President Truman confronts Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov

President Truman confronts Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Less than two weeks after taking over as president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman gives a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had.

When Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman took over as president. Truman was overwhelmed by the responsibilities so suddenly thrust upon him and, particularly in terms of foreign policy, the new president was uncertain about his approach. Roosevelt had kept his vice-president in the dark about most diplomatic decisions, not even informing Truman about the secret program to develop an atomic bomb. Truman had to learn quickly, however. The approaching end of World War II meant that momentous decisions about the postwar world needed to be made quickly. The primary issue Truman faced was how to deal with the Soviet Union.

Just weeks before his death, Roosevelt met with Russian leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Yalta to discuss the postwar situation. Agreements made during the meeting left the Soviets in de facto control of Eastern Europe in exchange for Soviet promises to hold “democratic” elections in Poland. Some officials in the U.S. government were appalled at these decisions, believing that Roosevelt was too “soft” on the Soviets and naive in his belief that Stalin would cooperate with the West after the war. Truman gravitated to this same point of view, partially because of his desire to appear decisive, but also because of his long-standing animosity toward the Soviets.

On April 23, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov arrived at the White House for a meeting with the new president. Truman immediately lashed out at Molotov, “in words of one syllable,” as the president later recalled. As Molotov listened incredulously, Truman charged that the Soviets were breaking their agreements and that Stalin needed to keep his word. At the end of Truman’s tirade, Molotov indignantly declared that he had never been talked to in such a manner. Truman, not to be outdone, replied that if Molotov had kept his promises, he would not need to be talked to like that. Molotov stormed out of the meeting. Truman was delighted with his own performance, telling one friend that he gave the Soviet official “the straight one-two to the jaw.” The president was convinced that a tough stance was the only way to deal with the communists, a policy that came to dominate America’s early Cold War policies toward the Soviets.

Vyacheslav Molotov

V yacheslav Molotov was the closest friend and loyal aide of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953 see entry) throughout Stalin's reign as leader of the Soviet Union. Won over to communism as a teenager, Molotov never strayed from the strict party line and always viewed Stalin's policies, however terror-filled, as correct. Molotov's talks with Western powers in the years following World War II (1939–45) helped fuel the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of military conflict.

Trump, Lavrov, and the Long History of Things that Never Happened

In light of Putin's offer to hand over a transcript of the Trump-Lavrov talks to the US Congress, Sergey Radchenko reflects on memcons, memoirs, and the nature of documentary evidence as a whole.

Reflections on memcons, memoirs, and the nature of documentary evidence

In an unusual move that highlights the depth of Russia’s involvement in US politics, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his readiness to provide Congress with a transcript of Foreign Minister’s Sergei Lavrov’s May 10 conversation with President Donald Trump.

A historian of the Cold War, I have spent countless hours poring through untold thousands of pages of transcripts between state leaders: American, Russian, Chinese, Burmese, Mongolian—you name it. Usually, an encounter like Trump’s meeting with Lavrov would be recorded in two versions: in this case, the American and the Russian. These often differ in important details and emphasis. Sometimes participants leave additional records in the form of letters or retrospective recollections.

Consider, for example, Harry S. Truman’s April 23, 1945, meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. This meeting has a place of honor in Cold War history. President Truman, famously “tired of babying the Soviets,” accused Moscow of violating the Yalta Agreement by denying the Polish people a representative government. According to Truman’s memoir, the meeting ended with Molotov’s remark: “I have never been talked to like that in my life,” to which Truman supposedly replied: “Carry out your agreements and you won’t get talked to like that.” Hence, the historical narrative: Truman firmly rebuffed the Soviets, setting the stage for the Cold War.

Except, maybe, nothing like this ever happened. The US record of the conversation, compiled by Charles Bohlen (who interpreted at the meeting), shows some sharp exchanges on the Polish question but nothing quite as dramatic as what Truman’s memoir claims. Crucially, it lacks any mention of the parting exchange. This has not prevented historians from buying into Truman’s story, in part because Bohlen’s memorandum – as is often the case – is not a verbatim transcript. It is just a summary of what was said.

The Russians have since released their own version of the April 23 conversation, which also has no mention of the dramatic finale. Moreover, the tone of the Russian transcript is decidedly more positive than the American version, showing none of the “great firmness” that Bohlen attributed to the US President. In other words, either Bohlen wanted to present Truman in a tougher light than he really was, or Molotov, taken aback by Truman’s outburst, decided to smooth it over in his record of the conversation lest Stalin – who would scrutinize every word – accuse his Foreign Minister of ruining the alliance with the United States.

These kinds of discrepancies are nothing unusual. Sometimes policymakers deliberately omit key elements of their discussions with a foreign leader in order to cover up some faux pas or some unfortunate concessions, to make themselves look better, or simply to keep their moves secret from their own governments. This is, for instance, what Winston Churchill did in the course of his October 9, 1944, talk with Stalin, when he offered to divide Eastern Europe between the Soviet Union and Great Britain, a deal now known as the “percentage agreement.”

The Russian version of the conversation scandalously has Churchill stating that he:

prepared a fairly dirty and rude document, which shows the distribution of the influence of the Soviet Union and Great Britain in Rumania, Greece, Yugoslavia [and] Bulgaria. He compiled this table in order to show what the British think about this question. The Americans would be shocked by this document. But Marshal Stalin is a realist and he, Churchill, is also not known for his sentimentality, while [Foreign Minister Anthony] Eden is a completely corrupt man. He, Churchill, did not show this document to the British Cabinet but the British Cabinet usually agree to what they, Churchill and Eden, propose.

Now, Churchill’s version, by contrast, omits all of that, saying only that “the Prime Minister then raised the question of the interests of the two governments in the various Balkan countries and the need to work in harmony in each of them.” Churchill did not want the Americans to know about his secret (and blatantly imperialistic) offer to Stalin. And of course he did not want his Cabinet to know that he held them in such low regard. In this case, the Russian version must be seen as more authoritative, especially because it is, unlike the British version, a verbatim transcript. Churchill had a reason to spin a story. Stalin did not.

Or, to take another example: the Nixon/Kissinger duo, fearing leaks, supplied doctored transcripts of their secret conversations with the Chinese to the US State Department. These conversations led to the breakthrough of the Sino-American rapprochement in February 1972. But even the transcripts retained for Nixon’s and Kissinger’s own use occasionally contain omissions. Thus, in February 1973, during his meeting with Henry Kissinger, the Chinese leader Mao Zedong proposed to create a “horizontal line” of countries opposed to the Soviet Union, a pseudo-alliance joining US, Japan, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Europe. But Kissinger’s record crucially omitted China from Mao’s “horizontal line.”

It is only in the Chinese transcript that we see that Mao Zedong offered Kissinger to create a de facto Sino-American alliance at the Soviet Union’s expense. In this case, the most likely explanation is that something was lost in translation. Indeed, at the early stages of the Sino-American rapprochement, the Americans did not even have their own interpreters and had to rely on the services of their Chinese hosts.

Both Washington and Moscow also have a practice of creating sanitized but still confidential summaries of meetings, which they proffer to their allies and partners to keep them abreast of what they do. Both the Russians (before the Sino-Soviet split) and the Americans (after the Sino-American rapprochement) kept the Chinese generally appraised of what they were doing in their relations with the other superpower, including by providing readouts from meetings. For example, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sent the Chinese a transcript of the failed 1960 Paris summit, so that his allies could read for themselves that he did not betray the revolution. The Chinese, though, failed to reciprocate, famously keeping the Soviets in the dark about the Sino-American ambassadorial talks in Warsaw.

