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Thursday, September 01, 2005

World War Two Ends, September 2, 1945

The Second World War ended today in 1945 with the formal surrender of the Japanese Empire. The war that had lasted, according to most Western historians, six years and one day had finally come to an end. It was then, and remains today, the mostly costly and deadliest war in history.

The actual of fighting came to an end at noon on August 15th Tokyo time. Despite being beaten back on all fronts, Japan still controlled large areas of China, Korea and French Indochina. There were also still pockets of resistance on many of the islands of the Philippines and elsewhere. More than two weeks was needed for the Allies to craft the surrender document and for a naval force of more than 250 ships to gather in Tokyo Bay. President Harry Truman, the man who three weeks earlier had taken the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan, ordered the USS Missouri to serve as the site for the surrender ceremony to take place. The Missouri was named after Truman’s home state and was the last battleship commissioned by the United States Navy. She was barely a year old and would go on to serve her nation in two other wars, but this was, without a doubt, her finest hour.

The surrender document was only eight paragraphs in length. It announced the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and the entire Japanese military structure. It also stipulated that all Allied prisoners of war not already freed were to be repatriated immediately.

At 9:04AM, two members of the Japanese delegation stepped forward to sign for their nation. In the background was a flag in a frame—the flag that Commodore Matthew Perry had flown from his flagship when he she entered Tokyo Bay in 1853. Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed for the Emperor and the government; General Yoshijiro Umezu signed for the military. After their signatures were affixed, representatives from every Allied power with territorial interests in the Pacific signed the document. General Douglas MacArthur, who presided over the ceremony and was the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, signed next. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz signed for the United States. They were followed by representatives from China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand. MacArthur then came to the microphone and said simply, “These proceedings are now closed.”

With that, 450 aircraft from the US Third Fleet roared overhead, followed closely by dozens of B-29s belonging to the US Army Air Force. The dignitaries filed from the Missouri and headed to their various destinations. The sailors on the Missouri dispersed and went about their duties. For a while, at least, the world was at peace.

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