Pearl Harbor - SURRENDER on the USS MISSOURI

SURRENDER on the USS MISSOURI (Illustration) American History American Presidents Disasters Famous Historical Events Famous People Government Social Studies World History Ethics World War II

The Naval History & Heritage Command describes this photo:  "General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945.  Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri's 16-inch gun turret # 2."


Harry Truman pondered whether he should use the atomic bomb. It was a decision, in the end, only he could make.

Knowing he would face criticism for using such a weapon of mass destruction, Harry Truman did not flinch. His main objective was saving American lives. His decision was supported by the men who would have had to risk death by invading Japan's home islands.

As Professor Paul Fussell (a former U.S. Army infantryman in Europe) said in his essay, Thank God for the Atom Bomb:

When the atom bombs were dropped and the news began to circulate that we would not be obligated in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared and shelled we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all.

Japan surrendered on August 14, only eight days after Hiroshima and five days after Nagasaki. The world, especially American troops who would have been part of an invasion force, celebrated the war's end.

Formal surrender ceremonies took place September 2, 1945, on board the USS Missouri (in Tokyo Bay).

As the original Instrument of Surrender (written by the U.S. War Department and approved by President Truman) indicates, Japan's representatives were acting on behalf of Emperor Hirohito, the Japanese government and the Japanese military.

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.

For the first time ever, Hirohito's voice was heard by his people as he announced the surrender. People were shocked.

Hirohito also told his subjects that he was not a god. That upset them even more. 

For their whole lives, up to that point, Japanese people had revered their Emperor as a deity. How could he be just a man

General MacArthur, in charge of Occupied Japan, helped the Emperor's subjects understand Hirohito's post-war status. In the only photograph which MacArthur allowed, of himself with the Emperor, one can tell who's in charge.

By cooperating with the General, Hirohito avoided a war-crimes trial. Not everyone agreed with that approach, but decision-makers on such matters spared Japan the anguish which would have surely followed such an event. 

The Prime Minister, Tojo, was not as fortunate. He was tried, convicted and hanged in Tokyo.

Blame, of course, was rampant as finger-pointing and scape-goating inevitably followd the war's end. Nowhere was the need to establish responsibility as great as it was in the Pearl Harbor hearings. There had to be some explanation why (as Gordon Prange later wrote) At Dawn We Slept

And ... there had to be a few individuals, at least, who "took the fall."

Whether the results of the Pearl Harbor hearings were fair is a matter still questioned (and doubted) by many.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jan 12, 2016

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"SURRENDER on the USS MISSOURI" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2001. May 26, 2020.
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