Then, too, not everything makes it into the record. Often, policymakers ask to go off the record, as, for instance, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did in the September 23, 1989, conversation with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The part that Thatcher did not want recorded concerned her opposition to the reunification of Germany. Thatcher thought that her views on Germany were too politically dangerous to leave a paper trail. Fortunately for historians, the Soviet note-taker helpfully added her “off the record” comments to the transcript.

What, then, can the Russian transcript tell us about what happened on May 10, 2017, in the meeting between Trump and the Russian visitors? It can tell a story—a particular story. Even assuming that Putin could provide an un-doctored transcript (a far-fetched assumption!), the Russian version would recount Russia’s take (or even Lavrov’s take) on the conversation. It might not necessarily agree with what the American version would say, assuming there is one.

In contrast to the Cold War, we live in a remarkably public world. Conversations are leaked right and left. E-mails are disclosed on Wikileaks. Stories are spun on Twitter. Forget the 30-year rule: supposedly private discussions now seep into the public domain days after the event. Some worry that the culture of incessant leaking may actually discourage policymakers from leaving any paper trail at all.

That said, if Trump secretly recorded his conversations, we may yet arrive at something approximating the truth. Nixon’s secret recordings sealed the Watergate investigation, but they also offered historians an unprecedented trove of evidence for mapping America’s foreign relations in the early 1970s.


Importance of the straits Edit

The two gateways between the Black Sea and Mediterranean, the Dardanelles and Bosphorus, were important as a trade route from the Black Sea into ports all over the world for Turkey and its other Black Sea neighbors: the USSR, the Socialist Republic of Romania, and the People's Republic of Bulgaria, which were militarily aligned with one another. [3] The straits also served as an important component of military strategy whoever wielded control of traffic through the straits could use them as an exit or entry point for naval forces to traverse to and from the Black Sea and prevent rival powers from doing so.

Political background Edit

The conflict has its roots in Soviet-Turkish relations, both just prior to and during the Second World War. Until the second half of the 1930s, Soviet-Turkish relations were warm and somewhat fraternal. The previous incarnations of the two states, the Turkish Government of the Grand National Assembly and Bolshevist Russia, had promised to cooperate with each other in the Treaty of Moscow. [4]

The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits was convened in 1936, with the governments of Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the Soviet Union, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia represented, to determine both military and regulatory policy for the Turkish straits. [5] It was the latest of several negotiations regarding the two waterways. Previous treaties and conferences had taken place over the spans of the 19th and 20th centuries. The issue had been revived again with the rise of Fascist Italy and its expansionist policies, as well as a fear that Bulgaria would take it upon itself to remilitarise the straits. [6] Upon the treaty's signing, on July 20, 1936, Turkey was permitted to militarise and regulate the straits. The treaty explicitly forbade the traversing of the straits by ships not belonging to any of the Black Sea states. [7]

Throughout the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Stalin repeatedly challenged the agreements reached by the 1936 convention, asking as early as 1939 for an alternative arrangement. He proposed joint Turkish and Soviet control of the straits. [8] Upon the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov informed his German colleagues of his country's desire to forcefully take control of the straits and establish a military base in their proximity. [9]

Border dispute Edit

The Soviet Union wished for the Turkish-USSR border to be normalized in a way beneficial to the Armenian and Georgian SSRs. Deputy premier Lavrentiy Beria asserted to Stalin that a strip of Turkish-controlled territory stretching southwest from Georgia to Giresun (including Lazistan) had been stolen from the Georgians by the Turks under the Ottoman Empire. If Beria's new border were to be agreed upon by the Turkish government, Soviet influence over the Black Sea and Middle East would increase and, in the process, the influence of the British Empire in the latter region would decrease. [11] The argument was retracted, along with Soviet reservations over the regime of the straits, in May 1953. [12]

Escalation Edit

Tensions between the USSR and Turkey grew over Turkey's allowing of non-Black Sea powers naval vessels, including those of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, with civilian crews to traverse the straits during WWII. After the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany, the Soviets returned to the issue in 1945 and 1946. Throughout 1946, American and Turkish diplomats frequently conversed on the issue. The April 6, 1946 visit of the American battleship USS Missouri further angered the Soviets. The ship had come to the region under the explanation that it was delivering the mortuary urn of the late Turkish Ambassador home, a claim which was dismissed by the Soviets as coincidental. [13]

Soviet message to Turkey Edit

On August 7, 1946, the Soviets presented a note to the Turkish Foreign Ministry which expressed that the way Turkey was handling the straits no longer represented the security interests of its fellow Black Sea nations. This drew attention to the occasions in which Italian and German warships had passed through the straits without conflict (the German ships were only arrested by Turkish forces once the country declared war on Germany on February 23, 1945). The note concluded that the regime of the straits was no longer reliable and demanded that the Montreux Treaty be re-examined and rewritten in a new international conference. [14]

The US stance Edit

When the issue was brought up at the Potsdam Conference, the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, said the question of the straits was a domestic political issue pertaining to Turkey and the USSR, and should be solved by the two involved parties. [15] As the argument heated up in the days preceding Potsdam, the United States decided it firmly did not want the straits to fall into Soviet hands, as it would give them a major strategic gateway between the Black Sea and Mediterranean and possibly lead to a Communist Turkey. In a secret telegram sent by US Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson to diplomats in Paris, he explained the American position on the matter. [16]

In our opinion the primary objective of the Soviet Union is to obtain control over Turkey. We believe that if the Soviet Union succeeds in introducing into Turkey armed forces with the ostensible purpose of enforcing the joint control of the Straits, the Soviet Union will use these forces in order to obtain control over Turkey…. In our opinion, therefore, the time has come when we must decide that we shall resist with all means at our disposal any Soviet aggression and in particular, because the case of Turkey would be so clear, any Soviet aggression against Turkey. In carrying this policy our words and acts will only carry conviction to the Soviet Union if they are formulated against the background of an inner conviction and determination on our part that we cannot permit Turkey to become the object of Soviet aggression.

On August 20, 1946, Undersecretary Acheson met with fifteen journalists to explain the urgency of the situation and make the opinions of the United States Government known. [17]

Western support of Turkey and de-escalation Edit

In the summer and autumn of 1946, the Soviet Union increased its naval presence in the Black Sea, having Soviet vessels perform manoeuvres near Turkish shores. A substantial number of ground troops were dispatched to the Balkans. Buckling under the mounting pressure from the Soviets, in a matter of days Turkey appealed to the United States for aid. After consulting his administration, President Truman sent a naval task force to Turkey. [18] On October 9, 1946, the respective governments of the United States and United Kingdom reaffirmed their support for Turkey. [19] On October 26, the Soviet Union withdrew its specific request for a new summit on the control of the Turkish Straits (but not its opinions) and sometime shortly thereafter pulled out most of the intimidatory military forces from the region. Turkey abandoned its policy of neutrality and accepted USD $100 million in economic and defence aid from the US in 1947 under the Truman Doctrine's plan of ceasing the spread of Soviet influence into Turkey and Greece. The two aforementioned nations joined NATO in 1952. [20]

Continued debate (1947–1953) Edit

The Turkish government appointed a new ambassador to Moscow, Faik Akdur, in November 1946. Turkish President İnönü instructed Akdur to focus solely on further development of relations with the Soviet Union. Akdur was also specifically forbidden to engage in talks regarding the straits if they did occur. [21]

The United States proposed that an international conference be held to decide the fate of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus once and for all. Then-Soviet Ambassador to Turkey, Sergei Vinogradov, responded in the form of a memorandum sent to the Soviet capital on December 10, 1946, asserting that a conference held in such a climate as described by the United States was unacceptable, in that the Soviet Union was certain to be outvoted. He predicted that, instead of a regime change, which was the steadfast and undying goal of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, the current infrastructure with which the straits were regulated would survive, albeit with some changes. [22]

The Soviet ambassador to Turkey during the first year-and-a-half of the crisis, Sergei Vinogradov, was replaced by the Soviet Politburo in 1948. With his successor, Aleksandr Lavrishev, came a set of instructions from the Soviet Foreign Ministry which would prove to be the last momentous Soviet document on the straits.

