September 2, 1945: Japan Surrenders

A fascinating newsreel of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  Note that MacArthur hands pens after he signs to General Wainwright and General Percival.  Both men had been prisoners of Japan for most of the War, and their gaunt skeletal presence at the surrender ceremony was a tribute to the Allied POWs who had been treated with a brutality scarcely believable.  The Japanese representatives were impressed that they were not mocked but treated with courtesy, and they thought that perhaps this signaled that the occupation was not going to be as bad as they expected.  MacArthur’s closing remarks deserve to be remembered:



Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won….

As I look back upon the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that he has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.

A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.

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  1. The war officially ended six years and one day after it began with the German invasion of Poland. I subscribe to several Polish interest feeds on Facebook and the accounts of the actions taken by Germany and the USSR were horrifying. So, too, were the actions taken by Japan. Even though Germany and Japan were pounded at the end of the war, they got off better than they deserved. Eastern Europe, China and Korea ended up with Communists in power, a hell unto itself that continues for many to this day.

  2. Japanese diplomat Toshikazu Kase, in his 1945 report to Emperor Hirohito on the ceremony aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) marking the surrender of Japan, and the end of the Second World War, wondered “whether it would have been possible for us, had we been victorious, to embrace the vanquished with similar magnanimity [as the U.S. embraced the Japanese]. Clearly, it would have been different.” He contnues, ” After all, we were not beaten by dint of superior arms. We were defeated in the spiritual contest by virtue of a nobler idea. The real issue was moral–beyond all the powers of algebra to compute.” (Taken from William Manchester’s “American Ceasar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964” pg. 534)

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