The end of World War II


Sixty-three years ago today, Japanese Emperor Hirohito made the decision to surrender. It was a controversial conclusion that would have far-reaching implications.

Many of the Japanese military leaders disagreed with Hirohito, preferring a fight to the death, but the Emperor ignored them and sent a surrender document, based on the Potsdam Declaration, to the Allies via the neutral Swiss. On August 14th, the Emperor announced the surrender using a taped message he had secretly recorded while the cabinet debated whether or not to continue fighting – it was the first time his voice had ever been heard on Japanese radio (NY Times). Critical to the acceptance terms was the status of the Emperor. The Japanese wanted to preserve his deified status; the Allies would only agree to allowing him to retain his title, subject to the orders of the occupying commander.

On August 15th, President Truman announced the acceptance of the surrender and the war officially ended. Allied occupation began two weeks later ( On September 2nd a huge Allied fleet entered Tokyo Bay for the formal surrender aboard Halsey’s flagship, USS MISSOURI (BB 63).

(US Navy)

Estimates vary, but approximately 70 million people were killed in WWII, including 400,000 Americans.

The Japanese employed suicide attacks, guerilla warfare, and brutalized its captives, reminiscent of tactics used by insurgents in the war on terror. Today the Japanese are our allies and a leading world economic power. Who knows what Iraq and Afghanistan will look like in sixty years, but by looking at history, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future.


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