If the Turks want to know our stand on the straits, an answer would be as follows: the Soviet position has been thoroughly stated in the notes dated August 7 and September 24, 1946.

After the death of Joseph Stalin, motivation behind a regime change declined within the Soviet government, and on May 30, 1953, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov disowned the Russian claims over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, as well as the other territorial disputes along the Turkish-Armenia-Georgian border. [24]

Upon realizing the international climate would make diplomatic control over the straits as well as Turkey in general difficult, the Soviet Union made moves towards thawing relations with the country in a last-ditch effort to have a piece of the Middle East under its wing. When Turkey joined Western aligned NATO in 1952, these hopes were dashed. [25] The Montreux Treaty of 1936, with revisions, is still in place in the present day between the successor states of the USSR and Turkey. [26]

President Truman confronts Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov - HISTORY

The Cold War developed as differences about the shape of the postwar world created suspicion and distrust between the United States and the Soviet Union. The first--and most difficult--test case was Poland, the eastern half of which had been invaded and occupied by the USSR in 1939. Moscow demanded a government subject to Soviet influence Washington wanted a more independent, representative government following the Western model. The Yalta Conference of February 1945 had produced an agreement on Eastern Europe open to different interpretations. It included a promise of "free and unfettered" elections.

1. What European country provided the first test case in the Cold War? a. Austria b. Germany c. Latvia d. Poland.

2. The _____ accords promised "free and unfettered elections" in countries liberated by the Allies. a. Camp David b. Casablanca c. Dayton Peace d. Yalta.

Meeting with Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov less than two weeks after becoming president, Truman stood firm on Polish self-determination, lecturing the Soviet diplomat about the need to implement the Yalta accords. When Molotov protested, "I have never been talked to like that in my life," Truman retorted, "Carry out your agreements and you won't get talked to like that." Relations deteriorated from that point onward.

3. Who served as the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs at this time? Vyacheslav Molotov

4. Harry S. Truman showed himself to be quite flexible on the issue of Polish self-determination. a. True b. False.

During the closing months of World War II, Soviet military forces occupied all of Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow used its military power to support the efforts of the Communist parties in Eastern Europe and crush the democratic parties. Communists took over one nation after another. The process concluded with a shocking coup d'état in Czechoslovakia in 1948.

5. How did the Soviet Union support the efforts of the Communist parties in Eastern Europe and crush the democratic parties? Crushing them and aiding a coup

6. In 1948, the Soviets backed a shocking coup d'état in what country? a. China b. Czechoslovakia c. Italy d. Vietnam.

Public statements defined the beginning of the Cold War. In 1946 Stalin declared that international peace was impossible "under the present capitalist development of the world economy." Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered a dramatic speech in Fulton, Missouri, with Truman sitting on the platform. "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic," Churchill said, "an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." Britain and the United States, he declared, had to work together to counter the Soviet threat.

7. Who coined the phrase "iron curtain"? Winston Churchill

The map to the left depicts Poland following World War II.

8. What body of water borders Poland to the north? a. Atlantic Ocean b. Baltic Sea c. Indian Ocean d. Mediterranean Sea.

9. What three countries bordered Poland at this time? Czechoslovakia, Germany, and the Soviet Union

President Truman confronts Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov - HISTORY

The United States, the UK, and the Soviet Union were allies during World War II. However, immediately after that, Winston Churchill described the new climate in Eastern Europe as having an “Iron Curtain” falling upon it. He was of course referring to the Soviet Union.

Necessity brought the three countries together during WWII. They had common enemies, the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. That was the only reason, but the truth is they had differing political, social, and economic ideals this was why the United States and the Soviet Union became rivals right after the war. The two nations never engaged the other directly but were involved in “Proxy Wars” which included the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Cold War Timeline (1945-1991)

Apr 23 – Harry Truman takes over as president and establishes his position to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

Aug 2 – The reconstruction and division of Europe is agreed upon during the Potsdam conference.

Aug 6 – The U.S. uses an atomic weapon for the first time against the Japanese on the city of Hiroshima, and later on Nagasaki.

Feb 9 – Stalin gives a speech saying that communism and capitalism cannot co-exist.

Mar 5 – Winston Churchill, in a response to Stalin gives his “Sinews of Peace” speech wherein he refers to the Iron Curtain descending upon Europe.

Mar 10 – President Truman demands Russia/USSR to vacate Iran.

Mar 17 – In order to protect Europe from Communism, the Brussels Pact is signed.

May 12 – The Berlin Blockade comes to an end.

Oct – Communist Mao Tse Tung takes over China and defeats the Nationalists.

Jul 27 – The Korean War ends through the signing of an armistice agreement.

Aug 19 – Operation Ajax is the CIA operation that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Sep 7 – Soviet Communist Party chooses a new leader in Nikita Krushchev.

May – The Philippines is infiltrated by communist factions known as the Huk.

Jun 18-27 – Another covert operation by the CIA was the Guatemalan Coup d’etat aimed to depose President Guzman.

Jul – Vietnam is divided to north and south at the 17th parallel.

May 9 – The Philippines is infiltrated by communist factions known as the Huk.

May – Another covert operation by the CIA was the Guatemalan Coup d’etat aimed to depose President Guzman.

Apr – North Vietnam stirs a Communist insurgency in South Vietnam.

Aug 26 – The first ICBM is launched using a Vostok.

Oct 1 – In anticipation of a potential soviet ICBM nuclear attack, the Strategic Air Command issues 24/7 alerts which lasted until 1991.

Sep – Visiting the US, Khrushchev is denied entry into Disneyland. He goes to SeaWorld instead.

Apr 15 – In an attempt to invade Cuba by the CIA, the mission fails. This is known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Aug 13 – After failing to decide the future of Germany, the Berlin Wall is erected by the Soviets.

Oct 27 – Legendary Checkpoint Charlie begins stand off between US & Soviet tanks.

Nov 2 – The CIA is suspected in the assassination coup of Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam.

Sep 30 – Indonesian generals attempting a coup are killed in the 30 September Movement.

Apr 25 – The Treaty of Tlatelolco is signed by thrity-three Latin American and Caribbean countries that prohibit nuclear weapons in those areas.

Jun 5 – The Six Day War is Israel’s invasion of the Sinai Peninsula in response to Egyptian aggression.

Jan 30 – As the war in Vietnam intensifies, one of the major events take place known as the Tet Offensive.

Mar 2 – China and the Soviet Union continue to have border clashes, known as the Sino-Soviet Conflict.

