Potsdam Declaration

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Potsdam Conference session including Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Joseph Stalin (white uniform), William D. Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S. Truman (right) Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R67561, Potsdamer Konferenz, Konferenztisch.jpg
Potsdam Conference session including Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Joseph Stalin (white uniform), William D. Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S. Truman (right)

The Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender was a statement that called for the surrender of all Japanese armed forces during World War II. On July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China Chiang Kai-shek issued the document, which outlined the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. This ultimatum stated that, if Japan did not surrender, it would face "prompt and utter destruction". [1] [2]

Surrender of Japan surrender of the Empire of Japan during the World War II

The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced on August 15 and formally signed on September 2, 1945, bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was incapable of conducting major operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent. Together with the British Empire and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945—the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction". While publicly stating their intent to fight on to the bitter end, Japan's leaders were privately making entreaties to the still-neutral Soviet Union to mediate peace on terms more favorable to the Japanese. Meanwhile, the Soviets were preparing to attack Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea in fulfillment of promises they had secretly made to the United States and the United Kingdom at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences.

The Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan during that Empire's existence from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 through the Second World War until the signing of the Constitution of Japan (1868–1947) included the:

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Contents

Terms of the Declaration

On July 26, the United States, Britain, and China released the Potsdam Declaration announcing the terms for Japan's surrender, with the warning as an ultimatum: "We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay." For Japan, the terms of the declaration specified: [1]

Ultimatum demand backed up by a threat

An ultimatum is a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance. An ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. As such, the time allotted is usually short, and the request is understood not to be open to further negotiation. The threat which backs up the ultimatum can vary depending on the demand in question and on the other circumstances.

Occupation of Japan

The Allied occupation of Japan at the end of World War II was led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, with support from the British Commonwealth. Unlike in the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union was allowed little to no influence over Japan. This foreign presence marks the only time in Japan's history that it has been occupied by a foreign power. The country became a parliamentary democracy that recalled "New Deal" priorities of the 1930s by Roosevelt. The occupation, codenamed Operation Blacklist, was ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which Japan's sovereignty – with the exception, until 1972, of the Ryukyu Islands – was fully restored.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Honshu largest island of Japan

Honshu is the largest and most populous island of Japan, located south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Straits. The island separates the Sea of Japan, which lies to its north and west, from the North Pacific Ocean to its south and east. It is the seventh-largest island in the world, and the second-most populous after the Indonesian island of Java.

On the other hand, the declaration offered that:

Freedom of speech political right to communicate ones opinions and ideas

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term "freedom of expression" is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Freedom of religion freedom practicing of religion

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It also includes the freedom to change one's religion or beliefs.

Freedom of thought freedom of an individual to hold or consider a fact, viewpoint, or thought, independent of others viewpoints

Freedom of thought is the freedom of an individual to hold or consider a fact, viewpoint, or thought, independent of others' viewpoints.

The mention of "unconditional surrender" came at the end of the declaration: [1]

An unconditional surrender is a surrender in which no guarantees are given to the surrendering party. In modern times, unconditional surrenders most often include guarantees provided by international law. Announcing that only unconditional surrender is acceptable puts psychological pressure on a weaker adversary, but may also prolong hostilities. Perhaps the most notable unconditional surrender was by the Axis powers in World War II.

Contrary to what had been intended at its conception, which was to disenfranchise the Japanese leadership so the people would accept a mediated transition; the declaration made no direct mention of the Emperor at all. It did, however, insist that "the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest must be eliminated for all time". [4] Allied intentions on issues of utmost importance to the Japanese, including the extent and number of Allied "occupation points", the fate of Japan's minor islands, and the extent to which the Allies planned to "control" Japan's "raw materials", as well as whether Hirohito was to be regarded as one of those who had "misled the people of Japan" or whether the Emperor might potentially become part of "a peacefully inclined and responsible government", were thus left unstated, essentially a blank check for the Allies. [5]

The "prompt and utter destruction" clause has been interpreted as a veiled warning about American possession of the atomic bomb which had been successfully tested in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, the day before the Potsdam Conference opened. Although the document warned of further destruction like the Operation Meetinghouse raid on Tokyo and other carpetbombing of Japanese cities, it did not mention anything about the atomic bomb.

