On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender, officially ending World War II.
Despite the fact that Japan’s defeat seemed imminent all that summer, it wasn’t until after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—at nearly the same time that the Soviets declared war on Japan and attacked Manchuria—that Japan saw surrender as a possibility. Even then, there was still wide support in Japanese political and military circles for the war to continue, and it took the emperor himself speaking in favor of surrender for Japan to finally capitulate on August 14.
The surrender ceremony took place a few weeks later, on the morning of September 2, in Tokyo Bay on board the USS Missouri. Allied officials and members of the press arrived on the ship between 7 and 8 that morning, with General Douglas MacArthur, the newly appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, arriving at 8:43 and the Japanese delegation boarding at 8:56. The ceremony began at 9:02, and MacArthur gave a brief speech in which he remarked, “It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past.”
After MacArthur finished, the Japanese delegates signed the unconditional surrender. They were followed by MacArthur, who signed on behalf of the Allies, and Admiral Chester Nimitz, who signed for the United States. China, Britain, the USSR, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand also signed the documents. By 9:22, everyone had signed, and MacArthur concluded the ceremony with another short speech. After he had spoken, 450 U.S. navy planes and hundreds more army planes flew in formation over the Missouri. The ceremony ended at 9:25, a brief 23 minutes long.
Although the war was over, it was still some months before the Allies had accepted the surrender of all the widespread Japanese garrisons. And some Japanese units in remote areas continued to fight after the surrender until they heard the news (which for a few men was years or even decades later). MacArthur headed the American occupation of Japan until 1951, and U.S. troops remained in the country until the following year, 1952.
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