- Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in August 1945 brought
World War IIto a close. On August 10, 1945, after the invasion of Manchuriaby the Soviet Unionand the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan's leaders at the Imperial conference (" gozenkaigi") decided, in principle, to accept the uncompromising terms the Allies had set down for ending the war in the Potsdam Declaration. It was after several more days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a failed coup attempt that Emperor Hirohitogave a radio address to the nation, the Imperial Rescript on Surrender, announcing the acceptance on August 15. On August 28, the occupation of Japanby Supreme Commander of the Allied Powersbegan. On September 2, the Japanese government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which officially ended World War II. Some isolated commands of Japan's far-flung forces throughout Asia and the Pacific islands refused to surrender for months and years after, with Japanese soldiers fighting on up to the 1970s.
As a result of the successful Allied
submarinecampaign and the mining of Japanese coastal waters through Operation Starvation, Japanese merchant shipping had been largely destroyed. The remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navywere confined to port for lack of fuel, and her air force was decimated with the remainder grounded (fuel was being saved in anticipation of the expected Allied invasion). Supplies from the mainland had been cut off, and Japan's war economy was in shambles, with production of fuel, steel, rubber and other vital supplies at only a fraction of their pre-war levels. [ Robert A. Pape “Why Japan Surrendered,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall 1993), pp. 154–201.]
Japanese leaders had always envisioned a negotiated settlement to the war. Their pre-war planning expected a rapid expansion, consolidation, eventual conflict with the United States and then a settlement in which they were able to retain at least some of the new territory they had conquered. [ US Strategic Bombing Survey, Summary.]
Although Japan's leaders were in agreement that the war was going badly, they disagreed over the best means to negotiate an end to it. There were two camps: the so-called "peace" camp, which favored a diplomatic initiative to persuade
Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, to mediate a settlement between the US, its allies and Japan; and the hard liners, "who favored fighting one last "decisive" battle that would inflict so many casualties on the U.S. that they would be willing to offer more lenient terms".
Both approaches were based on Japan's experience in the
Russo-Japanese Warforty years earlier. That war consisted of a series of costly but largely indecisive battles, followed by the decisive naval engagement in the Tsushima Strait. The peace settlement that followed was mediated by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt.
In July 1944, General
Hideki Tojowas replaced as prime ministerby General Kuniaki Koiso, who declared that the Philippineswould be the site of the decisive battle. [Frank, p. 90.] Despite the defeats at Leyte Gulf and on Leyte, the Emperor continued to believe that General Tomoyuki Yamashitacould defeat Allied General Douglas MacArthur's invasion of Luzon.
None of these hopes were borne out. After the defeats of the Marianas campaign at the Philippine Sea and Saipan, and faced with the prospect of an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, the War Journal of the Imperial Headquarters concluded:
'We can no longer direct the war with any hope of success. The only course left is for Japan's one hundred million people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose the will to fight.' [cite book |title=Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire |authorlink=Richard B. Frank |year=1999 |isbn=0141001461 |publisher=Penguin |location=New York |last=Frank |first=Richard B. p. 89, citing Daikichi Irokawa, "The Age of Hirohito" ]
By the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, the
Japan campaignwas underway as Allied forces closed in on the home islands and an invasion of Japan seemed inevitable if the war continued. By the end of January 1945, some Japanese officials close to the Emperor were seeking surrender terms which would protect his position. These proposals, sent through both British and American channels were assembled by General Douglas MacArthur into a 40-page dossier and given to President Roosevelt on the 2nd of February, two days before the Yalta conference. The dossier was reportedly dismissed by Roosevelt out of hand - the proposals all included the condition that Emperor's position would be assured, albeit possibly as a puppet ruler. At this time, however, the allied policy was to accept only an unconditional offer of surrender, although the eventual August settlement did keep the position of emperor in place. Additionally, these proposals were strongly opposed by powerful members of the Japanese government itself and thus can not be said to represent the true willingness of Japan to surrender at this time. Those opposed included members of the Supreme War Council Anami, Umezu and Toyoda. [Walter Trohan, [http://chicagotribune.com/ "Chicago Daily Tribune"] [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/475703002.html?dids=475703002:475703002&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Aug+19%2C+1945&author=WALTER+TROHAN&pub=Chicago+Daily+Tribune+(1872-1963)&edition=&startpage=1&desc=BARE+PEACE+BID+U.+S.+REBUFFED+7+MONTHS+AGO "August 19 1945, Bare Peace Bid U.S. Rebuffed 7 Months Ag"] ] .