Jul 20 – The USA becomes the first to land on the moon with Apollo 11.

Jul 25 – The US begin withdrawal from Vietnam to allow “Vietnamization” to take place. This puts the burden of combat on the South Vietnamese.

Mar 17 – Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia are bombed by the United States.

Sep 3 – A prelude to Detente, the Four Power Agreement on Berlin was agreed upon by the main wartime allied powers, the UK, US, USSR, and France.

Sep 11 – Nikita Khrushchev dies.

May 26 – The beginning of Detente between the US and USSR results in the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I).

Sep 11 – Chilean Marxist President Salvador Allende is overthrown via a coup d’etat led by Augusto Pinochet who received backing from the US.

Aug 9 – Richard Nixon resigns and is replaced by Gerald Ford as President of the U.S.

Apr 30 – South Vietnam falls and surrender’s Saigon. North and South Vietnam are united ruled by a Communist Government.

Jul 1 – The Helsinki Accords are signed by the Canada, all European states (except Albania and Andorra), and the USA. The purpose of the accords was to ease the tension between the West and the Communist bloc.

Jan 16 – From monarchy to theocracy, the Iranian Revolution ousts vestiges of Shah Reza Pahlavi, a pro-western supporter and installs the Ayatollah Khomeini as leader in Iran.

Feb 17 – China attacks North Vietnam for invading Cambodia, this is part of the Sino-Vietnamese War.

May 9 – In South America, Marxists in El Salvador engage in a war against the government which was being supported by the US.

Jun 18 – Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT II agreement.

Jul 17 – The Somoza dictatorship of Nicaragua is overthrown by Sandinista revolutionaries.

Nov 4 – Hardline Islamist students in Iran overwhelm the American Embassy. This is the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis.

Nov 23 – The CIA support the anti-Sandinista rebels. The Sandinista’s are avowed Marxists.

Mar 8 – President Reagan calls the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” during a speech given to the National Association of Evangelicals.

Mar 23 – In a move to protect the United States from nuclear threats, specially against the Soviets, President Reagan proposes the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Sep 1 – A Soviet interceptor aircraft shoots down a Korean Air Lines plane killing 269 passengers. The US condemns this act and put the Soviets on alert.

Jul 28 – Countries allied with the Soviet Union decide to boycott the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The move was meant to show the US that the communists were still united.

Jun 4 – Poland holds a “semi-free” election in which the Solidarity Trade Union wins 99% of the senate seats available and all the seats in parliament. This weakens the communist hold in the country.

Nov 9 – The Berlin Wall Falls. Revolutions spread across Eastern Europe, mostly in countries under the Soviet Union’s control. The borders dividing East and West Berlin have been opened.


Joseph Stalin, General Secretary and de facto leader of the Soviet Union, spoke at the Bolshoi Theatre on 9 February 1946, the night before the symbolic 1946 Supreme Soviet election. The speech did not discuss foreign policy, but instead made pledges to expand industry. He justified the expansion by pointing to Marxist–Leninist theory, warning that capitalism possessed a predisposition towards conflict. [2]

Stalin's speech provoked fear in the American press and public, [6] with Time magazine calling it "the most warlike pronouncement uttered by any top-rank statesman since V-J Day." [4] George F. Kennan, then working for the US State Department as chargé d'affaires in Moscow, [7] found the speech routine and reflective of previous statements from Stalin. [2] With this in mind, he issued only a quick summary of the speech for the State Department. [2] Despite the familiar statements from Stalin, the context in which they were made – including the Soviet Union's recent rejection of Bretton Woods and evidence of atomic espionage in the United States and Canada – alarmed officials in Washington. [8] In a 1982 interview, former diplomat Elbridge Durbrow expressed that Stalin's speech had in effect said, "to hell with the rest of the world." [9] US President Harry Truman was confused by the Soviet's policies, at times appearing belligerent and at others exercising self-restraint. [10] Leaders were increasingly coming to the conclusion that the existing quid pro quo strategy was ineffective against the Soviets, but had no replacement strategy. [11]

Durbrow and other diplomat H. Freeman Matthews – both readers of Kennan's earlier telegrams – were confused by Kennan's relative silence about the speech. On 13 February, Matthews drafted a message, signed by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, asking for an analysis. The message described the press and public's reaction having been, "to a degree not hitherto felt", [12] and expressed: "We should welcome receiving from you an interpretive analysis of what we may expect in the way of future implementation of these announced policies." [12] W. Averell Harriman, having recently return from his ambassadorship to the Soviet Union, spoke to Kennan and encouraged him to write a thorough analysis. [12] [note 1]

Kennan probably wrote out rough drafts of a message before dictating a final version to his secretary, Dorothy Hessman, on 22 February 1946. [13] Finishing late at night, he took the message to the Mokhovaya code room in Moscow and had it telegraphed back to Washington. [14] The message was quickly dubbed the "long telegram" because, at a little over 5,000 words, it was the longest telegram ever sent in the history of the State Department. [15] [note 2]

Identified as "511" by Kennan's State Department number, [17] the message is divided into five sections, covering the Soviet Union's background, current features, future prospects and the implications these would have for the United States. [18] It opens with an apology for the its length but qualifies the necessity of responding to all the then pressing concerns at once. [17] Kennan begins by laying out the world from the Soviet's perspective, splitting it into socialist and capitalist sectors. [19] The alliance between the United States and Great Britain was destined to fail, [20] and would either lead to war between them or a joint attack on the Soviet Union. [19] The Soviets believed they would ultimately prevail in such a conflict, but would need to grow their strength and exploit the capitalist's tendency towards conflict amongst one another in the meantime. [19] Kennan described these ideas as absurd, pointing out that capitalist countries were not failing and were not always in conflict. [21] Further, he described the idea that the United States and Great Britain would deliberately enter into a war against the Soviets as the "sheerest nonsense". [22]

The Soviet leaders reached these illogical sentiments, he explained, [22] because, " . at the bottom of the Kremlin's view of world affairs is a traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity." [10] The authority of previous Russian rulers was "archaic in form, fragile and artificial in its psychological foundation, unable to stand comparison or contact with political systems of western countries." [22] This understanding of Russian history was joined with the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. [22] Their obstinance in dealing with the West was borne out of necessity [23] seeing the rest of the world as hostile provided an excuse "for the dictatorship without which they did not know how to rule, for cruelties they did not dare not to inflict, for sacrifices they felt bound to demand." [23] Until the Soviet Union either experienced consistent failures or their leader was persuaded that they were negatively impacting their nation's interest, the West could not expect any reciprocity from the Soviets. [23]

The Soviet government, Kennan continued, could be understood as occupying two distinct spaces: an official, visible government and another operating without any official acknowledgement. [22] While the former would participate in international diplomacy, the latter would attempt to undermine the capitalist nations as much as possible, [22] including efforts to "disrupt national self confidence, to hamstring measures of national defense, to increase social and industrial unrest, to stimulate all forms of disunity." [22] He concludes that the Soviets ultimately have no expectation of reconciliation with the West. [10]

Kennan concludes not by offering specific courses of action, but instead offers more general solutions, such as the necessity of maintaining courage and self-confidence in interactions with the Soviets. [11] Managing the threat would require "the same thoroughness and care as solution of major strategic problem in war, and if necessary, with no smaller outlay in planning effort." [24] Comparing them to Nazi Germany, he points out that the Soviets were much more patient and often risk averse. [24] Being weaker than the West, not having regular procedures for replacing leaders, having absorbed too many territories, failing to inspire its people and being overly reliant on negative propaganda meant "we may approach calmly and with good heart [the] problem of how to deal with Russia." [24]

