Just to clarify something. Japan’s surrender was not an immediate action (perhaps this isn’t surprising but you’ll find references to different days as being the day, but it was a many day process to be completely accurate). The official signing of the surrender was September 2. August 14th was the beginning of the surrender (more conflicts occurred between these dates). The speech below took place on the 15th. If you pay attention (which this year is probably much harder to not do) to current affairs, you’ll see references to V-J Day prior to September 2 (e.g. the 15th perhaps because the nation was addressed) but in the end, this was not an overnight event – it is – and always has been – a complicated war.
(Note: This most likely – I’m quite certain this is the case – includes some structural and/or disorganised flow of thoughts and as a result it might be harder to follow. I would delay this for another day but the day itself is significant enough to not consider this, at least for me.)
Earlier this year (May 2) I wrote about the end of the Battle of Berlin (and its surrender) which was shortly (May 8) followed by the surrender of Nazi Germany, resulting in V-E Day. I intended to write something about V-E Day but I never got around to it – which is unfortunate because I think there is a lot I could have written about. I also intended to write about ‘Little Boy’ (the name of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945) and ‘Fat Man’ (the name of the bomb dropped three days after Little Boy, over Nagasaki). But I felt a loss of words for the bombings that – along with the Soviet Union declaring war on Japan – ultimately led Emperor Shōwa (more commonly known as Hirohito) of Japan to order an immediate surrender of Japan (a coup that followed was foiled). Perhaps silence is the best way: the utter devastation and suffering these bombs inflicted upon Japan – and the world – is hard to fathom to this day. I think Emperor Hirohito’s speech holds significant value to this day, and even eternally:
To our good and loyal subjects:
After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the
present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union that our Empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well- being of our subjects is the solemn obligation that has been handed down by our Imperial Ancestors, and we lay it close to the heart.
Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self- preservation and the stabilisation of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement.
But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone– the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the
diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state and the devoted service of our 100 million people–the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilisation.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers. We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.
The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, and those who met with death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.
The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and suffering to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.
Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, and of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its
heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of
rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.
All you, our subjects, we command you to act in accordance with our wishes.
There is criticism – both legitimate and illegitimate – on all sides, and the Emperor – perhaps more so after his death – receives criticism to this day. But the fact is Japan did not want to surrender (which I will discuss below), but they did. He took responsibility of the situation and if only everyone would heed his warning about nuclear weapons. Nuclear warfare exemplifies some of the worst of mankind (and this includes the only known uses of it in wartime) and it does so extremely well. His warning is 100% accurate. Of course, the atom was split and once done there is no going back. The Cold War worsened this with its nuclear arms race. But it also brought some good: the predecessor to the Internet – the arpanet – which was meant to be a network that could withstand a nuclear attack (which means that if a host is down, it won’t receive or send data, but other hosts will still be able to communicate with each other); and it brought the good out in some people – for instance, it motivated a woman called Lynne Cox to risk a dangerous swim across the Bering Strait between the United States and the Soviet Union in an attempt to bring friendship instead of conflict. At this time, we are in another cold war, even if it isn’t recognised as such. While a cold war is better than a real war, a conflict is a conflict, and there comes a point where any significant outbreak of war, will become a third world war, and that will likely be an apocalypse. Yet despite this, there are politicians in some countries that have no problem with war, and I dare say they even want war. That is a sign of extreme weakness and is the exact opposite of what a real leader should strive for – peace.
Japan didn’t want to surrender but neither did any other country (and there is the story of a soldier – Hirō Onoda – who thought for 29 years following the war’s end, that it was still going on; it is a fascinating story for those interested in the war, and it really shows just how much they wanted to win and could not lose). I personally feel that not giving up is a positive, productive and noble thing. There are no victors in war (which is ironic when you consider what the V stands for in V-E Day and V-J Day) but this goes beyond war; those who give up might never have what they could have, they might never accomplish great things (that they could otherwise accomplish), and they might be at a great loss. Winston Churchill himself stated that [we] will never, ever surrender. But imagine if the Allies had surrendered – the world would be very different. Imagine, also, if the Axis Powers surrendered earlier – the world would be different in another way entirely. But imagine still if Germany didn’t invade Poland on September 1, 1939 (or for that matter, take over and annex other countries prior to this). How different would the world be today?
Despite these thoughts, too much blame is placed upon nations for their past. Punishing Germany at the end of World War 1 was an incredibly stupid decision and some recognised it then (basic logic explains why and how it was so stupid). Yet to this day some think that Germany is responsible for great harm in this world; I say that those punishing Germany at the end of World War 1 are equally responsible for harm. But that should not be the focus; consider this instead: the actions of Germany (and many other countries) might have caused great harm, but the world should learn from the past and not dwell on it.
70 years ago marked the end of a very dark chapter of mankind but the many lessons are still not taken to heart and that is equally as dark – if not darker – than the war itself. We should not only remember the impact of the war – we should also remember why it happened and what could have been done differently, to prevent it. Lastly, attention should be shifted to the present. If this is not done – and I’m afraid that history shows it isn’t – mankind is doomed to ultimately destroy itself (it already destroys the treasures of the world and that includes wildlife that has become endangered if not already extinct).