In February 1945, Prince
Fumimaro Konoegave to Emperor Hirohito a memorandum about his analysis of the situation and told him that if the war continued, the Imperial house might be in greater danger from an internal revolution than from defeat. [ Herbert Bix, "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan", 2001, p. 488-489] According to the diary of Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita, the Emperor, looking for a "tennōzan", replied that it was premature to seek peace, "unless we make one more military gain". [ Hisanori Fujita, "Jijûchô no kaisô", Chûo Kôronsha, 1987, p.66-67.]
Divisions within Japan
In April 1945, Admiral
Kantarō Suzukiwas chosen to replace Koiso. The "Fundamental Policy" of Suzuki's government was to fight on and to choose "honorable death of the hundred million" over surrender. However, underlings in the government bureaucracy were pointing out the weakness of Japan's position, particularly the shortages of petroleumand food. Despite the Soviet Union's announcement that it would not renew its 1941–46 neutrality pact with Japan for another five years, Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgōwas authorized to approach the Soviet Union, seeking to maintain its neutrality, or more fantastically, to form an alliance.
: "It should be clearly made known to Russia that she owes her victory over Germany to Japan, since we remained neutral, and that it would be to the advantage of the Soviets to help Japan maintain her international position, since they have the United States as an enemy in the future".
On June 9, the Emperor's confidant, Marquis
Kōichi Kido, wrote a "Draft Plan for Controlling the Crisis Situation", warning that by the end of the year, Japan's ability to wage modern war would be extinguished and the government would be unable to contain civil unrest.
: "...we cannot be sure we will not share the fate of Germany and be reduced to adverse circumstances under which we will not attain even our supreme object of safeguarding the Imperial Household and preserving the national polity". [Frank, p. 97, quoting "The Diary of Marquis Kido, 1933–45", p. 435–436.]
Kido proposed that the Emperor himself take action, offering to end the war on "very generous terms". Kido proposed that Japan give up occupied European colonies, provided they were granted independence, and that the nation disarm and for a time be "content with minimum defense". With the Emperor's authorization, Kido approached several members of the Supreme Council, the "Big Six". Tōgō was very supportive. Suzuki and Admiral
Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy minister, were both cautiously supportive; both wondered what the other thought. General Korechika Anami, the Army minister, was ambivalent, insisting that diplomacy must wait until "after the United States has sustained heavy losses in [Ketsu-Go] ". [Frank, p. 97–99.]
In June, the Emperor lost confidence in the chances of achieving a military victory. The
battle of Okinawawas lost, and he learned of the weakness of the Japanese army in China, of the navy, and of the army defending the Home Islands.
: ... according to
[Prince Higashikuni's] report it was not just the coast defense; the divisions reserved to engage in the decisive battle also did not have sufficient numbers of weapons. I was told that the iron from bomb fragments dropped by the enemy was being used to make shovels. This confirmed my opinion that we were no longer in a position to continue the war. [Frank, p. 100, quoting the Emperor's "Shōwa Tennō Dokuhakuroku", p. 136–37.]
On June 22, the Emperor summoned the Big Six to a meeting. Unusually, he spoke first. "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts made to implement them." [Frank, p. 102.] It was agreed to solicit Soviet aid in ending the war. Other neutral nations, like
Switzerland, Sweden, and the Vatican Citywere known to be willing to play a role in making peace, but they were so small they could not have done more than deliver the Allies' terms of surrender and Japan's acceptance or rejection. The Japanese hoped that the Soviet Union could be persuaded to act as an agent for Japan in negotiations with the Western Allies. There was no agreement on what peace terms Japan "might" accept, or when to approach the Allies. The leaders of the Army were confident of their ability to deal the Americans a crippling blow when they attempted to invade Kyūshūin late 1945.
