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HOME > JAPAN > SURRENDER II

How Japan surrendered II

So, given this backdrop [in Surrender part I], lets look at some events:

POTSDAM PROCLAMATION:

The July 26 PP explicitly called for the "unconditional surrender of the Japanese Armed Forces". The cabinet correctly interpreted this as saying that the monarchy would not be eliminated. The foreign office pressed for immediate acceptance. The Army was unmoved. The SWC reached a consensus to do and say nothing. (This was there most common approach to all problems). Unfortunately, PM Suzuki said to reporters that the cabinet would 'mokusatsu' the PP. This harsh language, which was a slip from a well-meaning but senile dove, infuriated Togo because he knew it would get a bad reaction from the US. How bad, he couldn't imagine.

HIROSHIMA

Hiroshima was bombed on Aug 6. Nothing happened in Tokyo on the 6th or 7th. On Aug 8, Hirohito informed PM Suzuki that the war must be ended immediately. Suzuki was instructed to call an immediate SWC meeting for that purpose, "but the meeting had to be postponed because one of the members was unavoidably detained by 'more pressing business' elsewhere." [I, also, find this incredible, so I just quoted what JLD says]

RUSSIA

Russia declared war the afternoon of the 8th.

AUGUST 9

The doves woke up early this Thursday. Furious about the meeting that had been blown off, leading to Russian entry, Togo et al. managed to get an SWC meeting going by 10:30 AM. Immediately, the SWC split into its two familiar factions and started going over the familiar arguments. Halfway through the meeting a message arrived saying that Nagasaki had been bombed at 11:00 that morning. This changed no opinions. The SWC meeting broke up at 1:00 PM with no decision having been made.

That afternoon the arguments were repeated in a full cabinet meeting lasting from 2:30 to 10:00 PM. The Home Minister explicitly predicted that a coup would likely happen if the government ordered surrender. The meeting had no result.

Suzuki then, after consultation with Hirohito, called a SWC meeting for 11:50 PM, to be held in the presence of the emperor, an unprecedented, although perfectly legal, procedure.

AUGUST 10

For two hours the SWC went over the same arguments it had been arguing non-stop since mid-morning the day before. At 2:00 AM Suzuki turned to Hirohito, saying "your decision is requested". Hirohito said he supported Togo. He then left the room.

Suzuki then convened a cabinet meeting to prepare the formal note of surrender. By 4:00 AM the note had been approved by the cabinet and sent to the Foreign Office for translation and transmission. The FO had one last trick. The cabinet had demanded that the US respect "the powers of His Majesty". The FO translated that to English reading "the prerogatives of His Majesty." Since few hawks spoke English, they got away with it.

Anami returned to the Army Ministry where he addressed senior personnel and explained the developments. A young officer demanded, "Is the Army Minister actually considering surrender?" Anami silenced the officer by smashing the table with his swagger stick. However, the young officers could still hope that the Allies would reject the note and a coup would be unnecessary.

The US delivered a massive bombing raid on Tokyo.

AUGUST 11

In Tokyo the leaders waited for the US reply. Anami made a belligerent public proclamation. Young officers began drawing up lists of doves to be killed.

AUGUST 12

The Byrnes reply came at 00:45. The FO diplomatically mistranslated it as well, substituting "controlled by" for Byrnes' "subject to" in the crucial phrase describing the Hirohito's relation with MacArthur.

This was the signal to start the same arguments all over again. There was now the added edge that the coup planning was in full process. Anami hoped to use the threat of the coup to prevent acceptance of the Byrnes note, but he also wanted to make sure there was no actual coup.

AUGUST 14

The Allies dropped leaflets describing the exchange of notes. This terrified the government. They were sure this would lead to a coup. So by 10:00 AM the SWC and cabinet were assembled for an Imperial Conference down in Hirohito's bunker. Hirohito announced his decision to accept the Byrnes note. He asked the cabinet to prepare an appropriate rescript for him to read to the nation.

That afternoon Hirohito recorded the rescript

Anami forced the top Army officers to sign a statement of loyalty. Anami was still consorting with the coup planners but Umezu definitely decided he was against a coup.

That night Anami went to his house and committed sepukku.

The coup began with junior officers seizing the Imperial Guards Division and the Imperial Palace. General Mori, commander of the Guards, was murdered. Meanwhile, a series of assasinations was attempted. PM Suzuki barely got out of his house alive before soldiers came, searched it, and burned it in frustration. He went into hiding at a friend's house.

AUGUST 15

Although the rebels had held the palace all night, the coup ran out of steam in the morning. General Tanaka of the Eastern District Army showed up at the palace. Hirohito and his hosehold were safe. Most of the plotters killed themselves.

At 12 noon, Hirohitos voice read the rescript ending the war on NHK.

Although sporadic mutinies contined for a few days, the situation was stable when the US arrived. General Umezu signed on the Missouri.


  • Buy it at Amazon
  • The book cited in the article is available in English as Japan's Longest Day. It should be in every serious World War II library. Out of print for several years, it is happily available again at Amazon.com.