The surrender of the Empire of Japan on September 2, 1945, brought the hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting major operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent. While publicly stating their intent to fight on to the bitter end, Japan’s leaders, (the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, also known as the “Big Six”), were privately making entreaties to the neutral Soviet Union to mediate peace on terms more favorable to the Japanese. Meanwhile, the Soviets were preparing to attack Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea in fulfillment of promises they had secretly made to the United States and the United Kingdom at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Late in the evening of August 8, 1945, in accordance with the Yalta agreements, but in violation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and soon after midnight on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union invaded the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Later that same day, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The combined shock of these events caused Emperor Hirohito to intervene and order the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War to accept the terms the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration for ending the war. After several more days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a failed coup d’état, Emperor Hirohito gave a recorded radio address across the Empire on August 15. In the radio address, called the Gyokuon-hōsō (“Jewel Voice Broadcast”), he announced the surrender of Japan to the Allies.
On August 28, the occupation of Japan by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers began. The surrender ceremony was held on September 2, aboard the United States Navy battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), at which officials from the Japanese government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, thereby ending the hostilities. Allied civilians and military personnel alike celebrated V-J Day, the end of the war; however, some isolated soldiers and personnel from Imperial Japan’s far-flung forces throughout Asia and the Pacific islands refused to surrender for months and years afterwards, some even refusing into the 1970s. The role of the atomic bombings in Japan’s surrender, and the ethics of the two attacks, is still debated. The state of war between Japan and the Allies formally ended when the Treaty of San Francisco came into force on April 28, 1952. Four more years passed before Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, which formally brought an end to their state of war.
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