As I reflect on that momentous month of August 1945, this is how I recall that time. By the beginning of August 1945 Japan had lost nearly all of the islands in the Pacific that it had invaded and captured. Moreover, its navy and air force were badly beaten. Alas, Japan still had a formidable army in Japan willing to fight to the death if we invaded.
The best military minds were of the opinion that we could suffer tremendous casualties–100,000 just in the landing–if we invaded. It was estimated that to gain an unconditional surrender over the Japanese homeland could cost us one million casualties. President Truman pondering over the potential for such a tremendous loss of American and Japanese lives in the invasion of Japan chose to persuade the Japanese to stop fighting and settle for peace. His persuader was the Atomic Bomb. The dropping of one Atomic bomb did not do it–it took two bombs to convince Emperor Hirohito that his dream of ruling over all of Asia was just a pipe dream.
When the Atomic Bombs were unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasak, I was on IE Shima that is part of the Ryukyu Islands. August 19, 1945 dawned with great expectation and excitement for those of us on IE Shima. The rumor mills were working overtime on our tiny island. The powers that be informed us that the Cornerstone for Peace was to be set in place on IE Shima. In the preliminary negotiations General MacArthur being ever wary of the Japanese skulduggery mandated that their Peace Envoys land on IE Shima and transfer into an American plane that would fly them to Manila in the Philippines. He did not want Japanese war planes flying over the Philippines.
The scuttlebutt proved true and the Japanese peace envoys arrived at 1230 hours. There was no bowing by the Japanese and there was no saluting by the Americans. The Japanese envoy consisted of eleven military and one civilian. The Japanese were transferred from their planes into a American C-54 and immediately departed for Manila and Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters, where prelimiary arrangements for the final and complete surrender were to be made. It should be noted that the formal surrender ceremonies was to take place on the battleship Missouri–by some strange coincidence–Missouri was Pres. Truman’s home state.
Before the formal peace treaty was signed and the occupation of Japan begun, that wise old bird, Gen. MacArthur, ordered that missions be flown over southern Japan to see if the Japanese would challenge them. Shades of the Reagan “trust but verify” doctrine. There were instances were Hirohito had to send out family members to tell Japanese soldiers that their god, Emporer Hirohito, had truly surrendered.
Today’s TSD History Corner comes from Alex F. Wysocki, who is a Veteran of WWII, served in the Pacific Theater and was part of the original occupation of Japan. He has a passion for the history of state he was born in, Delaware.