Attempts to deal with the Soviet Union
On June 30, Tōgō told
Naotake Satō, Japan's ambassador in Moscow, to try to establish "firm and lasting relations of friendship". Satō was to discuss the status of Manchuria and "any matter the Russians would like to bring up". [Frank, p. 221, citing " Magic Diplomatic Summary" No. 1201 . ] Satō finally met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotovon July 11 but without result. On July 12, Tōgō directed Satō to tell the Russians that,
: "His Majesty the Emperor, mindful of the fact that the present war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice upon the peoples of all the belligerent powers, desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated. But so long as England and the United States insist upon
unconditional surrender, the Japanese Empire has no alternative but to fight on with all its strength for the honor and existence of the Motherland." [Frank, p. 222–3, citing [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/31.pdf "MDS" No. 1205, p. 2] (PDF). ]
The Emperor proposed sending Prince Konoe as a Special Envoy, though he would be unable to reach Moscow before the
Satō advised Tōgō that in reality, "unconditional surrender or terms closely equivalent thereto" was all that Japan could expect. Moreover Tōgō's messages were not "clear about the views of the Government and the Military with regard to the termination of the war," questioning whether Tōgō's initiative was supported by the key elements of Japan's power structure. [Frank, p. 226, citing "MDS" No. 1208, p. 10–12. ]
On July 17, Tōgō responded,
: "Although the directing powers, and the government as well, are convinced that our war strength still can deliver considerable blows to the enemy, we are unable to feel absolutely secure peace of mind ...: Please bear particularly in mind, however, that we are not seeking the Russians' mediation for anything like an unconditional surrender." [Frank, p. 227, citing "MDS" No. 1209. ]
In reply, Satō clarifed,
: "It goes without saying that in my earlier message calling for unconditional surrender or closely equivalent terms, I made an exception of the question of preserving [the Imperial House] ." [Frank, p. 229, citing "MDS" No. 1212. ]
On July 21, speaking in the name of the cabinet, Tōgō repeated,
: "With regard to unconditional surrender we are unable to consent to it under any circumstances whatever. ... It is in order to avoid such a state of affairs that we are seeking a peace, ... through the good offices of Russia. ... it would also be disadvantageous and impossible, from the standpoint of foreign and domestic considerations, to make an immediate declaration of specific terms." [Frank, p. 230, citing [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/40.pdf "MDS" No. 1214, p. 2–3] (PDF). ]
Allied cryptographers had broken most of Japan's codes. As a result, messages between
Tokyoand Japan's embassies were provided to Allied policy-makers nearly as quickly as to the intended recipients.
On July 26, the United States, Britain, and China released the
Potsdam Declaration, announcing the terms for Japan's surrender, with the warning, "We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay."
* the elimination "for all time [of] the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest"
* the occupation of "points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies"
* "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of
Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikokuand such minor islands as we determine." As had been announced in the Cairo Declarationin 1943, Japan was to be stripped of her pre-war empire, including Koreaand Taiwan, as well as all her recent conquests.
* "The Japanese military forces shall be completely disarmed"
* "stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners"
But on the other hand,
* "We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, ... The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people.
Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rightsshall be established."
* "Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, ... Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted."
* "The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.
The only mention of "unconditional surrender" came at the end:
* "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."
Whether the Emperor was of one those who had "misled the people of Japan", or even a war criminal — or potentially part of a "peacefully inclined and responsible government" was left unstated.
On July 27, the Japanese government considered how to respond to the Declaration. The four military members of the Big Six wanted to reject it, but Tōgō persuaded the cabinet not to do so until he could get a reaction from the Soviets. In a telegram,
Shunichi Kase, Japan's ambassador to Switzerland, observed that unconditional surrender applied only to the military and not to the government or the people, and he pleaded that it should be understood that the careful language of Potsdam appeared "to have occasioned a great deal of thought" on the part of the signatory governments — "they seem to have taken pains to save face for us on various points."The next day, Japanese newspapers reported that the Declaration, the text of which had been broadcast and dropped on leaflets into Japan, had been rejected. In an attempt to manage public perception, Prime Minister Suzuki met with the press, and stated,
: "I consider the Joint Proclamation a rehash of the Declaration at the Cairo Conference. As for the Government, it does not attach any important value to it at all. The only thing to do is just kill it with silence ("mokusatsu"). We will do nothing but press on to the bitter end to bring about a successful completion of the war".
