Japan signs surrender terms ending WWII

By William B. Dickinson
Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu of Japan sign the "complete capitulation of Japan" on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo. Photo by Ed Hoffman/UPI
Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu of Japan sign the "complete capitulation of Japan" on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo. Photo by Ed Hoffman/UPI

ABOARD THE U.S. BATTLESHIP MISSOURI IN TOKYO BAY (U.P.) -- Japan surrendered formally, finally, and unconditionally to the United States and its allied powers today.

On the starboard bow deck of this battleship in Tokyo bay, her representatives signed a surrender document which made her her 80,000,000 people from Emperor Hirohito down subject to the authority of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the supreme Allied commander.


At the moment of signing Japan was reduced to her four main islands and such minor islands as the Allies grant her. Her people, her government, her demi-god emperor Hirohito came under Allied military rule and will remain there until the day when she is deemed to have, for the first time in her 2,605 years of history a democratic, peacefully inclined government and thus is worthy of rejoining the family of nations.

Without a single word, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, on behalf of Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese government, stepped to the groad table holding the duplicate copies in Japanese and English of the surrender terms. He signed after several moments of fumbling with his watch and pen.


A heavy overcast covered the skies over Tokyo bay as the surrender ceremony was completed in approximately 22 minutes, formally ending history's bloodiest war six years after Germany's invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur supreme Allied commander, was tense and expressionless as he began the surrender ceremony and invited Shigemitsu to affix the first signature to the surrender documents -- one bound in gold and one bound in black, the latter the Japanese copy.

Following Shigemitsu, came Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, signing for Japanese imperial general headquarters. Without delay he wrote his name across both documents, saluted MacArthur and withdrew as the supreme commander stepped forward to sign for all the victorious Allies.

Then representatives of the other Allied nations signed the historic documents. MacArthur stepped to a microphone and announced:

"May peace return to the world and God preserve it always... this ceremony is closed."

MacArthur as he stepped forward to sign, paused to invite Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, hero of Corrigidor, and Lt.General A. E. Percival, Britain's last-stand defender of Singapore, to, "step forward with me while I sign."

MacArthur Signs

The general sighed the first document with a deliberate motion, then handed the pen to Wainwright as a memento. He selected a second pen and after using it presented it to Percival.


Then MacArthur quickly used three other pens to complete his signing. Apparently, the pens will be used for presentations later to Allied dignitaries.

MacArthur's hand shook slightly when he began to write across the first document and it appeared that the rolling motion of the great ship bothered him.

As soon as he had completed the signing, MacArthur stepped back to invite the representatives of the United States of America, Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, to sign. Nimitz moved to the table and wrote his name with great intensity as Adm. William F. Holsey and Rear Adm. Forrest P. Sherman stood behind him.

Shigemitsu's fumbling and delay of several moments before signing was the only departure from the efficient, smoothly-working procedure prepared by the Allies.

When be took his seat at the table, Shigemitsu carefully removed his top hat and gloves and then anxiously searched through his pockets, apparently seeking a pen. Lt, Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, MacArthur's choief of staff, stepped up to help Shigemitsu gain composure.

The Japanese foreign minister then carefully studied a watch. When MacArthur suddenly appeared irritated by the delay, Shigemitsu drew another watch and considered it. Then he dipped his pen in the ink, leaned over the paper and began the signature that brought Japan's dreams of conquest to a formal close.


The signers were:

Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu in behalf of Emperor Hir-ohito and .the Japanese government; Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu for Japanese imperial general headquarters, MacArthur, as supreme commander for the Allied powers; Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz for the United States; Gen. Hsu Yung-Chang for China. Adm. Sir Bruce Fraser for Great Britain. Lt. Gen. Kuzma Derevyanko for Russia; Gen. Sir Thomas Blarney for Australia; Col. L. Moore Cosgrave for Canada; Gen. Jacques Le Clerc for France; Lt. Gen, L. H. Van Oyen for the Netherlands; Air Vice Marshal L. M. Isitt for New Zealand.

One by one they signed the short surrender document at a ceremony almost religious in its solemnity.

Behind MacArthur stood Lt Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, hero of Corregidor, and Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival. Britain's last stand defender of Singapore, and to them he gave the first pens used in the signing.

About 100 high American and Allied army and navy officers were grouped about the surrender table.

MacArthur Speaks

MacArthur before the signing told the beaten Japanese that the surrender was not one to be carried out in a spirit of distrust, malice or hatred and that he would rule them with justice and tolerance. After the signing he told the American people that the Japanese for the first time in their history would be freed from their slavery and could if they used their talents rightly, lift themselves to a place of dignity in the world.


The document said:

"We hereby proclaim the "unconditional surrender to the Allied powers of the Japanese imperial general headquarters' and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated..

"The authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the supreme commander for the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender."

All Japanese civil, military and naval officials were commanded to obey, to enforce all MacArthur's orders, to continue their non-combatant duties unless specifically relieved by him.

