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Japan Surrenders: September 2, 1945

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The Formal Surrender of JapanOn September 2, 1945, Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender, officially ending World War II.

Despite the fact that Japan’s defeat seemed imminent all that summer, it wasn’t until after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—at nearly the same time that the Soviets declared war on Japan and attacked Manchuria—that Japan saw surrender as a possibility. Even then, there was still wide support in Japanese political and military circles for the war to continue, and it took the emperor himself speaking in favor of surrender for Japan to finally capitulate on August 14.

The surrender ceremony took place a few weeks later, on the morning of September 2, in Tokyo Bay on board the USS Missouri. Allied officials and members of the press arrived on the ship between 7 and 8 that morning, with General Douglas MacArthur, the newly appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, arriving at 8:43 and the Japanese delegation boarding at 8:56. The ceremony began at 9:02, and MacArthur gave a brief speech in which he remarked, “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.”

Admiral Chester Nimitz signing the Japanese Surrender DocAfter MacArthur finished, the Japanese delegates signed the unconditional surrender. They were followed by MacArthur, who signed on behalf of the Allies, and Admiral Chester Nimitz, who signed for the United States. China, Britain, the USSR, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand also signed the documents. By 9:22, everyone had signed, and MacArthur concluded the ceremony with another short speech. After he had spoken, 450 U.S. navy planes and hundreds more army planes flew in formation over the Missouri. The ceremony ended at 9:25, a brief 23 minutes long.

Although the war was over, it was still some months before the Allies had accepted the surrender of all the widespread Japanese garrisons. And some Japanese units in remote areas continued to fight after the surrender until they heard the news (which for a few men was years or even decades later). MacArthur headed the American occupation of Japan until 1951, and U.S. troops remained in the country until the following year, 1952.

Learn more about Japan’s surrender or other WWII topics in Fold3′s WWII collection.

48 Comments

  1. Is the image of the unreadable document a link to a readable version?

    • If you click on “surrender ceremony” in the third paragraph, you are able to view this document, entitled,
      “CONFIDENTIAL The Formal Surrender of the Empire of Japan”.
      Further links on that page take one to the source material for this document.

  2. Pingback: Edward A. McMurray, Jr. at the Surrender of Japan, 02 Sep 1945 | Heritage Ramblings Edward A. McMurray, Jr. at the Surrender of Japan, 02 Sep 1945 | Musings on Family History and Genealogy

  3. Nice article. Thanks for keeping us aware of this historic event. Hopefully, a better world emerged.

    A street nearby in Irvine, CA is named Nimitz and I doubt many realize the significance of the name and the significance of the man. Thanks for helping us remember!

    • in Fredericksburg, TX, hometown of Nimitz, there’s literally the best and newest museum I’ve been to in 25 yrs, and Nimitz is definitely honored as is the description of each place to do with the Pacific War. I had no idea walking in just how entailed the Pacific was, moreso than even the European War.

  4. Many people think the United States should not have dropped the atomic bomb, but it saved the lives of many Americans, both civilian and military. I was not married during WW II, but married a man who was captured on Corregidor on 6 May 1942, and was imprisoned in the Philippines and Japan until after Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945. We had many friends who were imprisoned by the Japanese, and while the men did not talk about what happened to them during their imprisonment, we know that it was inhumane. My husband was determined to get back home, and never gave up.

    • Our THANKS and appreciation to your husbands service and sacrifice for us that he gave during WWII.

    • My Dad also was also stationed in correigador, then captured in Bataan. He was inprisoned in cabanatwain for 1 yr in the Phillipines , then moved to Japan for 2 1/2 yrs.

  5. The eventual defeat of Japan may have seemed imminent but
    during the summer of 1945 the surrender by the Japanese was
    anything but imminent. The Japanese had just lost 110,00 military killed
    while the Americans suffered over 80,000 total casualties including more than
    12,000 killed during the battle for Okinawa. Also, tens of thousands of civilians
    died during this battle including thousands who committed themselves to avoid coming under American control. The American fleet suffered horrendous loses of life and an unsurpassed pounding of its ships by swarms of kamikaze pilots.
    Okinawa was the last stepping stone for the American forces before
    the invasion of Japan. The Americans saw that the Japanese were
    prepared for total self-sacrifice to defend their homeland. Even in the face of the Potsdam Declaration signed by Truman, Stalin and Churchill which warned of the total annihilation of Japan unless it surrendered, that country’s military rulers did totally ignored the ultimatum.

