August 14, 1945: Surrender and a Coup Attempt



Allied bombers had been used on August 13, 1945 dropping leaflets over Japan which described, in Japanese, the surrender offer and the Allied response.  On August 14, 1945 Hirohito met with his military leaders, several of whom spoke in favor of continuing the War.  Hirohito urged them to help him bring the War to an end.  Meeting then with the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War and heard out those who recommended a rejection of the Allied offer unless there was a guarantee that the Emperor would continue to reign.  Hirohito then spoke:

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.

In normal times in Japan that would have been that.  It was quite rare for the Emperor to so overtly intervene in a decision of the government, indeed it was forbidden under the then current Japanese constitution, but when he did, it would have literally been unthinkable for any Japanese not to instantly obey.  However, these were far from normal times.

The rest of the day was taken up with Hirohito preparing an address to his people and having a recording played to be broadcast on August 15, 1945.  Washington was advised that Japan had surrendered via the Japanese embassies in Switzerland and Sweden and the Allied world went wild with joy.

However, the joy might well have been premature.  Major Kenji Hatanaka led a coup attempt by younger officers to capture the Emperor, free him from the influence of “evil advisors” and carry on with the War.  In this the Major was following a long established tradition in modern Japanese politics where assassination was used to show the “sincerity” of those backing a warlike stance for Japan.  It is doubtful that Hatanaka was acting alone, and probably was a cat’s-paw for powerful forces within the Japanese government horrified at the prospect of Japan surrendering for the first time in its history.

The rebels succeeded in taking control of the palace in the early morning hours, and sought support from the Army for their actions.  The involvement of high officers in the coup still remains unclear, but in any case the coup collapsed when the support the rebels perhaps expected was not forthcoming.  Hatanaka shot himself an hour before the Emperor’s broadcast.  His death poem was found on his body:

“I have nothing to regret now that the dark clouds have disappeared from the reign of the Emperor.”




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  1. And all along I thought they settled all this in Tokyo by playing the Japanese version of paper, rock, scissors…..

    Seriously though, I had heard that the Emperor did not speak much because he had a high falsetto voice. Anyone know about this?

  2. Hirohito was an extremely shy man, but it was not the tradition in Japan for the Emperor to play an overt role in Japanese politics, since as a “living god” he was considered to be far above earthly affairs. Behind the scenes was another matter, and Hirohito was a consummate behind the scenes operator.

  3. Hirohito approved (or so I read) the pearl Harbor attack. He was as guilty of that exercise ans any Japanese who actually committed the attack.

  4. yep!! and G. HERBERT WALKER Bush led the american delegation to honor this war criminal. He should have put on his old pilots leather cap and flown the Enola Gay into
    tokyo rather than honoring this criminal.

    E.G. at the end of june 44, after the battle of saipan, Showa issued his first communication
    encouraging Japanese to committ suicide! the famous Banzaii cliffs…. And we as a people honored him ……..? or is it that Bush paid homage to the #1 growing economy in the world at the time.

  5. Please. Hirohito received the diplomatic courtesies due the head of state of a friendly power. MacArthur made the call long ago on that point, and it was a good call. Hirohito’s execution was not worth a Japan constantly in revolt during the American occupation, and everlasting enmity thereafter.

  6. please back – – MacArthurs decision is not the question – diplomatic courtesies do not necessarily extend to ‘friendly’ heads of state – especially the POTUS attending ….Thatcher ? -Franco
    that man was a homicidal criminal mass murderer and should have been dealt with as such. I’m quite sure MAc put him in his place where he belonged more than a few times, as MAC did the russians.
    We should have sent Dan Quayle to show our tTRUE level of appreciation for the Showa …

  7. “Diplomatic courtesies do not necessarily extend to ‘friendly’ heads of state – especially the POTUS attending”

    Usually they do. For example, Ike visited Franco in Spain. I am not sure why you tossed Thatcher into the mix.

  8. ike did not attend his memorial service – nelson rockefeller did- i chose thatcher cause
    the U.S. presidential delegation to her send off was led by former secretaries of state George Schultz and James Baker had kissinger and cheney along. NO OBAMA….

    my memory was telling me it is a high[er] diplomatic honor to have the POTUS physically at one of these type memorial events. that was the thinking…. but that was when we had real men in US politics- Dirksen, Johnson, Reagan …….and the POTUS was a dignified office of some moral suasaion. then there is Will. Jeffereson clinton and Presidue……

  9. “NO OBAMA….”

    That tasteless bit of theater was due to his pose to hate the Brits because of his father and particularly Thatcher who he viewed as not only a Brit but an ideological foe. As usual with Obama’s actions, a wise President will do otherwise.

  10. without saying, my comment was predicated on cultured,at least externally moral humans occupying the top office. That excludes Barry, William Jefferson and perhaps both bush’s……see Herbert Walker.

    But the point stands- to have the POTUS attend personally add’s a level of significance and dignity to the event…..previous comment NOT withstanding. No POTUS should have ever attended the burial of a war criminal,[ recall Reagan and the SS cemetery] especially one as vulgar and base as the SHOWA . Who went to UNCLE JOE”S [ the ex seminarian’s ] internment? … oh, that’s right…he was a head of state but by that time RECOGNIZED as not a friendly. FDR would have gone- IKE did not.

  11. Mr. Coffey,

    Hirohito wasn’t the only WWII villain to escape justice. The US government ran Operation Paper Clip, the plan to get German scientists out of Germany and working for the USA, even if they belonged to the SS, a condition that ordinarily barred entry to the US. Von Braun wasn’t a nice man working for the Nazi dictatorship but the US took him in because he could not be allowed to work for Stalin. As I remember it, von Braun was in the SS. There was the Japanese head of chemical and biological warfare who plea bargained his way to freedom in exchange for what he knew.

    So Hirohito stayed. The man is dead and has faced God’s judgment.

  12. I am failing to communicate [ the Captain to Luke] I never broached that others have escaped justice. what a slippery slope that is for our beloved church.

    the issue i raised a long way back was with the POTUS attending the funeral albeit a state function of a WAR CRIMINAL [with the further clarification that the occupier of the office attempts to maintain the dignity of same via his actions and demeanor] . G.W. [the great ]would only slightly bow , more a nod, toward other state officials, he felt it beneath the dignity of the Office to shake hands with them.

    e.g. there is more to the sedia gestatoria than just a free ride. Dignity of office. And yes , let Showa rest in peace. but not too soon.

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