The Imperial Japanese Surrender in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945…Plus 75 Years

On September 2, 1945, the surrender ceremony for Imperial Japan occurred in Tokyo  Bay with General Douglas MacArthur officiating.

There are several films of this event. There was the official one MacArthur’s Signal Corps camera crew recorded.  There is a film from war correspondent William Courtenay and a finally a film taken by Commander George F. Kosco of the US Navy.

I have included in this post several versions of each of these films in black and white and color below.

The end of this ceremony marked the close of the most destructive war in human history whose 75th anniversary passed today.





23 thoughts on “The Imperial Japanese Surrender in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945…Plus 75 Years”

  1. Not to be contrary, or to belittle the accomplishment and sacrifice, but I hope not. Nothing since comes closer than Apollo 11, but the end of WWII is a different order of magnitude. I still think we could beat it.

  2. High water mark? We were barely getting started taking over as The Empire from Great Britain which was still nominally in control of about a fifth of the world at that point. We spent the next 45 years in a global battle with the USSR, and won it without a major shooting war. Just because that peace treaty was signed by a bunch of thirty-something Germans with sledgehammers instead of generals and diplomats with ink pens doesn’t make it any less significant.

    Unfortunately half of us have spent the intervening years trying to capitulate to the Communists instead of celebrating, so I can understand your sentiment.

  3. I don’t expect that historians in future centuries will say that the American power was higher in 1989 than 1945, or that victory in the Cold War is somehow comparable to that in WWII.
    I guess it kind of depends on how you predict the 21st century to go. Given the state of domestic politics, and more importantly of domestic and global demographics, I think it’s quite likely that it’s not going to go well.

  4. WW2 was the Iliad for the modern West. Their greatest and most legendary victory. Followed by: well consider what happened to the Myceneans.

  5. I was reading in a history magazine from National Geographic about a “what if” – if they hadn’t surrendered after Nagasaki – and a third city was planned. Contrary to popular belief, there were other bombs in the pipeline and the scientists were perfecting a way to make them easier.

    They didn’t know if Japan would surrender after Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the firebombs of 60+ cities caused far more damage and deaths – and they expected Operation Downfall to proceed with the help of the Bombs…

  6. I read someplace, possibly here, that we had already used aerial photography combined with SHORAN to locate all their headquarters and command posts to within inches. The plan was to use SHORAN guided very high altitude atomic bombing to decapitate the Japanese Army above the company level. Just as quickly as the bombs could be produced. The Japanese wouldn’t have been able to do anything to stop it, the planes would have been out of reach and above the weather. The outcome was never in doubt, only the number of the dead.

  7. When you read about the projected causality statics for Operation Downfall – allied and Japanese – I shuddered. No doubt the Bob saved lives on both sides.

    Okinawa was a learning experience for us – and what we could expect. Kadena air base was to be the jumping off point for the Downfall invasion.

    Ketsu-Go was the Japanese plan, implemented, involving civilians to fight the allied invasion.

    The goal was to make the invasion so costly that the war weary American public would demand to end it.

  8. Bill,

    In addition to the invasion plans for Kyushu (Olympic) and the Kanto Plain opposite of Tokyo on the main island of Honshu (Coronet).

    There were plans for invading the following

    o Northern Kyushu by sea as an alternative to Coronet
    o After Coronet, an invasion of Northern Honshu
    o After Coronet, an invasion of the northern home island Hokkaido
    o After Coronet, and invasion of the middle home island of Shikoku
    o After the conquest of Japan, the American landing and elimination of Japanese forces in China.

    Taken together, I calculated a million American military casualties through 1947…all _AFTER_ Operation Olympic.

  9. Bill,

    See this clip from my post here:

    History Weekend: Revisiting “Atomic Diplomacy,” the “Million Casualty Lie,” and Casualty Planning for the Invasion of Japan
    Posted by Trent Telenko on October 13th, 2017

    “OPD Planning in the Background of Olympic

    In the background to all this Operation Olympic manipulative drama in April-June 1945 was OPD planning titled “CORONET” and “POST CORONET OPERATIONS”. Coronet was a 25 Division Assault on the Tokyo Plain in March 1946.

    “POST CORONET OPERATIONS” envisioned three to four nine division assaults on Hokkaido, Northern and Southern Honshu, plus Shikoku for the rest of 1946 plus a 25 division assault in China in late 1946-early 1947. These “POST CORONET OPERATIONS” were summarized in a report titled “Operations against the Japanese,” Strategic Logistics Branch, Planning Division, 5 July 1945, Office Of The Commanding General”.

    To support all of this planning, the Strategic Logistics Branch of the OPD initiated several procurement projects to support Japanese invasion operations in February 1945. According to HISTORY OF PLANNING DIVISION these were the following:

    o ASF-P-SL-1 Honshu Operation
    o ASF-P-SL-2 Kyushu Operation
    o ASF-P-SL-5 “Logistic Study for Projected Operations”, (Philippine Base Development to support ASF-P-SL-1 and ASF-P-SL-2)

    En total, these logistical plans envisions 62 divisions worth of amphibious assaults.