    The Allies knew that the Japanese had over 2.3 million soldiers on the islands,
    250,000 garrison troops and an additional 32 million militia. Also, men, woman
    and children, young and old were trained to be suicide bombers. In other words,
    the Japanese, soldiers and civilians, were prepared to fight to the death. The Americans expected that in an invasion, although they would ultimately be victorious, the military would suffer over 1 million casualties while the Japanese would lose many times that.

    Sailing home, on the way home from Potsdam, President Truman gave
    the order to use the Atomic Bomb on Japan. On Aug. 6, 1945, the first
    bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, but it wasn’t until after Nagasaki was
    bombed on Aug.12 that the Japanese agreed to surrender.

    So, to respond to the claim that the surrender of Japan was imminent during the
    summer of 1945, it can be confidently stated that until the Atomic Bombs were dropped and until the Japanese realized that they had no appropriate military response, the Americans were preparing for an invasion of Japan that result in many millions of deaths and casualties. I’m sure that the American troops waiting for the order to attack Japan knew what they were facing, before the Enola Gay dropped her payload, and it was definitely not Japanese were about to surrender. Rather, the Americans knew that as long as they could continue to fight and kill, the Japanese would continue to resist. They would fight on until their last soldier was dead and it is very likely until millions of their “non-combatants/civilians” were dead too. Therefore, to state that Japanese surrender was imminent during the summer of 1945 is an historical inaccuracy.

    I’m trying to understand why someone would make such a claim. The only reason I can think of is to try to undermine and distort the reasons for Truman (with Stalin and Churchill) to use the Atomic Bomb. Which is to say that is the Japanese surrender was imminent, the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on civilians is nefarious. Or maybe it is simply the result of a lack of knowledge and an unwillingness to do the research to give an accurate depiction of the situation which lead up to the Japanese surrender 68 years ago today. But, regardless, I hope that I have helped to set the record straight.

    • Another aspect, rarely mentionred, is that the Germans had fought to the last in the ruins of Berlin. There was no reason to believe that the Japanese were any less”fanatic” and every reason to believe that the Japanese defence of their home islands would be ust as determined as the German defence of their fatherland.

    • Even after the two atomic bombs, there was a faction in Japan that wanted to fight on. They had no hope of winning the war, but there were those that wanted to fight until complete annihilation of the Japanese homeland was achieved. The atomic bombs saved a million American lives. I will never feel sorry for our use of them.

    • Nagasaki was
      bombed on 9 August 1945

    • Both my parents were veterans of WWII; my Mother was an Army R. N. until her marriage, and my father was a pilot on his way to the Pacific front when Japan surrendered. Both believed Japan would not have surrendered until the bombs were dropped. As a history teacher, I have watched with some dismay as present day Japan has worked to “sanaitize” their part in the war. Thank you for helping to set the record straight. Incidentally, an excellent biography of a Japanese prisoner of war is Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. Some of the statistics she cites are very telling.

    • I really enjoyed reading your comments and strongly agree with you.

    • It is just another case of political correctness. To young to serve, I remember the furloughs, my mother’s three brother and my grade school teacher’s navy husband. 1945 saw my Uncles in Europe, the youngest liberating prison camps in Germany. My husband has never forgotten the cousin only a few years older, one of the marines who died at the Iwo landing. War is hell, for all involved, those who fight and die and those who wait at home. Thanks to them all for their service. Sure Glad I still speak English, not German or Japanese.

  6. Sorry, I meant 69 years ago.

    • Thank you for stating the truth about the refusal of Japan to surrender and the outcome of the decision to bomb Japan. When I told my 88 year old Father a WWII veteran, of the significance of today’s date. He said, “If it weren’t for the bombs dropped on Japan I would not be here today.” As his daughter the same goes for me and my children and grandchildren.
      Thank you WWII Veterans for you courageous service when our country and the world needed you!

  7. I agree with Jerome Kleiman. I was in the Army, combat trained and waiting for the invasion. When Harry dropped the bomb, I got my life back.

    I was lucky. I’m 87 years old.