Kennan emphasizes the need of educating the American public about the threat of international communism. [24] Keeping Western society strong was important to ward of the expansive tendencies of communism: [24] "The greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping." [25]

On American foreign policy Edit

Matthews sent Kennan a cable praising the telegram, describing it as "magnificent", adding, "I cannot overestimate its importance to those of us here struggling with the problem." [14] Byrnes praised it as well, writing he had read it "with the greatest interest" and describing it as "a splendid analysis". [14] Harriman was less enthused, calling it "fairly long, and a little bit slow reading in spots." [14] He nonetheless sent a copy to Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. Forrestal was largely responsible for the spread of the long telegram, sending copies across Washington. [14] It gained a larger readership than was typical for a classified document, with readers including ambassador to Cuba Henry Norweb, British diplomat Frank Roberts, General George C. Marshall and President Truman. [26]

The long telegram was quickly read and accepted by Washington bureaucrats as the best explanation of Soviet behavior. [27] Policymakers, military officials and intelligence analysts generally came to understand that the Soviet Union's primary foreign policy goal was world domination under a Communist state. [28] Historian John Lewis Gaddis writes that the ultimate impact of the long telegram is that it "became the basis for United States strategy toward the Soviet Union throughout the rest of the Cold War", [23] and that it "won [Kennan] the reputation of being the government's foremost Soviet expert". [29] In 1967, Kennan reflected "My reputation was made. My voice now carried." [30] In mid-April 1946, at Forrestal's insistance Kennan received an appointment in the National War College as Deputy for Foreign Affairs. [31]

The Truman administration quickly accepted Kennan's conclusions, understanding that the Soviet's had no reasonable grievances with the West and would never cooperate with capitalist states. It was therefore senseless to try and address the Soviet's concerns, leaving a policy of containing Russian interests as the best response. [32] Historian Louis Halle writes that the timing of the long telegram's appearance was important, "[coming] right at a time when the Department . was floundering about, looking for new intellectual moorings." [33] He continues that the telegram served as "a new and realistic conception to which it might attach itself." [34] Gaddis and historian Wilson D. Miscamble both believe that Halle overstates Kennan's impact on State Department thinking, emphasizing that the Department was already moving towards a more adversarial position against the Soviets, [35] though Miscamble concedes, "there can be no doubt that Kennan's cable exercised a catalytic effect upon departmental thinking especially as regards the possibility of the United States achieving any non-adversary relationship with the Soviet Union." [36]

– George F. Kennan reflecting on the long telegram, 1967

Offering a different perspective, Matthews notes in a 12 March 1946 letter that the administration had already moved in the direction of not catering to Soviet interests before the long telegram, pointing to a speech Byrnes delivered on 28 February, drafted before Byrnes had read Kennan's message. [38] In the speech, Byrnes explains: "We will not and we cannot stand aloof if force or threat is used contrary to the purposes of the [United Nations] Charter. . If we are to be a great power we must act as a great power, not only in order to ensure our own security but in order to preserve the peace of the world." [38] Matthews explains that long telegram would instead serve as the administration's rationale for subsequent actions. [38] [note 3] Historian Melvyn P. Leffler points out that before the long telegram had circulated widely, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had already resolved in February 1946 that "collaboration with the Soviet Union should stop short not only of compromise of principle but also of expansion of Russian influence in Europe and in the Far East. [39]

On the Soviet Union Edit

Though the long telegram was a classified document, it circulated widely enough that a copy leaked out to Soviet intelligence. Stalin was among its readers and called on his American ambassador, Nikolai Novikov, to send a similar telegram from Washington to Moscow. [40] Ghostwritten by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, [41] the piece was sent on 27 September 1946. [20]

Representative of Stalin's opinions, [20] Novikov's telegram argued in part: "The foreign policy of the United States reflects the imperialistic tendencies of American monopolistic capitalism, [and] is characterized . by a striving for world supremacy." [42] Amiercan would attempt to achieve supremacy by cooperating with Great Britain, [43] but their cooperation was "plagued with great internal contradictions and cannot be lasting . It is quite possible that the Near East will become a center of Anglo-American contradictions that will explode the agreements now reached between the United States and England." [42]

Kennan provided commentary on Novikov's telegram in a 1991 piece for the journal Diplomatic History. [44] He wrote in part, "These poor people, put on the spot, produced the thing," but "it was only a way of saying to their masters in Moscow: 'How true, sir!'". [45]

Origins Edit

On 7 January 1947, Kennan spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations, based at the Harold Pratt House in New York City. [46] The theme of the meeting was "Soviet Foreign Relations", presented to a small group and designated as "not for attribution". Kennan did not prepare a written a speech, having given dozens of similar talks in the years before. In his talk, he discussed the Soviet leader's perspectives on the rest of the world, rooted in both their Marxist-Leninist ideology and Russian history. The Soviets justified their dictatorship by pointing to external enemies, most of which were imaginary. For change to occur, the United States and its allies would need to "contain" the Soviets in a "non-provocative way". [47]

International banker R. Gordon Wasson attended the discussion and was impressed by Kennan, suggesting that the Council revise the talk for publication in their journal Foreign Affairs. Journal editor Hamilton Fish Armstrong had not attended the discussion but requested on 10 January that Kennan revise his talk into an article. [48] Kennan responded to Armstrong in a 4 February letter, writing, "I really can not write anything of value on Russia for publication under my own name. If you would be interested in an anonymous article, or one under a pen name, . I might be able to make the necessary arrangements." [48] Armstrong replied on 7 March, agreeing to Kennan's suggestion, writing that the "disadvantage of anonymity" was outweighed by the potential importance of the article. [48]

Taking time off from the State Department, Kennan worked as a lecturer at the National War College. His work left him little time to write a new essay, so he searched for previous work to repurpose. In January 1946, Forrestal had asked Kennan for an analysis of a piece by Smith College professor Edward F. Willett entitled "Dialectical Materialism And Russian Objectives". Kennan was unimpressed with the work, but decided that rather than denigrating the piece he would instead publish a new analysis. [49] The paper, titled "Psychological Background of Soviet Foreign Policy", was around six-thousand words. In late-January 1946, he sent it to Forrestal, who described it as "extremely well-done", sending it on to General Marshall. [50] [note 4] In a 10 March letter to John T. Connor, an aide of Forrestal, Kennan inquired as to whether it would be appropriate to publish this piece anonymously to Foreign Affairs. [53] Forrestal agreed, as did the State Department's Committee on Unofficial Publications. [50]

Kennan made several minor corrections to the piece, along with scratching his name out and writing "X" in its place. He added a note on authorship, writing: "The author of this article is one who has had long experience with Russian affairs, both practically and academically, but whose position makes it impossible for him to write about them under his own name." [50] Armstrong published Kennan's piece under the title "The Sources of Soviet Conduct", removing Kennan's note and leaving only the "X" as an identifier. [54]

