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1945: Japan signs unconditional surrender
Japanese officials have signed the act of unconditional surrender, finally bringing to an end six years of world war.

In the presence of 50 Allied generals and other officials, the Japanese envoys boarded the American battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the surrender document.

Within half-an-hour of the signing, a convoy of 42 US ships entered Tokyo Bay and landed 13,000 American troops.

The Supreme Commander of the Allied powers, US General Douglas MacArthur, briefly addressed the dignitaries on the deck of the battleship urging them to comply with the terms of the surrender "fully, promptly and faithfully".

I am safe and in good health. I am a prisoner of war in Japan and am being well treated
He continued: "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; a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfilment of his most cherished wish, for freedom, tolerance and justice."

He also referred to the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saying they had "revised the traditional concept of war". The world had had its last chance, he said, and if it did not devise some greater and more equitable system Armageddon would be at its door.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, Japan has agreed to end all hostilities, release all prisoners of war, and comply with the terms of the Potsdam declaration, which confines its sovereignty to the four main islands which make up Japan.

It has also agreed to acknowledge the authority of the US supreme commander. Although Emperor Hirohito will be allowed to remain as a symbolic head of state.

From today the occupying force will be rapidly increased to about 500,000. British landing forces are expected to be relieved by US Army troops within a few days. Some will return home to Britain, others may be deployed for the reoccupation of surrendered ports.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Prince Higashi Kuni, broadcast an appeal to his people to obey the terms of the surrender.

He said the Japanese had to face defeat squarely and "suffer even the insufferable" in seeking to comply with the Emperor's surrender proclamation.

Marshal Joseph Stalin has welcomed the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Under the terms of the agreement the disputed southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands will pass into Soviet hands. The islands have been occupied by Japan since the Russo-Japanese war of 1904.

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General MacArthur signing document at table with soldiers watching
General MacArthur signs for the Allies on board battleship Missouri

General MacArthur: "The holy mission has been completed"



In Context
The Allies celebrated victory over Japan on 15 August 1945, and that date as well as 2 September are both known as VJ Day.

Japan enjoyed a series of early victories from its entry in the war at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, followed by the conquest of Hong Kong, Burma, the Philippines, Malaya and Borneo.

But the war effort drained the country's economy and hardship prevailed. By 1943 defeats at Midway and Guadalcanal the previous year had contributed to Japan's decline.

Japan suffered further defeats in 1944, then in March 1945 Tokyo came under sustained assault from US bombers. Tens of thousands died and much of the city was razed to the ground.

The Japanese had asked the Soviets to represent them at Potsdam - but under a new deal with the Allies, the Russians were about to break the Russo-Japanese non-aggression pact and did not put their case forward.

On 6 August 1945, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and three days later a second on Nagasaki. With that and the Soviet declaration of war on 8 August, the Japanese were forced into a surrender that was virtually unconditional.

Emperor Hirohito offered to take the blame for war atrocities committed by the Japanese at a meeting with General MacArthur later in September 1945 but his offer was rejected. He was never tried for war crimes, instead the Americans used him to help push through some democratic reforms that transformed Japanese politics.

Japan regained its independence in 1952 - although the US retained the island of Okinawa until 1972 and still has big military bases there.


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