    • Thanks, Mr. Cooke. The Japanese were training their civilians to
      strap on explosives and to jump under the tracks of US tanks,
      blowing themselves and the tanks up. Americans aren’t taught
      about this. Many of our people think that Truman dropped the bomb because he was a racist. I think he did it because he was a humanitarian,
      who saved so many of our boys’ lives and millions of Japanese, too. The
      Japanese really should have a Truman Day in Japan celebrated by all of
      their children who were born after the war, whose parents wouldn’t
      have survived the invasion/conquering of their country.
      At least he had the guts to make that very hard decision. Do you
      think that “our leaders” today could or would do the same?
      I doubt it.

  8. Thanks to all of you for your Service to our Great Nation, my Dad served in England and North Africa during WWII.

    USAF Ret 1989

  9. Excellent coverage and as a history buff I really appreciate being a member of Fold3. I would like to reprint this article in my newsletter. I cover historical events from time to time. Do I have your permission to reuse this article while crediting Fold3.
    Thank You

  10. Grateful is an understatement but that is what I say I am for the war ending when it did and it took drastic measures. My father was employed in a missile factory during this was and had three children; however, he was called to war and was leaving our home the evening we heard the news that the war was ended. Prior to the good news my mother was holding back tears and it felt like death in our home that evening.

  11. I’m proud to say that my dad was on the Missouri that day to witness the signing. He is alive and well at 89 years old and proud to have served his country,

  12. I understand that seven thousand vets, from both sides, die every day… my father-in-law, who died in 1979, and fought for Germany, told me, both he and his brother were conscripted in 1938, and after that they merely fought to survive. A real waste of lives…

  13. Is it because of Japanese’s surrender that made it possible for the war to end?

    • Yes, mate. I think that the Japs saw what the Russians were doing to the Germans. This made the Japs realize they had no chance. The Russians were first into Germany, and first into Berlin. The Germans, caught on the wrong side of the Russians, were fighting the Russians, just to get through to the Allies to surrender. They knew that if the Russians captured them, their (arses) Aussie version of asses, would be history. Also, before we throw too much crap at the Russians, we should never forget that we may have been talking another language now, if it hadn’t been for them. 30 million Russians killed, were a huge contribution to the Allies cause.

  14. My mom’s younger brother was training to take part in the invasion of Japan when the war ended… he wound up as part of the occupying force there instead. He always seemed like such a gentle and meek person, I can’t imagine he would have held up too well in hand-to-hand combat on the beaches.

    It is so fortunate that we shocked the Japanese into a clean surrender with the atomic bombs. Otherwise we might have entered into years or decades of guerilla warfare with horrible atrocities being committed by both sides. I’ve lived for years in Japan myself, and I know they NEEDED that face-saving opportunity to surrender. We naturally talk a lot about how many American lives the bombs saved, but the real death toll would have been on the Japanese themselves had the war continued.

  15. I am not in favor of using atomic weapons now but I believe their use in 1945 (though horrific) saved not only American lives but many Japanese and other ethnic groups. If used now it might cause total annihilation of the world.

  16. I recently spoke with a man who is now 97 years old totally self-sufficient.
    I drove him to a nursing home where he plays the violin for the “old
    people” who are almost all younger than him. He told me that he
    was a soldier in 1945 and he was stationed on the ship that took
    Pres. Truman to and from Potsdam. His job was to play the violin
    for the president, as part of a string trio, during meals.
    Anyhow, I asked him if he saw any difference in Truman on
    the trip home, when the order was given to put the Special Weapon, as
    the Atomic Bomb was then called, into use by dropping
    it on a Japanese city, or cities, as the case may be. He said that he doesn’t
    recall any discernible difference.

    My thought was that to effectively be the first, and still only, one to push the button, would be an extremely hard decision. I assume that Truman had the conviction that sometimes we have to do things that normally would be horrific and immoral, but under certain circumstances are necessary and might well be the humane and right choice to make.

    Sometimes decisions have to be made that will take an untold
    numbers of lives in order to prevent the death of others, despite,
    at the same time, each life being sacred and each person is, as the saying goes, created in the image of God. He knew we had given the Japanese troops many opportunities to surrender throughout the war, in various battles, but, as far as I know, they never did. They fought to the last man and killed as long as a breath remained in their bodies, and sometimes even after. Finally, on July 26 of 1945, we gave them the ultimatum to surrender as a nation or face destruction, and they refused to respond. Their response, or lack thereof, sealed their own fate.