A major aspect relating to the Potsdam Declaration was that it was intended to be ambiguous. It is not clear from the document itself whether a Japanese government was to remain under Allied occupation or whether the occupation would be run by a foreign military government. In the same manner, it was not clear whether after the end of the occupation Japan was to include any territory other than the four main Japanese islands, i.e., whether the set or sets of islands potentially satisfying the description "such minor islands as [the Allies] determine" included the empty set. This ambiguity was intentional on the part of the U.S. government in order to allow the Allies a free hand in running the affairs of Japan afterwards. [6]

Leaflets and radio broadcasts

The Declaration was released to the press in Potsdam on the evening of July 26 and simultaneously transmitted to the Office of War Information (OWI) in Washington. By 5 p.m. Washington time, OWI's West Coast transmitters, aimed at the Japanese home islands, were broadcasting the text in English, and two hours later began broadcasting it in Japanese. Simultaneously, American bombers dropped over 3 million leaflets describing the declaration over Japan. [7] The Declaration was never transmitted to the Japanese government through diplomatic channels. [8] Although picking up enemy propaganda leaflets and listening to foreign radio broadcasts (in Japan) was illegal, the American propaganda efforts were successful in making the key points of the declaration known to most Japanese.[ citation needed ]

Aftermath

The terms of the declaration were hotly debated within the Japanese government. Upon receiving the declaration, Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō hurriedly met with Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki and Cabinet Secretary Hisatsune Sakomizu. Sakomizu recalled that all felt the declaration must be accepted. Despite being sympathetic to accepting the terms, Tōgō felt it was vague concerning the eventual form of government for Japan, disarmament, and the fate of accused war criminals, and still had hope that the Soviet Union would agree to mediate negotiations with the Western Allies to obtain clarifications and revisions of the declaration's terms. Shortly afterwards, Tōgō met with Emperor Hirohito, and advised him to treat the declaration with the utmost circumspection, but that a reply should be postponed until the Soviet response to the Japanese request to mediate peace. Hirohito stated that the declaration was "acceptable in principle". Meanwhile, the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War met the same day to discuss the declaration. War Minister Korechika Anami, General Yoshijirō Umezu, and Admiral Teijirō Toyoda opposed accepting the declaration, arguing that the terms were "too dishonorable", and advised that the Japanese government openly reject it. Suzuki, Tōgō, and Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai leaned towards accepting it, but agreed that clarification was needed over the status of the Emperor. Tōgō's suggestion that the government not respond until it received the Soviet response was accepted. [9]

At a press conference with the Japanese press in Tokyo, Suzuki stated that the Japanese policy towards the declaration would be one of mokusatsu (黙殺, lit. "killing with silence"), which the United States interpreted as meaning "rejection by ignoring", leading to a decision by the White House to carry out the threat of destruction. [10] Subsequent to the White House decision, the United States Army Air Forces dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and then the second atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki three days later on August 9, 1945. These two bombings devastated the two cities, killing tens of thousands of people and destroying much of the cities' infrastructure as well as military bases and factories in a matter of seconds in a radius that stretched for more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers).

However, the word mokusatsu can also mean "withholding comment". [10] Since World War II, it has been alleged that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attributable to English translations of mokusatsu having misrepresented Suzuki as rejecting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration; [11] [12] however, this claim is not universally accepted. [13]

In a widely broadcast speech after the bombing of Hiroshima, which was picked up by Japanese news agencies, President Truman warned that if Japan failed to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, it could "expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth". [14] As a result, Prime Minister Suzuki felt compelled to meet the Japanese press, to whom he reiterated his government's commitment to ignore the Allies' demands and fight on. [15] The extent of the Allies' demands brought home to the Japanese leaders and people the extent of the success Japan's enemies had achieved in the war. [16] Subsequent to the receipt of the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese Government attempted to maintain the issue of the Emperor's administrative prerogative within the Potsdam Declaration through its surrender offer of August 10, but in the end had to take comfort with Secretary of State James F. Byrnes' reply "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." [17] Thus, at 1200 JST on August 15, 1945, the Emperor announced his acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, which culminated in the surrender documents signature on board the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. The radio announcement to the Japanese people was the first time many of them had actually heard the voice of the Emperor. [18]

On August 9, 1945, Stalin, based on a secret agreement at the Yalta Conference in February, unilaterally abrogated the USSR's Neutrality Treaty with Japan (1941) and declared war on Japan on August 9, 1945, beginning the Soviet–Japanese War. The Soviets invaded Manchuria on three fronts.

The Potsdam Declaration was intended from the start to serve as legal basis for handling Japan after the war. [19] [ clarification needed ] Following the surrender of the Japanese government and the landing of General McArthur in Japan in September 1945, the Potsdam Declaration served as legal basis[ citation needed ] for occupation reforms.

See also

Further reading

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References

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