"The Sources of Soviet Conduct" Edit

– "X" (George F. Kennan), The Sources of Soviet Conduct, Section II

Kennan's piece opens with a description of how the Soviet leaders were shaped by Marxism-Leninism, serving as the "pseudo-scientific justification" [56] for why Stalin and the other leaders ought to remain in power despite lacking popular support. [50] At times quoting Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, [57] he writes that the Soviet leaders "aggressive intransigence" against the outside world compelled them "to chastise the contumacy" which they had provoked. [58] To maintain power, the Soviet leaders would need to maintain the illusion of external threats: [50]

. the [Soviet] leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet leaders themselves. [59]

The Soviets, however, were not prepared to attempt an immediate overthrow of the West, it being implicit in their ideology that capitalism would inevitably fail. [60] They would instead turn their focus to the long-term goal of "[filling] every nook and cranny available to it in the basin of world power." [61] To oppose them, the United States would need long-term strategies to contain Soviet expansionary ambitions. Containment against the Soviets, Kennan explains, would require an application of "counter-force" along shifting points of geographical and political interests. [60] This "perimeter defense" concept, wherein all geographic area were considered of equal importance, [62] required the United States "to confront the Russians with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world." [63]

Containment would prove its success in the long-term because the Soviet economy was rudimentary and the government leadership lacked procedures for orderly succession. [60] Any disruption in Soviet politics held the possibility of "[changing the state] overnight from one of the strongest to one of the weakest and most pitiable of national societies." [64] Containment was particularly suited for use against the Soviets, Kennan thought, because of their Marxist-Leninist ideology, which encourages a patience not evident with leaders like Napoleon or Hitler. [65] He continues: " . the Kremlin is under no ideological compulsion to accomplish its purposes in a hurry. Like the Church, it is dealing in ideological concepts which are of long-term valididty . It has no right to risk the existing achievements of the revolution for the sake of vain baubles of the future." [66]

– "X" (George F. Kennan), The Sources of Soviet Conduct, Section III

The end result of containment would allow for "either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power." [68] The indefinite frustration the Soviets were bound to face would necessitate their adjustment to the reality of their situation. [52] The strategy would require the United States to manage its own issues successfully, [52] with Kennan concluding: "To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation. Surely, there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. [69]

Immediate Edit

Armstrong wrote to Kennan in May 1947, [70] writing, "It's a pleasure for an editor to deal with something that needs practically no revision. . I only wish for your sake as well as for ours that it could carry your name." [52] The piece was due for inclusion in Foreign Affairs next issue, July 1947. [71] [note 5] The long delay between its writing and publication – some five months – resulted in the piece not discussing recent communist uprisings in Greece and Turkey, nor any mention of the Truman Doctrine. [52]

The magazine did not circulate widely with a little over 19,000 subscribers and a then expensive cover price of $1.25 (equivalent to $14 in 2020). The July issue did not deviate from these trends until journalist Arthur Krock wrote a column in The New York Times on 8 July. [72] In it, he writes that the main thrust of "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" was "exactly that adopted by the American government after appeasement of the Kremlin proved a failure", [73] and that the piece's author had clearly studied the Soviet Union "at the closest range possible for a foreigner." [73] Krock concludes that the author's views "closely resemble those marked 'Top Secret' in several official files in Washington." [73]

Krock's column resulted in a rush for copies of Foreign Affairs. [72] He had not identified Kennan as "X" in his column, [72] but proved responsible for revealing Kennan's identity [74] Forrestal had let Krock see the draft copy sent to Foreign Affairs, still containing Kennan's name at its end. [72] Other diplomats suspected Kennan's authorship due to the piece's distinct prose as well as the quoting of Edward Gibbon. [75] As the rumor spread, the State Department offered no comment. The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of the United States, broke the story on Kennan's identity, with a headline on 9 July reading: "'X' Bared as State Dep't Aid [sic]: Calls for Overthrow of Soviet Government". [76]

Kennan's role in the State Department lent the article the authority of an official policy declaration. [74] Though he had not intended for the article to be a comprehensive statement on American foreign policy, [74] a piece in the 21 July issue of Newsweek explained that the "X" article provided a rationale for both the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and "[charted] the course that this country is likely to pursue for years to come." [77] Marshall, concerned by the amount of attention both Kennan and the article were drawing, spoke with Kennan in a private meeting. [76] Kennan's explanation that the article had been "cleared for publication by the competent official committee" satisfied Marshall, "[b]ut it was long, I suspect, before he recovered from his astonishment over the strange ways of the department he now headed." [78]

Walter Lippmann's critique Edit

Political commentator Walter Lippmann responded to the article, [74] published in the New York Herald Tribune across fourteen different columns, the first which appeared on 2 September 1947. [79] Lippmann's analysis was widely read and collected in a 1947 book. [79] [note 6] Lippmann critiqued the article as having presented a "strategic monstrosity", providing the Soviets with the initiative in any conflict, resulting in the United States depending on "a coalition of disorganized, disunited, feeble or disorderly nations, tribles and factions." [79]

Lippmann incorrectly concluded that Kennan's article had inspired the Truman Doctrine, which Lippmann opposed. [80] Kennan's article was completed in late January 1947 and Truman announced his Doctrine in a 12 March 1947 speech. Despite this chronology, Gaddis writes: "there is no evidence that it influenced the drafting of that address and abundant evidence that Kennan had sought to remove the language in it to which Lippmann later objected." [79] For Lippmann, however, the piece was "not only an analytical interpretation of the sources of Soviet conduct. It is also a document of primary importance on the sources of American foreign policy – of at least that part of it which is known as the Truman Doctrine." [79]

Because of the rushed nature in which Kennan had written the article, he regretted some views expressed within and agreed with some of Lippmann's critiques. [74] Though Kennan did not send the final draft of the piece until 11 April – a month after the announcement of the Truman Doctrine – he did not revise it despite having qualms with sections of the Doctrine. [80] Kennan's position in the State Department made hesitant offering any public clarification, [81] not offering a response until the publishing of the first volume of his memoirs in 1967. [74]

Long term Edit

"The Sources of Soviet Conduct" widely introduced the term "containment". [82] Reflecting on the article in his 1979 memoir, Henry Kissinger writes, "George Kennan came as close to authoring the diplomatic doctrine of his era as any diplomat in our history." [83] Gaddis writes that Kennan's silence to Lippmann's critiques resulted in the idea of containment becoming "synonymous, in the minds of most people who knew the phrase, with Truman's doctrine." [81] Gaddis further writes that some have misinterpreted Kennan's views by placing undue emphasis on the "conspicuous but misleading 'X' article." [84] [note 7]

In the article, Kennan uses refers to "counterforce" rather than "counter-pressure" and does not explain its meaning, something in his memoirs he admitted led to confusion for readers. [86] Kennan reassessed his views on perimeter defense after the article was published, instead shifting to the idea of "strongpoint defense" with defense instead focused on particular areas. [87]

In Kennan's memoirs he recalled that his "entire diplomatic experience took place in rather high northern latitudes." [88] Thomas Borstelmann writes that Kennan's few experiences outside of Europe contributed to his detestation of the people of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America: "He tended to lup them together as impulsive, fanatical, ignorant, lazy, unhappy, and prone to mental disorders and other biological deficiencies." [89] In the first of his memoirs, published in 1967, Kennan links Soviet despotism to its leaders "attitude of Oriental secretiveness and conspiracy." [90] In a 1942 lecture, he explained that the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 revealed the Russians were not "westernized" but instead "17th century semi-Asiatic people." [89] Borstelmann further writes that Kennan's perspectives on race were not unique to him but were instead common in his contemporary American policymaking circles. [89]


In the last few days, President Reagan has proposed a formula for the reduction of nuclear weapons, and President Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, while rejecting Mr. Reagan's specific suggestions, has agreed that they should get together later in the year to talk this over.