    Some simple math that General Marshall would have used, given that similar ratios were in OPD use since July 1944:

    1. Assuming four each nine Division sized assaults on Hokkaido, Northern and Southern Honshu, plus Shikoku. That is 27 divisions at 35% casualties…plus 25-35 more Divisions in China operations,
    2. 35% casualties of a 40K division slice that ASF-P-SL-1 called for is 14,000 casualties.
    3. 14,000 times 62 = 868,000 casualties.”

  10. Whenever I think about the invasion of Japan, I keep coming back to simply: Why? They were bottled up and starving. The Japanese had lost all ability to affect anything beyond sight of their coast with no possibility of avoiding decent to some sort of preindustrial existence. What purpose was to be served by sacrificing a million Americans and allies to end it right now?

    That may be the great unexamined question of the war. If we had come to understand that, it may have saved us many of the debacles since.

  11. That’s why we didn’t invade. The problems of shifting the army from Europe were monumental. The alternative, if the Bomb didn’t work, was to starve them.

  12. >>Whenever I think about the invasion of Japan, I keep coming back to simply: Why?

    Too get an organized surrender of the Japanese military as soon as possible.

    There were 400,000 civilians dying a month in July 1945.

    Some 2/3 of those civilians were Chinese with most of the balance in Indochina and the Dutch East Indies.

    Waiting 10 months for several million Japanese to starve would have also killed 4 million allied civilians

  13. Let’s also not forget that, after the Hiroshima bombing, the USSR finally fulfilled its promise as one of the “Allies” to declare war on Axis Japan, attacking the Japanese army in mainland China (Manchuko) and invading the northern islands of Japan — islands which Russia still holds to this day.

    The idea of starving the Japanese into submission may have seemed less feasible with the Red Army already on Japanese soil. While FDR’s objective in WWII seems to have been to make the world safe for Communism, he was gone by that late stage of the war. This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems possible there was already a recognition late in the war about Soviet aspirations for Communist world domination. By then, the Soviets had already seized all of Eastern Europe, including Poland whose independence had been the justification the English/French used for starting WWII. Somewhere in the US establishment, there may have been those who were reluctant to stand aside and let the Soviets seize Japan too?

  14. those are the additional costs, that they don’t count, the war would have continued at home, among the allied powers as well, with all that would have entailed, would there be a peoples republic of japan, in the northern islands, had it continued, what would have been the consequences for chiang and the vietnamese regime as well,

  15. It doesn’t seem that a Russian invasion would have been much easier than the Allied invasion would have been. I don’t think they had the resources to do much more than they did in Sakhalin and the Kuriles and invade Manchuria too.

    Bypassing Japan and directly supporting China with some of the power freed up might have changed how that turned out significantly, the same for Indochina. I wouldn’t want to bet that we would have traded China for Japan at the time if we had known that was what we were doing.

    Going after the remnants, cut off, on hostile soil would seem a lot easier than invading the fanatically defended homeland. Any engagement in China could have added quagmire to the national vocabulary a generation sooner too.

    If there was discussion of anything short of an invasion at the first opportunity, I haven’t heard of it. It’s as if both sides had progressed beyond rational thought and were operating on pure hate.

  16. The surrender in Aug-Sept 1945 was a highly irrational Intra-Nippon factional decision making process culminating in an event.

    I’m going to refer you back to the “Nutball Regime Hypothesis” I’ve surfaced several times in my columns.

    Namely, “Irrational regimes become more so under pressure as the internal power games of ‘I’m more nutball than thou’ take over.”

    “Nutball behavior” in the Intra-Nippon factional case refers to extreme self-defeating militancy that dehumanized them in the eyes of the American leadership and people.

    This militant behavior was driven by the need to show ideological purity and resolve — “virtue signaling” in modern terms — as it became the primary means of achieving power inside the ruling Military faction in-group.

    This power-reward process became more important than objective reality. As outside reality is merely a symbol to be used in the internal power game.

    The ruling Imperial Japanese military faction was a classic example of this irrational regime hypothesis.

    Ketsu-Go was the ultimate expression of irrational Imperial Japanese militancy in pursuit of an unachievable national policy goal, maintaining the Japanese imperial system via a post-war armistice rather than unconditional surrender.

    U.C. – Santa Barbara historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has described this factional decision in enormous detail, in multiple articles and books, trying to establish what the positions of each faction were at each point in the decision process.

    Survival of the Imperial House was the only concern to those that made the surrender decision, and they had to consider the military die-hards in that as that faction had a very different agenda.

    Hirohito et al wanted to surrender on terms which let them stay in office, subject to an American shogunate which they expected would be temporary, and got those terms from the Truman Administration.

    The Emperor and his supporters wanted to avoid an invasion because it meant a coup by the Japanese Army, and such complete destruction and starvation that the surviving Japanese civilians would kick the Imperial Family out after the defeat…plus face a likely Communist
    takeover following termination of the U.S. occupation.

