Victory – and peace – at last! Japan surrenders (1945)

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V-J Day at time of announcement of the Japanese surrender in 1945
Times Square on V-J Day at time of announcement of the Japanese surrender in 1945 (Courtesy LOC)
While the official surrender of Japan took place on September 2nd with the signing of the surrender document, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender to Allied forces on August 14th, 1945 — 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 Japan’s surrender. The announcement sparked celebrations across the United States, from Times Square in New York to the smallest rural towns. These celebrations were immortalized in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in spontaneous joy in the middle of Times Square.

The formal signing of the Japanese surrender would take place September 2nd, 1945 on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, and President Truman would declare that date as the “official” V-J 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. -AJW

Victory - and peace - at last! Japan surrenders

Jubilant crowd on V-J day dancing on the White House lawn
Jubilant crowd on V-J day dancing on the White House lawn (Courtesy LOC)

Victory — and peace — at last!

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.

Alfred Eisenstaedt sailor kissing a nurse Times SquareThrough 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.

little italy vj day 1945
Residents of New York’s “Little Italy” in front of 76 Mulberry St., greet the news of the Japanese acceptance of Allied surrender terms with waving flags and a rain of paper (Courtesy LOC)

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