Mr. Brezhnev said that Mr. Reagan's proposals were ''insincere'' and implied that they were a trap to give Washington a nuclear advantage, which in the normal vindictive language of the Politburo is almost a compliment. Mr. Brezhnev even described this exchange as a ''step forward,'' which in a way it was.

So the melody, if not the policy, on nuclear war is changing - not much but some. Washington and Moscow have recently been modifying their 'ɽiplomacy'' of public insults. Mr. Reagan is no longer denouncing the Soviet leaders as a band of godless liars and cheats who would do anything to conquer the world. And he's no longer insisting that they get out of Afghanistan and be decent to the Poles before he'll talk to them about the stupidity of blowing up the world.

It will no doubt be a long time, if ever, before the two nuclear giants agree on the reduction, emplacement and development of nuclear weapons, but it would probably be a mistake to ignore this recent tendency to reduce the level of verbal violence.

As a basis for the nuclear negotiations, Mr. Brezhnev made some practical maneuvers that officials here agree are at least worth discussing. They have their doubts but also their hopes, and despite the opposition of some officials in the Pentagon and the National Security Council, President Reagan has apparently been persuaded that before he goes to Europe next month and starts negotiations with Moscow in the fall, it may be wise to cool the anti-Soviet rhetoric.

The Kremlin has a way of excusing its reckless cold war language - I listen to Radio Moscow every night at 11 and the charges against the United States are beyond belief - but paradoxically, it is highly sensitive and defensive about any statement made against it by even the most junior Con-gressman, or the silliest anti-Communist columnist.

It so happens that this week is the 35th anniversary of the day when Congress endorsed the Truman Doctrine, which by giving economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey started Washington's policy of 'ɼontainment'' of Soviet military expansion.

The history of this 'ɽoctrine of containment'' is instructive, and tells us something about the power of words and the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy. A few days after Franklin Roosevelt died, the then Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav M. Molotov, called at the White House on President Truman, who lectured him on the sins of Soviet foreign policy.

Truman quotes Mr. Molotov as saying, ''I have never been talked to like that in my life.'' Shortly thereafter Stalin made, as James Forrestal wrote in his diary, a declaration of war on the capitalist world. And Churchill responded almost at once by his speech at Fulton, Mo., about ''the iron curtain'' that had descended between East and West.

The Greek-Turkish debate in Washington also illustrates the accidents of history. It started as a practical and limited objective in 1947 of giving aid to these two countries to oppose a Communist takeover of Greece, which the British no longer had the power or the funds to oppose.

However, when Secretary of State George Marshall suggested to the leaders of Congress that they should vote funds to help Greece and Turkey, they protested that Truman was merely trying ''to pull Britain's chestnuts out of the fire.''

At that point, Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson changed the question, and argued that this was not merely an issue of Greece and Turkey, but a global issue ''to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.''

In these sweeping and dramatic terms, the Greek-Turkish aid bill was not only passed but became a symbol of the threat of Communist expansion.

That was also President Nixon's and President Johnson's view when they went into the war in Vietnam and President Reagan's opinion when he came into the White House. But now, confronted by the nuclear threat, even Mr. Reagan is beginning to have second thoughts, and wondering, not entirely about the things that divide Washington and Moscow, but also maybe about the only thing that unites them - the threat and control of nuclear weapons.


By 1945, the Japanese had suffered a string of defeats for nearly two years in the South West Pacific, the Marianas campaign, and the Philippines campaign. In July 1944, following the loss of Saipan, General Hideki Tōjō was replaced as prime minister by General Kuniaki Koiso, who declared that the Philippines would be the site of the decisive battle. [1] After the Japanese loss of the Philippines, Koiso in turn was replaced by Admiral Kantarō Suzuki. The Allies captured the nearby islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the first half of 1945. Okinawa was to be a staging area for Operation Downfall, the Allied invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. [2] Following Germany's defeat, the Soviet Union began quietly redeploying its battle-hardened forces from the European theatre to the Far East, in addition to about forty divisions that had been stationed there since 1941, as a counterbalance to the million-strong Kwantung Army. [3]

The Allied submarine campaign and the mining of Japanese coastal waters had largely destroyed the Japanese merchant fleet. With few natural resources, Japan was dependent on raw materials, particularly oil, imported from Manchuria and other parts of the East Asian mainland, and from the conquered territory in the Dutch East Indies. [4] The destruction of the Japanese merchant fleet, combined with the strategic bombing of Japanese industry, had wrecked Japan's war economy. Production of coal, iron, steel, rubber, and other vital supplies was only a fraction of that before the war. [5] [6]

As a result of the losses it had suffered, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had ceased to be an effective fighting force. Following a series of raids on the Japanese shipyard at Kure, the only major warships in fighting order were six aircraft carriers, four cruisers, and one battleship, none of which could be fueled adequately. Although 19 destroyers and 38 submarines were still operational, their use was limited by the lack of fuel. [7] [8]

Defense preparations

Faced with the prospect of an invasion of the Home Islands, starting with Kyūshū, and the prospect of a Soviet invasion of Manchuria—Japan's last source of natural resources—the War Journal of the Imperial Headquarters concluded in 1944:

We can no longer direct the war with any hope of success. The only course left is for Japan's one hundred million people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose the will to fight. [9]

As a final attempt to stop the Allied advances, the Japanese Imperial High Command planned an all-out defense of Kyūshū codenamed Operation Ketsugō. [10] This was to be a radical departure from the defense in depth plans used in the invasions of Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Instead, everything was staked on the beachhead more than 3,000 kamikazes would be sent to attack the amphibious transports before troops and cargo were disembarked on the beach. [8]

If this did not drive the Allies away, they planned to send another 3,500 kamikazes along with 5,000 Shin'yō suicide motorboats and the remaining destroyers and submarines—"the last of the Navy's operating fleet"—to the beach. If the Allies had fought through this and successfully landed on Kyūshū, 3,000 planes would have been left to defend the remaining islands, although Kyūshū would be "defended to the last" regardless. [8] The strategy of making a last stand at Kyūshū was based on the assumption of continued Soviet neutrality. [11]

A set of caves were excavated near Nagano on Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands. In the event of invasion, these caves, the Matsushiro Underground Imperial Headquarters, were to be used by the Army to direct the war and to house the Emperor and his family. [12]

Japanese policy-making centered on the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (created in 1944 by earlier Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso), the so-called "Big Six"—the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of the Army, Minister of the Navy, Chief of the Army General Staff, and Chief of the Navy General Staff. [13] At the formation of the Suzuki government in April 1945, the council's membership consisted of:

  • Prime Minister: Admiral Kantarō Suzuki
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Shigenori Tōgō
  • Minister of the Army: General Korechika Anami
  • Minister of the Navy: Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai
  • Chief of the Army General Staff: General Yoshijirō Umezu
  • Chief of the Navy General Staff: Admiral Koshirō Oikawa (later replaced by Admiral Soemu Toyoda)

All of these positions were nominally appointed by the Emperor and their holders were answerable directly to him. Nevertheless, Japanese civil law from 1936 required that the Army and Navy ministers had to be active duty flag officers from those respective services while Japanese military law from long before that time prohibited serving officers from accepting political offices without first obtaining permission from their respective service headquarters which, if and when granted, could be rescinded at any time. Thus, the Japanese Army and Navy effectively held a legal right to nominate (or refuse to nominate) their respective ministers, in addition to the effective right to order their respective ministers to resign their posts.