    So it was a question of the Emperor and the peace faction getting the military die-hards to stand down. That was what the A-Bomb meant – the Imperial Japanese Army wouldn’t get a glorious last stand as they’d just all be nuked from a distance.

    The Soviet attack was icing on the cake. It gave the Imperial Family another argument to use on their military fanatics – that the Communists would conquer the place because the Imperial Japanese Military couldn’t defend Yamato. This was an emotional, not rational, argument.

    The A-Bombs, plural, were decisive.

    The chemical tests of Japanese physicists would have detected the difference between the HEU Hiroshima and Nagasaki Plutonium bombs telling the Japanese Military that America had two different production methods for making nuclear bombs.

    This pair of March 2016 e-mails from Ryan Criere make clear why that fact was decisive —

    “”The so called “two bomb myth” that Groves and others pushed (in the words of one author) was actually a very correct assessment.

    I don’t think anyone has pointed out that the Japanese had some very smart people in their universities who could do some crude order of magnitude calculations on the amount of critical mass fissile needed to cause that much damage to Hiroshima.

    Heisenberg when he first heard of Hiroshima did a calculation that said the critical mass necessary was about 13 metric tons, then a later calculation that was only 80 kg.

    The Japanese would have had the same people capable of doing a rough cut in their universities and then estimating the magnitude of industrial effort to get said fissile, based upon what had been known pre war for early uranium experiments.

    Plus through their SIGINT, they’d know the order of battle (roughly) for the 509th along with the rest of the 20th AAF.

    So I’d imagine it’d go like this:

    “Prime minister, the economic analysis of the new weapon indicates that it takes only about 1800 personnel and 20 heavy aircraft to operationally deliver it and it achieves damage equal to a very successful fire raid with a very high probability of success that would otherwise require a full application of the 20th AAF and x men and X planes.

    Our strategic plan to outlast the Americans through Yamato spirit until they grow tired of the economic costs of supporting operations against the homeland just got destroyed, sir.””

    None of the above ever made it to the permanent historical record. The Japanese Imperial House made sure of it, per Ryan’s second e-mail –

    “”FIVE DAYS does mention what got burned, at least on the strategic level:

    “As soon as the emperor announced surrender, but before U.S. troops arrived to begin the occupation of Japan, the transcripts of all imperial conferences, all records of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, all deliberations of the cabinet and the Privy Council, as well as all files on prisoners of war and about the Southeast Asian, Manchurian, and Chinese campaigns, were burned in anticipation of future war crimes trials.”

    -Gordin, Michael D. (2015-08-18). Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (p. 143). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.””

  17. I’m not familiar with this “two bomb myth” you mention. From your context you support the idea that having different bombs helped drive home our mastery of the technology that I find persuasive. I wish you’d explain what you mean.

    I did a search using that and found a number of references to an article by John V. Denson called “The Hiroshima Myth”. A supposed debunking of the “myth” that the atomic bombings caused the Japanese to surrender. Is this what you mean?

  18. MCS
    I did a search using that and found a number of references to an article by John V. Denson called “The Hiroshima Myth”. A supposed debunking of the “myth” that the atomic bombings caused the Japanese to surrender. Is this what you mean?

    Denson’s article cites Gar Alperovitz. Chicagoboyz has written about Alperovitz’s take on the Bomb. Use the search module at the top of the page.

  19. MCS,

    The “Two-bomb Myth” is that a Leftist trope from Atomic Diplomacy that the Nagasaki A-bomb was all about intimidating the Soviet Union and Stalin specifically and not getting the Japanese to surrender, as the Japanese were about to surrender without the 2nd A-bomb.

    Or any atomic bomb for that matter. The faith beliefs for the Left here are not consistent.

    The “Two-bomb Myth” is a subset of a series of tropes I wrote about here in tracking the rise and fall of Atomic Diplomacy:

    Happy VJ-Day, Plus 72 Years
    Posted by Trent Telenko on September 2nd, 2017

    The Atomic Diplomacy tropes included

    o No warning was given to the Japanese
    o Hiroshima/Nagasaki had no military value
    o Japanese resistance was crumbling
    o Japan was trying to surrender, and finally
    o The A-bomb’s use didn’t save either Japanese lives and specifically that the one million American casualties/deaths was a made up, post-war, by the Truman Administration.

    Robert P. Newman’s book “Enola Gay and the Court of History” is the “E-Z GUIDE TO RESPOND TO COMMON ARGUMENTS RAISED SINCE 1945″ for the absolute need to use both A-Bombs.

  20. I saw where they were headed easy enough. There have been so many of these theories over the years that putting it together with the likelihood that the Japanese knew that the two bombs actually dropped were different confused me. I remember reading your earlier post at the time and didn’t make the connection.

    My hypothetical was posited in the absence of the A-Bomb or a continued refusal of the Japanese to surrender rather than instead. I’m surely not going to climb aboard the revisionist wagon at this late date.

    Just to be clear: I think this was the most humane outcome possible absent some sort of Japanese epiphany. I also agree that a single bomb almost certainly wouldn’t have been enough to force their hand. As it was, two was just barely enough.

Comments are closed.