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.


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.”


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.


Fact of the day: 26th April

On this day in 1933 the Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, was established.


The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe. Hermann Göring formed the unit in 1933. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of SS national leader, Heinrich Himmler who in 1936 was appointed Chief of German Police (Chef der Deutschen Polizei) by Hitler.

In 1936, Himmler made it a suboffice of the Sicherheitspolizei  (“Security Police”). Then from 27 September 1939 forward, it was administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt  (“Reich Main Security Office”) and was considered a sister organization of the Sicherheitsdienst  (“Security Service”). According to historian Rupert Butler, “From its creation in 1933 until its death in May 1945, anyone living in Nazi controlled territory lived in fear of a visit from the Gestapo…”


Fact of the day: 16th April.

On this day in 1945 More than 7,000 died when the German refugee ship Goya is sunk by a Soviet submarine.

The Goya was a German transport ship sunk by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea, near the end of the Second World War, while carrying wounded Wehrmacht troops and civilians who were fleeing the advance of Soviet forces.

Most of the crew and passengers died. The sinking of the Goya was one of the biggest single-incident maritime losses of life of the war, and as such one of the largest maritime losses of life in history, with just 183 survivors among 7,000 passengers and crew.

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Fact of the day: 12th April

On this day in 1945 U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died whilst in office; Vice-president Harry Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President.

Roosevelt dominated the American political scene during the twelve years of his presidency, and his policies and ideas continued to have significant impacts for decades afterward. He orchestrated the realignment of voters that created the Fifth Party System. FDR’s New Deal Coalition united labour unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners. His work also influenced the later creation of the United Nations and Bretton Woods. Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.


Roosevelt’s death was met with shock and grief across the U.S. and around the world. His declining health had not been known to the general public. Roosevelt had been president for more than 12 years, longer than any other person, and had led the country through some of its greatest crises to the impending defeat of Nazi Germany and within sight of the defeat of Japan as well.

Less than a month after his death, on May 8, the war in Europe ended. President Harry S. Truman, , dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt’s memory, and kept the flags across the U.S. at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period, saying that his only wish was “that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.”

Fact of the day: 9th March

On this day in 1945 the bombing of Tokyo by the United States Army Air Forces begin, one of the most destructive bombing raids in history.

The bombing of Tokyo, often referred to as a firebombing, was conducted as part of the air raids on Japan by the United States Army Air Forces during the Pacific campaigns of World War II. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942. Strategic bombing and urban area bombing began in 1944 after the long-range B-29 Superfortress bomber entered service, first deployed from China and thereafter the Mariana Islands. B-29 raids from those islands began on 17 November 1944 and lasted until 15 August 1945, the day Japan capitulated. The Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9–10 March 1945 was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in history.

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This could not have been an easy decision to make. The lost of civilian life during any war is difficult to justify. And morally, raises a lot of questions about the necessity of war.

Fact of the day: 17th January

On this day 1945, Himmler ordered the evacuation of all camps. He charged camp commanders with “making sure that not a single prisoner from the concentration camps falls alive into the hands of the enemy.” 58,000 Auschwitz detainees were evacuated under guard, with thousands dying in the subsequent death march west towards Wodzislaw Slaski. Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they would be liberated three months later, in April by the British.

Those too weak or sick to walk (around 7,500 prisoners) were left behind. Six hundred of them died or were murdered before the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army liberated the camp on January 27. Among the items found by the Russians were 370,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s garments, and 7.7 tonnes (8.5 short tons) of human hair.

The camp’s liberation received little press attention at the time. Rees attributes this to three factors: the previous discovery of similar crimes at Majdanek concentration camp, competing news from the Allied summit at Yalta, and the Soviet Union’s interest, for propaganda purposes, in minimizing attention to Jewish suffering. 

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