The meaning of the word
mokusatsu, literally "kill with silence", is not precise; it can range from 'ignore' to 'treat with contempt' — which actually described fairly accurately the range of effective reactions within the government. However, Suzuki's statement, particularly its final sentence, leaves little room for misinterpretation and was taken as a rejection by the press, both in Japan and abroad, and no further statement was made in public or through diplomatic channels to alter this understanding.
On July 30, Ambassador Satō wrote that Stalin was probably talking to the Western Allies about his dealings with Japan.
: "There is no alternative but immediate unconditional surrender if we are to prevent
Russia's participation in the war. ...: Your way of looking at things and the actual condition in the Soviet Unionmay be seen as being completely contradictory." [Frank, p. 236, citing "MDS" No. 1224. ]
On August 2, Tōgō wrote to Satō,
: " ... However, it should not be difficult for you to realize that ... our time to proceed with arrangements of ending the war before the enemy lands on the Japanese mainland is limited, on the other hand it is difficult to decide on concrete peace conditions here at home all at once." [Frank, p. 236, citing [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/47.pdf "MDS" No. 1225, p. 2] (PDF). ]
Hiroshima, Manchuria, and Nagasaki
On the morning of August 6, confused reports reached Tokyo that the city of Hiroshima in southwest Honshū had been the target of an air raid, which had leveled the city with a "blinding flash and violent blast". Later, U.S. President
Harry S. Truman's broadcast was received, announcing the first use of an atomic bomb, and promising
: "We are now prepared to obliterate rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have ... It was to spare the Japanese from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth." [Frank, p. 269. ]
At first, some refused to believe the Americans could have managed to build an atomic bomb. The Japanese knew enough about the potential process to know how very difficult it was (and the fact that both their Army and Navy had independent atomic-bomb programs had further complicated their own efforts). Admiral
Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, argued that even if the Americans had made one, they could not have many more. More detailed reports of the unprecedented scale of the destruction at Hiroshima were received, but two days passed before the government met to consider the changed situation.
At 04:00 on August 9, word reached Tokyo that the Soviet Union had broken the
neutrality pact, declared war on Japan and launched an invasion of Manchuria. Although these "twin shocks"—the atomic bombing and the Soviet entry—had immediate profound effects on Prime Minister Suzuki and Foreign Minister Tōgō Shigenori, who concurred that the government must end the war at once [Sadao Asada. The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan's Decision to Surrender: A Reconsideration. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 67, No. 4 (Nov., 1998), pp. 477-512] , the senior leadership of the Japanese Army took the news in stride, grossly underestimating the scale of the attack. They did start preparations to impose martial lawon the nation, with the support of Minister of War Anami, in order to stop anyone attempting to make peace. [Frank, p. 288–9. ] Hirohitotold Kido to "quickly control the situation" because "the Soviet Union has declared war and today began hostilities against us." [Kido Kōichi Nikki, Daigaiku Shuppankai, 1966, p.1223.]
The Supreme Council met at 10:30. Suzuki, who had just come from a meeting with the Emperor, said it was impossible to continue the war. Tōgō Shigenori said that they could accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, but they needed a guarantee of the Emperor's position. Navy Minister Yonai said that they had to propose "something" — they could no longer afford to wait for better circumstances. In the middle of the meeting, news arrived that Nagasaki, on the west coast of Kyūshū, had been hit by a second atomic bomb. By the time the meeting ended, the Big Six had split 3–3. Suzuki, Tōgō, and Admiral Yonai favored Tōgō's one additional condition to Potsdam, while Generals Anami, Umezu, and Admiral Toyoda insisted on three further terms that modified Potsdam: that Japan handle her own disarmament, that Japan deal with any Japanese war criminals, and that there be no occupation of Japan. [Frank, p. 290–91. ]
That afternoon, the full cabinet met, and likewise split, with neither Tōgō's position nor Anami's attracting a majority. Suzuki and Tōgō met with the Emperor, and Suzuki proposed an impromptu Imperial conference, which started just before midnight. Suzuki presented Anami's four-condition proposal as the consensus position of the Supreme Council. The other members of the Supreme Council spoke, as did Baron
Hiranuma Kiichirō, the president of the Privy Council, who outlined Japan's inability to defend itself and its domestic problems, such as the shortage of food. Suzuki then addressed Emperor Hirohito, asking him to decide between the two positions. Although not recorded, from recollections of the participants, the Emperor's statement was:
: "I have given serious thought to the situation prevailing at home and abroad and have concluded that continuing the war can only mean destruction for the nation and prolongation of bloodshed and cruelty in the world. I cannot bear to see my innocent people suffer any longer. ..."