    Any reasonable person knew then what the future held. It meant that the Japanese were ready to die to a man, and to kill as many of the enemy (American GIs) as they could, even though there was not a glimmer of a chance that they would defeat the Americans (or for that matter the Russian and the British who were still able to send their troops, if need be, to Japan). In light of that, Truman must have been able to maintain his equanimity and composure by having the inner certainty that he was doing the right thing. And, he had the guts to make the decision the send the Enola Gay to Japan to drop the Atomic Bomb and a densely populated civilian target, maybe one of the hardest decisions that any sane and moral person has ever have to make. Lunatics, fanatics and your plain old vanilla evil persons could probably make the same decision, given the opportunity, without any compunction. They might even relish in it. But we are a decent and moral
    people, and for us to kill civilians, even if they are the enemy and even if you believe that had the situation been reverse they would readily slaughter your own civilians, can never be a pleasant or easy decision to make.

    This, I am convinced, is why, on his way back from Potsdam, Truman
    was his normal cool, calm and collective self and was able to
    enjoy his meals and the music performed by my now 97 year old friend.

  17. I can’t remember the name of the person who developed this bomb, but I know he was of Jewish descent. Didn’t he committ sucide? Also weren’t the German’s in the process of developing this bomb. If they had succeeded then the outcome of world war11 would have been very different, allowing Japan to triumph .

  18. I have read the above article about the surrender of Japan at the end of WWII . I have also read the comments above.

    Let me first thank those who served in WWII that we might have our freedom today. My father worked in the shipyards of Newport News VA for a time and could not serve. My deceased husband had three uncles that were in WWII and I am sorry that I did not thank them during their lifetimes .

    Everyone must read UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand. it is the story of Louis Zamperini and it tells not only of the horrors of the Japanese prison camps he endured, but gives a glimpse of what the civilians were doing.

    Also read the book Girls of Atomic City…I am sorry I can’t remember the author.
    This tells the story of one aspect of the manufacture of the atomic bomb in Oak Ridge, TN. You will find it interesting also.

  19. Edward Teller was the brains behing the US rush to have “The Bomb” before Hitler did. No one should ever forget him and his crew. I you get the chance view “Manhattan” a weekly series now on TV.
    I’m really ashamed so many Americans do not seem to appreciate the sacrifices our military makes in supporting of our way of life, every day of their service, and beyond..
    They profess “knowledge and (depth ?) of thought”, but are too often quite shallow by failing to apply due diligence in reading what happened during the wartime, instead of placing “labels” on those who saved our country by making their own sacrifices – at home, and abroad.

  20. Based on the books by Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida- one of the leaders of the Pearl Harbor bombing. The atomic bomb had little effect on the surrender, which was already under consideration. We like to pat ourselves on the back for the technological advance, but Japan knew more about it then our own men. They also knew we didn’t have more then 3 or 4 of the weapons and likely couldn’t use it again anytime soon. Fuchida was among a group of officials dispatched to the bomb sites to ‘take notes,’ so he was certainly in the know. He was also the only survivor of the note takers. The Emperor tossed us a bone when he used the new bomb as an excuse the public would readily understand for to ‘bear the unbearable.’

    • The ability was there to produce more bombs Thank Goodness invasion was not necessary in the invasion plans there was a plan to pave the way for our troops by using atomic weapons which would have killed ours as well as theirs.Remember the powers that be did not or perhaps refused to understand the deadly effects of radiation

    • Just a footnote about Capt Fuchida.In 1950 I think but it was in the early 50s, he came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior and is responsible for leading many of his countrymen to Christ.

  21. I spent my 19th birthday at FT Ord California being outfitted for the Japanese invasion. That was AUG 19. We went on a small Navy transport to Manilla PI At Clark Field at a replacement depot you could see fires all over the slopes of the mountian. These Japnese did’t want to surrender either..

  22. White America indeed had deep rooted racism even up to the sixies…I grew up in the deep south..but unfortunately the a bombs were the best option for the world. They were not close to surredering. Speaking with my wifes parents..pilipinos..and Guamanian friends who bore Japanese atrocities it is historically clear that their nation was in a religious distortion. Very dangerous.

  23. I was on a B-29 crew which flew night missions against Japans’ oil refineries. On the night of Aug 14th, we flew a mission to Akita, Japan, to take out a refinery that till then had not been touched. On that same night, a rebel group in the Japanese military took over the Tokyo palace of the emperor and planned to destroy the recording he had made accepting the terms of the Potsdam Agreement. The recording was to be played the next day, Aug 15th, thus ending the war. The attempted coup failed as a blackout resulted from the B-29′s over Japan that night causing a blackout in the Tokyo palace. The rebels could not find the recording in the dark palace. The coup attempt fell apart, the recording was safe and was played on Japan radio on the 15th of Aug. It might be said that the B-29 raids on the night of the 14th of Aug played a big part in the war ending when it did, before an invasion was necessary. Google “The Kyujo Incident” for the full story on the attempted coup.

