been ordered to suspend offensive action.”
And while the world celebrated with unrestrained joy, he ordered a Japanese government (which once had promised to dictate peace terms in the White House) to stop the war on all fronts.
Through Secretary of State Byrnes and the Swiss legation, Mr Truman did the dictating.
He decreed that the Japanese government:
1. Direct prompt cessation of hostilities by Japanese forces.
2. Notify MacArthur of the effective date and hour of cessation and send emissaries to the general to arrange formal surrender.
In addition, he announced plans for slashing Army draft calls from 80,000 to 50,000 a month and forecast the return of 5,000,000 to 5,500,000 soldiers to civilian life within 12 to 18 months.
As the great news became known, hundreds of Washingtonians raced to the White House to join hundreds already massed around the grounds.
Mr Truman, accompanied by his wife, walked out on the porch and stepped up to a hastily erected microphone. He waved and smiled. Then he spoke:
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the great day. This is the day we have been looking for since December 7, 1941.
“This is the day when Fascism and police government ceases in the world.
“This is the day for democracies.
“This is the day when we can start on our real task of implementation of free government in the world.
“We are faced with the greatest task we ever have been faced with. The emergency is as great as it was on December 7, 1941.
“It is going to take the help of all of us to do it. I know we are going to do it.”
For millions of Americans, for hundreds of millions of Allied people, his surrender announcement signified victory, peace and the eventual return of loved ones from war. To millions who sleep beneath stark white crosses, it meant their sacrifices had not been in vain.
For Japan, as already vanquished Germany, it meant the end of savage conquest and aggression, dismemberment of an empire won by blood-spilling, disarmament and occupation.
Those were the terms of the Allied Declaration of Potsdam, decreeing unconditional surrender, to which Japan accepted.
Once the Japanese sphere had stretched from Attu to Timor and Java and India. Once Japan kept half a billion people enslaved under iron rule, and threatened to enfold another half billion.
Now she is defeated — without invasion — but at a terrific cost.
A big kiss to celebrate VJ Day
A sailor and a woman celebrating the announcement of Japan’s surrender in Washington DC, August 14, 1945 (EST)
Navy men listening to the radio
Men of the 22nd Special Naval Construction Battalion listen as news of the Japanese surrender comes in on the radio, Naval Amphibious Base, Manus, Admiralty Islands
Delighted to finally celebrate VJ Day
Sailors and their companions celebrate VJ-Day in Washington DC, August 14, 1945 (EST)
Listening to VJ Day radio broadcast in the US
Military leaders meet for victory in Japan
Admiral William F. Halsey, commander, Third Fleet (right), welcomes Admiral Chester W. Nimitz aboard USS South Dakota (BB-57) in Tokyo Bay, 29 August 1945, after Nimitz flew in from Saipan. Both attended the Japanese surrender ceremonies on USS Missouri (BB-63) a few days later
Signing the surrender documents
Document: Instrument of Surrender/WWII
Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945. (Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Archives Identifier 1752336)