: "I was told by those advocating a continuation of hostilities that by June new divisions would be in place in fortified positions [east of Tokyo] ready for the invader when he sought to land. It is now August and the fortifications still have not been completed. ..."
: "There are those who say the key to national survival lies in a decisive battle in the homeland. The experiences of the past, however, show that there has always been a discrepancy between plans and performance. ..." [He then made some specific reference to the atomic bomb]
: "It goes without saying that it is unbearable for me to see the brave and loyal fighting men of Japan disarmed. It is equally unbearable that others who have rendered me devoted service should now be punished as instigators of the war. Nevertheless, the time has come to bear the unbearable. ..."
: "I swallow my tears and give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied proclamation on the basis outlined by the Foreign Minister."'
According to General Sumihisa Ikeda and Admiral Zenshirō Hoshina, Privy Council President
Hiranuma Kiichirōthen turned to the Emperor and asked him: "Your majesty, you also bear responsibility ("sekinin") for this defeat. What apology are you going to make to the heroic spirits of the imperial founder of your house and your other imperial ancestors?" [Bix, "Hirohito and the making of modern Japan", 2000, p. 517, citing Yoshida, "Nihonjin no sensôkan", p. 42, 43.]
Once the Emperor had left, Suzuki pushed the cabinet to accept the Emperor's will, which it did.
The Foreign Ministry sent telegrams to the Allies, announcing that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration but would not comprise any demand which would prejudice the prerogatives of the Emperor. That effectively meant that the Tennō would remain a position of real power within the government — power that was normally wielded in his name by the people at the tops of the military and governmental hierarchies.
The response from the Allies was received on August 12. On the status of the Emperor it said,
: "From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms. ..."
: "The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people."
At the following cabinet meeting, Suzuki argued that they must reject this and insist on an explicit guarantee for the Imperial system. Anami returned to his position that there be no occupation of Japan. Afterwards, Tōgō told Suzuki that there was no hope of getting better terms, and Kido conveyed the Emperor's will that Japan surrender. In a meeting with the Emperor, Yonai spoke of his concerns about growing civil unrest,
: "I think the term is inappropriate, but the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war are, in a sense, divine gifts. This way we don't have to say that we have quit the war because of domestic circumstances."
On August 10, the cabinet drafted an "
Imperial Rescript ending the War" following the emperor's indications that the declaration did not compromise any demand which prejudiced the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.
On August 12,
Hirohitoinformed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, then asked whether the war would be continued if the " kokutai" (national polity) could not be preserved. The emperor simply replied "of course." [Terasaki Hidenari, "Shōwa tennō dokuhakuroku", 1991, p.129, Herbert Bix, "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan", Perennial, 2001, p.519.]
On August 13, the Big Six and the cabinet were still deadlocked. The next day, with leaflets dropped from
B-29s describing the Japanese offer of surrender and the Allied response, Suzuki, Kido, and the Emperor realized the day would end with either an acceptance of the American terms or a military coup. The Emperor met with the most senior Army and Navy officers. While several spoke in favor of fighting on, Field Marshall Shunroku Hatadid not. As commander of the Second General Army, the headquarters of which had been in Hiroshima, Hata commanded all the troops defending southern Japan — the troops preparing to fight the "decisive battle". Hata said he had no confidence in defeating the invasion and did not dispute the Emperor's decision. The Emperor requested that his military leaders cooperate with him in ending the war.
At conference with cabinet and other councillors, Anami, Toyoda, and Umezu again made their case for continuing to fight, after which the Emperor said,
: "I have listened carefully to each of the arguments presented in opposition to the view that Japan should accept the Allied reply as it stands and without further clarification or modification, but my own thoughts have not undergone any change. ..."