    The war did not end on Aug 9th with the Nagasaki bomb. We were returning from the real last mission of WWII the morning of Aug 15th. The sailor in times square had probably already kissed the nurse before we landed at our base back on Guam.

  24. An historical perspective is always refreshing and anchoring to our short-sightedness about just how “terrible” current times are in the world. And revisionism is rampant, filled with opinions, not information. Thanks for keeping us straight.

  25. My father was in Manila in August of 1945- part of the invasion force. He felt the bombing saved his life. He was always a Harry Truman man for Truman having the “guts” to make the call.We must remember the mind set at that time–we had been at war for fours years- thats alot of killing,injuring and misery.
    As a teenager in the sixties I questioned this decision. With the passing of time I have become more learned and understanding.
    In the long run the Japanese, Americans and actually the entire world should have great respect for the Japanese and American lives Harry Truman saved.

  26. I was a 17teen year old boy on a merchant ammo ship in the paciific when we heard the news was quite a celebration on that ship that day.

  27. Let me see the rape of Naking the Bataan Death March oh do not forget that secret unit that used pows and innocent civilians as lab rats to test germ warfare weapons on. YEAH POOR INNOCENT JAPANESE!

  28. My Dad served in the Phillippines in an Army field hospital from 1943 (enlisting the week after he graduated from high school) until the Japanese surrendered, then with the occupation forces in Japan until his discharge in December of 1945. I have the Brownie camera snapshots he took in Nagasaki when the Army took busloads of GI’s “sightseeing” — about a month after the bomb was dropped. They were told there was “no danger.” When we asked him about “the War,” he would only say “Thank God Harry dropped the bombs.” My Mom, who was more outspoken, whenever any TV programs tried to imply that “we” had killed and injured so many Japanese with them, would interject rather loudly, “THEY STARTED IT!!” But they both made a habit of thanking any of “our American boys” they met for serving our country. I still do, so THANK YOU to every one of you veterans, from every war and conflict, who signed that bottom line about being willing to give your life, if necessary, to defend our America. Regardless of any Administration we have, the United States remains strong with a “standing army” of over 20 million veterans, and as one 89-year-old told me, “We all know how to shoot.”

  29. We can thank God that we had Harry Truman as our Commander in Chief and not those political hack’s that came later. With JFK we would have had “compromise”, With LBJ a big debate and God help us with Jimmy. Slick Willy would have dumped it on an empty building and got a B-J from the Imperial geisha’s and with O’Blunder we would all be speaking Arabic.

  30. I was in Guion, Samar, in the Philippine Islands. We were readying our ‘ship’ == a small wooden minesweeper — for the invasion of Japan when the war
    ended. Had the invasion occurred, we would have undoubtedly preceded the landings by clearing the path of explosives for oncoming landing craft, troopships and other naval vessels. As a small vessel, we were expendable.
    Thank goodness for those two bombs! And for any who doubt the commitment of the Japanese military to a one and bloody war, I suggest that you read a book called ‘Flyboys’ which deals with the treatment meted out by the Japanese officers to American POWs who had the misfortune of
    being caught alive. I suggest that you do so on an empty stomach. Our
    oriental enemies put the relatively genteel and gentle ISES to shame.

  31. I was in Guion, Samar, in the Philippine Islands. We were readying our ‘ship’ == a small wooden minesweeper — for the invasion of Japan when the war
    ended. Had the invasion occurred, we would have undoubtedly preceded the landings by clearing the path of explosives for oncoming landing craft, troopships and other naval vessels. As a small vessel, we were expendable.
    Thank goodness for those two bombs! And for any who doubt the commitment of the Japanese military to a long and bloody war, I suggest that you read a book called ‘Flyboys’ which deals with the treatment meted out by the Japanese officers to American POWs who had the misfortune of
    being caught alive. I suggest that you do so on an empty stomach. Our
    oriental enemies put the relatively genteel and gentle ISES to shame.

  32. Pingback: Was it Wrong to Drop the Atom Bomb on Japan? | jkmhoffman

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