On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. To that effort, the United States had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively on August 6 and 9, 1945. On August 10, the Japanese government communicated its intention to surrender under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration.
Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender
On July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chairman of China Chiang Kai-shek issued the document outlining the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan, as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. The ultimatum called for the surrender of all Japanese armed forces during World War II and stated if Japan did not surrender, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.”
The news of the Japanese offer of surrender began early celebrations around the world. Germans stated the Japanese were wise enough—unlike themselves—to give up in a hopeless situation and were grateful the atomic bomb was not ready in time to be used against them. On Tinian island, B-29 crews preparing for their next mission over Japan were told it was cancelled, but considering it might be rescheduled, they could not celebrate.
Japan’s acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration
A little after noon (Japan Standard Time) on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito’s announcement of Japan’s acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast to the Japanese people over the radio. Earlier the same day, the Japanese government had broadcast an announcement over Radio Tokyo that “acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation [would be] coming soon,” and had advised the Allies of the surrender by sending a cable to U.S. President Harry S. Truman via the Swiss diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. A nationwide broadcast by Truman was then aired at seven o’clock p.m. (daylight time in Washington, D.C.) on Tuesday, August 14, announcing the communication and that the formal event was scheduled for September 2. In his announcement of Japan’s surrender on August 14, Truman said “the proclamation of V-J Day” must wait upon the formal signing of the surrender terms by Japan.
Since the European Axis Powers had surrendered three months earlier (V-E Day) on May 8, 1945, V-J Day was the effective end of World War II, although a peace treaty between Japan and most of the Allies was not signed until 1952 and between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956.
Following news of the Japanese acceptance and before Truman’s announcement, Americans began celebrating “as if joy had been rationed and saved for the three years, eight months and seven days since Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941’s attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.”
The largest crowd in the history of New York City’s Times Square gathered to celebrate. The victory itself was announced by a headline on the “zipper” news ticker at One Times Square, which read “OFFICIAL *** TRUMAN ANNOUNCES JAPANESE SURRENDER. ***” The six asterisks represented the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. In the Garment District, workers threw out cloth scraps and ticker tape, leaving a pile five inches deep on the streets. The news of the war’s end sparked a “coast-to-coast frenzy.”
Fiske Hanley II
Second Lieutenant (AAC)
Japanese Special Prisoner
In considering the sacrifice and endurance of our military forces during WWII, we continue to remember their extraordinary service, as exemplified by Fiske Hanley II, who passed away on August 9, 2020 at the age of 100.
Upon graduating from Texas Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering on May 31, 1943, he enlisted later that day in the Army Air Corps at the Lubbock County Courthouse and immediately placed on a train bound for basic training.
After finishing Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and served as flight engineer on a B-29 Superfortress while flying bombing raids from Tinian Island. He flew on the infamous fire-bombing raid over Tokyo on March 9, 1945, and on March 27, his B-29 encountered anti-aircraft fire and was shot down over northern Japan. Bailing out of his burning plane, he was captured with his copilot during his 17th mission after parachuting into a rice paddy. Already wounded by gunshots and plane shrapnel, he was moved by train to a Tokyo police facility and imprisoned in the Japanese prison camp made famous by the movie Unbroken.
As B-29 prisoners were classified as war criminals and treated more harshly than other prisoners, Hanley was brutally interrogated and tortured for over five months until his release in August. 1945 when Japan surrendered. During his incarceration, he faced imminent death on 14 different occasions, including a firing squad. He lost almost half his body weight during starvation by his captors and flak fragments remained in his legs throughout his life. He credited his survival to his faith and his body’s ability to heal his infected wounds.
Second Lieutenant Hanley wrote two books about his accounts of World War II and had planned to return to Japan for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.