: "In order that the people may know my decision, I request you to prepare at once an imperial rescript so that I may broadcast to the nation. Finally, I call upon each and every one of you to exert himself to the utmost so that we may meet the trying days which lie ahead."
The cabinet immediately convened and unanimously ratified the Emperor's wishes. On 14 August 1945, the Suzuki cabinet decided to destroy vast amounts of material pertaining to matters related to war crimes and the war responsibility of the nation's highest leaders. ["Burning of Confidential Documents by Japanese Government", case no.43, serial 2, International Prosecution Section vol. 8; Herbert Bix, "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan", 2001, p.528]
During the night of August 14 and August 15, the final and largest bombing raid of the
Pacific Warwas launched. Eight hundred bombers and two hundred fighters of the United States Army Air Corpsdropped over 6,000 tons of explosives and incendiary weapons on eight Japanese cities. Even though this was less than half the explosive power of one of the atomic bombs, it did significant damage to the target cities.
Attempted military coup d'état
Late on the night of August 12, 1945, Major
Kenji Hatanaka, along with Lieutenant Colonels Masataka Ida, Masahiko Takeshita, and Inaba Masao, and Colonel Okitsugu Arao, the Chief of the Military Affairs Section, spoke to War Minister Anami Korechika, hoping for his support, and asking him to do whatever he could to prevent acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. General Anami refused to say whether he would help the young officers in treason. As much as they needed his support, Hatanaka and the other rebels decided they had no choice but to continue planning and to pull off the "coup" on their own.
Hatanaka spent much of August 13 and the morning of August 14 gathering allies, seeking support from the higher-ups in the Ministry, and perfecting his plot.
Around 21:30 on August 14, Hatanaka's rebels set their plan into motion. The Second Regiment of the First Imperial Guards had entered the palace grounds, doubling the strength of the battalion already stationed there, presumably to provide extra protection against Hatanaka's rebellion. However, Hatanaka, along with Lt. Col.
Jirō Shiizaki, convinced the commander of the 2nd Regiment of the First Imperial Guards, Colonel Haga Toyojirō, of their cause, and (untruthfully) that the War Minister, Army Chief of Staff, and the commanders of the Eastern District Armyand Imperial Guards Divisions were all in on the plan.
Originally, Hatanaka hoped that by simply occupying the palace, by simply showing the beginnings of a rebellion, the rest of the Army would be inspired and would rise up against the move to surrender. This philosophy guided him through much of the last days and hours and gave him the blind optimism to move ahead with the plan, despite having little support from his superiors. Having set all the pieces into position, Hatanaka and his co-conspirators decided that the Guard would take over the palace at 02:00. The hours until then were spent in continued attempts to convince their superiors in the Army to join the 'coup'. At about the same time, General Anami committed
seppuku, leaving a message that, "I — with my death — humbly apologize to the Emperor for the great crime." Whether the crime involved losing the war, or the coup, remains unclear.
At some time after 01:00, Hatanaka killed Lt. General
Takeshi Mori, Commander of the 1st Imperial Guards Division, when Mori refused to side with him. Hatanaka feared that Mori would order the Guards to stop the rebellion. Lt. Col. Shiizaki and Captain Shigetarō Ueharaof the Air Force Academy were also present in the room, and Uehara is presumed to have killed Lt. Col. Michinori Shiraishi, Staff Officer of the 2nd General Army. These were the only two murders of the night. Hatanaka then used General Mori's official stamp to authorize , a false set of orders created by his co-conspirators, which would greatly increase the strength of the forces occupying the Imperial Palace and Imperial House Ministry, and "protecting" the Emperor.The Palace police were disarmed and all the entrances blocked; but as of yet, no one in the Imperial House Ministry was aware of what was transpiring. Over the course of the night, Hatanaka's rebels captured and detained eighteen people, including Ministry staff, and NHKworkers sent to record the surrender speech.
