Fact of the day: 26th July

On this day in 1945 The Potsdam Declaration was signed in Potsdam, Germany.

The Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender is a statement that called for the surrender of all Japanese armed forces during World War II.

On July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China Chiang Kai-shek issued the document, which outlined the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference.

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This ultimatum stated that, if Japan did not surrender, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.”

The Declaration was released to the press in Potsdam on the evening of July 26 and simultaneously transmitted to the Office of War Information in Washington. By 5 p.m. Washington time, OWI’s West Coast transmitters, aimed at the Japanese home islands, were broadcasting the text in English, and two hours later began broadcasting it in Japanese.

The Declaration was never transmitted to the Japanese government through diplomatic channels. The Japanese government did not disclose the declaration to the Japanese people. However, the ultimatum was heard by some who listened to the OWI broadcasts, and leaflets describing it were dropped from American bombers.

Although picking up leaflets and listening to foreign radio broadcasts had been banned by the government, the American propaganda efforts were successful in making the key points of the declaration known to most Japanese.

After the successful atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, President Truman in a widely broadcast speech, picked up by Japanese news agencies, warned that if Japan failed to accept the terms of the declaration, it could “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

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As a result, Prime Minister Suzuki felt compelled to meet the Japanese press, to whom he reiterated his government’s commitment to ignore the Allies’ demands and fight on.

The extent of the Allies’ demands brought home to the Japanese leaders and people the extent of the success Japan’s enemies had achieved in the war.

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