The document was based on the Allied Potsdam declaration of July 25. Japan undertook in the name of the emperor and the present and future governments to carry out its provisions and all of MacArthur's orders.

Simultaneously with the signing Emperor Hirohito and imperial headquarters issued their first instructions to the Japanese people and armed forces at the personal order of MacArthur as master of Janan.

Ordered To Sign

Hirohito said he had ordered his government and headquarters to sign the surrender and obey MacArthur's orders. He now ordered, he added that the Japanese peoole themselves were to stop hostilities forthwith and carry out the provisions both of the surrender instrument and the instructions of imperial headquarters.


These instructions were contained in Japanese general order No. 1 issued at MacArthur's direction.

Giving orders to principal Japanese commanders to surrender, it disclosed for the first time the exact definition of Pacific Island Surrender Zones.

Adm. Nimitz will lake the surrender in all Japanese mandated islands, the Ryukyus, the Bonins "and other Pacific islands."

Great Britain and Australia take the surrender in the Bismarck and Solomon islands and all territories to the west, including the Netherlands East Indies.

Other zones had been made known previously -- China. Formosa and Indo-China north of 16th degrees of latitude to China; Manchuria, Korea; north of 38 degrees of latitude and Japan's half of Sakhalin lsland to Russia; Korea south of 38 degrees to the United States.

Under this order all Japanese arms, equipment, shipping and war factories come at once under MacArthur's control along with defenses and bases.

MacArthur Opens

MacArthur opened the surrender ceremony with a speech. The war was over, he said, its issues determined on the battlefields of the world. Its issues were not for discussion here, he said, and he added:

"Nor is it for us here to meet in a spirit of distrust, malice or hatred."

Rather, he said, it was for victors and vanquished to rise to a higher dignity and commit all their peoples to carry out faithfully and without reserve the terms of the surrender. It was his hope, MacArthur said, that out of the war would emerge a world founded on faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man, to freedom, tolerance and Justice.


"The terms and conditions upon which the surrender of the Japanese Imperial forces is here to be given and accepted are contained in the instrument of surrender now before you," Mac-Arthur said.

"As supreme commander for the Allied powers, I announce that it is my firm purpose, in the tradition of the countries I represent, to proceed in the discharge of my responsibilities with justice and tolerance, while taking all necessary dispositions to insure that the terms of surrender are fully, promptly and faithfully complied with.

Asked To Sign

"I now invite the representatives of the emperor of Japan and the Japanese government, and the Japanese imperial headquarters, to sign the surrender instrument at the places indicated."

In a second speech concluding the ceremony MacArthur reported by radio to his fellow Americans' and the Allied world.

The victory had been won, he said, the guns were silent "men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world lives quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed . . . "

MacArthur said, he was speaking in the name of the American dead and the American living, "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."


The destructiveness of war, MacArthur said, had brought a new era. Man has sought peace he said, but his means halve failed alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations "all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war."

"The utter destructiveness of war now blots out this alternative," he continued. "We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system armageddon will be at our door."

Theological Problem

The problem was theological, he said, and called for an improvement in the character of men themselves was theological, 2,000 year advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural fields.

"It must be of the spirit," he said, "if we are to save the flesh."

Commodore Perry 90 years ago tried to take enlightenment to Japan. But, he continued the knowledge Japan acquired by emerging from isolation was turned to oppression, and enslavement.

"Freedom of expression, freedom of action, even freedom of thought were denied through the suppression liberal education, thorough appeal to superstition and through the application of force," he said.

"We are committed by the Potsdam declaration . . . to see that the Japanese peoples are liberated from this condition of slavery."


"And so, my fellow countrymen, today I report to you that your sons and daughters have served you well and faithfully . . . their spiritual strength and power has brought us through to victory. They are homeward bound -- take care of them."

Nimitz spoke also briefly and bluntly. He had walked around an American cemetery on Guam, he said, and seen the names on the headstones "Culpepper, Tomaino, Sweeney, Bromberg, Depew, Melloy, Ponziana."

Solemn Obligations--

"To them we have a solemn obligation," he said -- "The obligation to insure that their sacrifice will help to make this a better and safer world in which to live.

"To achieve this, it will be necessary for the United Nations to enforce rigidly the peace terms which will be imposed upon Japan.

It will also be necessary to maintain our national strength at a level which will discourage future acts of aggression aimed at the destruction of our way of life.."

Generous as were MacArthur's statements, his surrender terms were specific, all embracing and forceful. Not only was the emperor put under him, along with all his people, but Japanese general order No. 1 said at the end:

This and all subsequent Instructions Issued by the supreme commander for the Allied forces or other Allied military Authorities will be scrupulously and promptly obeyed by Japanese and Japanese controlled military and civil officials and private persons.


"Any delay or failure to comply with the provisions of this or subsequent orders, and any action which the supreme commander for the Allied powers determines to be detrimental to the Allied powers, will incur drastic and summary punishment at the hands of Allied military authorities and the Japanese government." .

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