The rebels, led by Hatanaka, spent the next several hours searching for the Imperial House Minister, the Lord of the Privy Seal, and the recordings of the surrender speech. They never found the recordings, which were hidden among pieces of bedding in an emergency cupboard. The search was made more difficult by a blackout, caused by Allied bombings, and by the archaic organization and layout of the Imperial House Ministry. Many of the rooms' names were unrecognizable to the rebels. During their search, the rebels cut nearly all of the telephone wires, severing communications between their prisoners on the Palace Grounds and the outside world.
Around 03:00, Hatanaka was informed by Lt Col Ida that the
Eastern District Armywas on its way to the Palace to stop him, and that he should simply give up. Finally, seeing his plan crumbling to pieces around him, Hatanaka tried to plead with the Chief of Staff of the Eastern District Armyto be given at least ten minutes on the air (on NHKradio), to explain to the people of Japan what he was trying to accomplish and why. He was refused. Colonel Haga, commander of the 2nd Regiment of the First Imperial Guards, discovered that the Army was not, in fact, in support of this rebellion, and he ordered Hatanaka to leave the Palace Grounds.
Just before 05:00, as his rebellion continued its search, Major Hatanaka went to NHK studios, and, brandishing a pistol, tried desperately to get some airtime to explain his actions. A little over an hour later, after receiving a phone call from the
Eastern District Army, Hatanaka finally gave up. He gathered his officers and walked out of the NHK studio.
By 08:00, the rebellion was entirely dismantled, having succeeded in holding the Palace Grounds for much of the night but ultimately failing to find the recordings. Hatanaka, on a motorcycle, and Lt. Col. Shiizaki on horseback, rode through the streets, tossing leaflets that explained their motives and their actions.
Within an hour before the Emperor's broadcast, sometime around 11:00, August 15, Major Hatanaka placed his pistol to his forehead, and pulled the trigger. In his pocket was found his
death poem:"I have nothing to regret now that the dark clouds have disappeared from the reign of the Emperor."
At 12:00 on August 15, the Emperor's recorded speech to the nation, the
Gyokuon-hōsō(Imperial Rescript on Surrender), was broadcast:
: "... Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people — the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.: Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.: Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.: ...: The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable."
Japan's forces were still at war against the Soviets and Chinese, so managing their cease-fire and surrender was difficult.The Soviet Union continued to fight until early September, taking the
On August 28, the occupation of Japan began by
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powersled by Douglas MacArthur. The formal surrender occurred on September 2, when representatives from the Empire of Japansigned Japanese Instrument of Surrenderin Tokyo Bayaboard the USS Missouri. Japanese forces in South East Asiafollowed suit on September 12, 1945 in Singapore. Still, August 15 is considered both in Japan and the rest of the world to mark the end of World War II.
Aftermath & continued Japanese military resistance
Following the signing of the instrument of surrender many further surrender ceremonies took place across Japan's remaining holdings in the Pacific. With many Japanese troops still fighting the Allied troops, often in remote areas, it took until early 1946 for all major units to actually lay down their arms.Some individuals, especially on small Pacific Islands, refused to surrender at all (believing the declaration to be propaganda or considering the act too much against their code). Some may never have heard of it.
Teruo Nakamura, the last known survivor, emerged from his hidden retreat in Indonesia in December 1974, while two other Japanese soldiers, who had joined communist guerillas at the end of the war, fought in southern Thailanduntil 1991. ['World War II', Wilmott, Cross & Messenger, Dorling Kindersley, 2004.]
Victory over Japan Day
Japanese Surrendered Personnel
Robert J. C. Butow, "Japan's Decision to Surrender", 1954, Stanford University Press.
Richard B. Frank, "Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire", 1999.
James Kerst, "Fall of the Japanese", 1997.
Stanley Weintraub, "The Last Great Victory: the End of World War II", 1995.
* Daniel Ford, [http://www.warbirdforum.com/lastraid.htm "The Last Raid"] . "Air&Space Smithsonian", September 1995: 74-81
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2384327550463473694&q=39079 United Newsreel of surrender from Google Video]
* [http://www.worldwar-two.net/acontecimentos/40/ The last mission over Japan]
* [http://www.geocities.jp/torikai007/war/seidan.html Hirohito's Determination of surrender 終戦 "Syusen"] (Japanese)
* [http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/churchillstalin_70-1.pdf Top secret record of private talk] between British Prime Minister
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