World War II Ended With Japan's Surrender to the U.S. & Allies 75 Years Ago On This Date
How do you feel about the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific?
by Causes | 9.2.20
What’s the story?
- World War II came to a formal end on September 2, 1945, when the U.S. and its allies received Japan’s surrender in a ceremony on the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) after nearly four years of conflict.
- The Pacific War began for the U.S. on December 7, 1941, and there were 426,000 American casualties, including 161,000 dead and 248,316 wounded.
- U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, who was ordered to retreat from the Philippines in the war’s early months but ultimately led the liberation of those islands before the war’s conclusion, presided over the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay. After the ceremony concluded, he delivered a radio address and said in part:
“Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death ― the seas bear only commerce men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed. And in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way. I speak for the unnamed brave millions homeward bound to take up the challenge of that future which they did so much to salvage from the brink of disaster.”
How did WWII in the Pacific end?
- It took several years for America and its allies to roll back the territories gained by the Japanese Empire after its attack at Pearl Harbor decimated the U.S. Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941. In the months that followed, Japan defeated U.S. forces at Guam, Wake Island, and in the Philippines; drove the British out of Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, and Burma; occupied the resource rich Dutch East Indies; and threatened vital shipping lanes from Hawaii to Australia.
- A decisive U.S. victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942 marked a significant turning point in the Pacific War, as the sinking of four Japanese aircraft carriers created an opportunity for the U.S. to go on the offensive for the first time. The South Pacific island hopping campaign began at Guadalcanal in August 1942, and victory there led to further operations in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea that would continue through 1944. In the Central Pacific, the capture of Tarawa atoll in November 1943 led to successful campaigns to drive Japan out of the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, and later the Mariana Islands.
- Resistance intensified as U.S. forces got closer to the Japanese home islands, with Japanese soldiers increasingly willing to fight to the death rather than surrender despite being overwhelmed. U.S. victories became increasingly costly in terms of casualties. At Peleliu from September to November 1944 the U.S. suffered 2,336 killed and 8,450 wounded while Japan had 10,695 killed and only 19 captured; at Iwo Jima from February to March 1945 there were 6,821 Americans killed and 19,217 wounded compared to about 18,000 Japanese killed and 216 captured; and at Okinawa 12,520 Americans were killed and as many as 55,000 were wounded, while between 77,000 and 110,000 Japanese were killed.
- The later stages of the Pacific War also saw more fighting in areas with significant civilian populations, and much like with the European Theater and Japan’s invasion of China, many were killed. About 29,000 civilians were killed or encouraged by Japanese forces to commit suicide at Saipan in the summer of 1944; between 100,000 and 240,000 Filipinos were killed during the U.S. campaign to liberate the Philippines, with many massacred in Manila by encircled Japanese forces in early 1945; and between 40,000 and 150,000 civilians were killed or forced to commit suicide on Okinawa from March to July of 1945. The deadliest air raid of World War II was carried out on the night of March 9-10, 1945, when the fire-bombing of Tokyo killed over 100,000 people and injured several times that number.
- The mounting casualties worried war planners about the prospect of invading the Japanese home islands, as casualty estimates forecasted as many as 1.7 million to 4 million American casualties, including 400,000-800,000 Americans killed, and between 5-10 million Japanese casualties if civilians participated in the defense. The U.S. plan to invade Japan, codenamed Operation Downfall, was set to begin in November 1945 with landings on Kyushu followed by an invasion of the Tokyo Plain on the main island of Honshu in early 1946.
- The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb, “Little Boy”, on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, which killed 20,000 Japanese soldiers and between 70,000-126,000 civilians. After the bombing, President Harry Truman warned Japan that more cities would face the same fate if they failed to surrender. Japan’s war cabinet decided to continue the war despite the prospect of more destruction, and on August 9th, a second atomic bomb, “Fat Man”, was dropped on Nagasaki which killed between 39,000-80,000 people.
- Also on August 9th, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded occupied territories in Manchuria and Korea. On August 14th, Emperor Hirohito delivered a radio address to the people of Japan that they would surrender to the allies, and referred to the atomic bombings but not the Soviet intervention. Japan officially announced its intent to surrender on August 15, 1945, when hostilities ceased.
- After the formal surrender ceremony on September 2, 1945, the occupation of Japan began and continued until 1952. The U.S. reached a series of mutual defense treaties with Japan in 1949, 1951, and 1960, which led to the establishment of American bases in Japan and on Okinawa. The U.S.-Japan relationship persists to this day as the longest alliance between two great powers since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: WG Cross - Royal Navy / Public Domain)
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