Strict constitutional convention dictated (as it technically still does today) that a prospective Prime Minister could not assume the premiership, nor could an incumbent Prime Minister remain in office, if he could not fill all of the cabinet posts. Thus, the Army and Navy could prevent the formation of undesirable governments, or by resignation bring about the collapse of an existing government. [14] [15]

Emperor Hirohito and Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Kōichi Kido also were present at some meetings, following the Emperor's wishes. [16] As Iris Chang reports, "the Japanese deliberately destroyed, hid or falsified most of their secret wartime documents." [17] [18]

For the most part, Suzuki's military-dominated cabinet favored continuing the war. For the Japanese, surrender was unthinkable—Japan had never been successfully invaded or lost a war in its history. [19] Only Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy minister, was known to desire an early end to the war. [20] According to historian Richard B. Frank:

Although Suzuki might indeed have seen peace as a distant goal, he had no design to achieve it within any immediate time span or on terms acceptable to the Allies. His own comments at the conference of senior statesmen gave no hint that he favored any early cessation of the war . Suzuki's selections for the most critical cabinet posts were, with one exception, not advocates of peace either. [21]

After the war, Suzuki and others from his government and their apologists claimed they were secretly working towards peace, and could not publicly advocate it. They cite the Japanese concept of haragei—"the art of hidden and invisible technique"—to justify the dissonance between their public actions and alleged behind-the-scenes work. However, many historians reject this. Robert J. C. Butow wrote:

Because of its very ambiguity, the plea of haragei invites the suspicion that in questions of politics and diplomacy a conscious reliance upon this 'art of bluff' may have constituted a purposeful deception predicated upon a desire to play both ends against the middle. While this judgment does not accord with the much-lauded character of Admiral Suzuki, the fact remains that from the moment he became Premier until the day he resigned no one could ever be quite sure of what Suzuki would do or say next. [22]

Japanese leaders had always envisioned a negotiated settlement to the war. Their prewar planning expected a rapid expansion and consolidation, an eventual conflict with the United States, and finally a settlement in which they would be able to retain at least some new territory they had conquered. [23] By 1945, Japan's leaders were in agreement that the war was going badly, but they disagreed over the best means to negotiate its end. There were two camps: the so-called "peace" camp favored a diplomatic initiative to persuade Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, to mediate a settlement between the Allies and Japan and the hardliners who favored fighting one last "decisive" battle that would inflict so many casualties on the Allies that they would be willing to offer more lenient terms. [1] Both approaches were based on Japan's experience in the Russo–Japanese War, forty years earlier, which consisted of a series of costly but largely indecisive battles, followed by the decisive naval Battle of Tsushima. [24]

In February 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe gave Emperor Hirohito a memorandum analyzing the situation, and told him that if the war continued, the imperial family might be in greater danger from an internal revolution than from defeat. [25] According to the diary of Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita, the Emperor, looking for a decisive battle (tennōzan), replied that it was premature to seek peace "unless we make one more military gain". [26] Also in February, Japan's treaty division wrote about Allied policies towards Japan regarding "unconditional surrender, occupation, disarmament, elimination of militarism, democratic reforms, punishment of war criminals, and the status of the emperor." [27] Allied-imposed disarmament, Allied punishment of Japanese war criminals, and especially occupation and removal of the Emperor, were not acceptable to the Japanese leadership. [28] [29]

On April 5, the Soviet Union gave the required 12 months' notice that it would not renew the five-year Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact [30] (which had been signed in 1941 following the Nomonhan Incident). [31] Unknown to the Japanese, at the Tehran Conference in November–December 1943, it had been agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the United States had made substantial concessions to the Soviets to secure a promise that they would declare war on Japan within three months of the surrender of Germany. Although the five-year Neutrality Pact did not expire until April 5, 1946, the announcement caused the Japanese great concern, because Japan had amassed its forces in the South to repel the inevitable US attack, thus leaving its Northern islands vulnerable to Soviet invasion. [32] [33] Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, in Moscow, and Yakov Malik, Soviet ambassador in Tokyo, went to great lengths to assure the Japanese that "the period of the Pact's validity has not ended". [34]

At a series of high-level meetings in May, the Big Six first seriously discussed ending the war, but none of them on terms that would have been acceptable to the Allies. Because anyone openly supporting Japanese surrender risked assassination by zealous army officers, the meetings were closed to anyone except the Big Six, the Emperor, and the Privy Seal. No second or third-echelon officers could attend. [35] At these meetings, despite the dispatches from Japanese ambassador Satō in Moscow, only Foreign Minister Tōgō realized that Roosevelt and Churchill might have already made concessions to Stalin to bring the Soviets into the war against Japan. [36] As a result of these meetings, Tōgō was authorized to approach the Soviet Union, seeking to maintain its neutrality, or (despite the very remote probability) to form an alliance. [37]

In keeping with the custom of a new government declaring its purposes, following the May meetings the Army staff produced a document, "The Fundamental Policy to Be Followed Henceforth in the Conduct of the War," which stated that the Japanese people would fight to extinction rather than surrender. This policy was adopted by the Big Six on June 6. (Tōgō opposed it, while the other five supported it.) [38] Documents submitted by Suzuki at the same meeting suggested that, in the diplomatic overtures to the USSR, Japan adopt the following approach:

It should be clearly made known to Russia that she owes her victory over Germany to Japan, since we remained neutral, and that it would be to the advantage of the Soviets to help Japan maintain her international position, since they have the United States as an enemy in the future. [39]

On June 9, the Emperor's confidant Marquis Kōichi Kido wrote a "Draft Plan for Controlling the Crisis Situation," warning that by the end of the year Japan's ability to wage modern war would be extinguished and the government would be unable to contain civil unrest. ". We cannot be sure we will not share the fate of Germany and be reduced to adverse circumstances under which we will not attain even our supreme object of safeguarding the Imperial Household and preserving the national polity." [40] Kido proposed that the Emperor take action, by offering to end the war on "very generous terms." Kido proposed that Japan withdraw from the formerly European colonies it had occupied provided they were granted independence and also proposed that Japan recognize the independence of the Philippines, which Japan had already mostly lost control of and to which it was well known that the U.S. had long been planning to grant independence. Finally, Kido proposed that Japan disarm provided this not occur under Allied supervision and that Japan for a time be "content with minimum defense." Kido's proposal did not contemplate Allied occupation of Japan, prosecution of war criminals or substantial change in Japan's system of government, nor did Kido suggest that Japan might be willing to consider relinquishing territories acquired prior to 1937 including Formosa, Karafuto, Korea, the formerly German islands in the Pacific and even Manchukuo. With the Emperor's authorization, Kido approached several members of the Supreme Council, the "Big Six." Tōgō was very supportive. Suzuki and Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy minister, were both cautiously supportive each wondered what the other thought. General Korechika Anami, the Army minister, was ambivalent, insisting that diplomacy must wait until "after the United States has sustained heavy losses" in Operation Ketsugō. [41]

In June, the Emperor lost confidence in the chances of achieving a military victory. The Battle of Okinawa was lost, and he learned of the weakness of the Japanese army in China, of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, of the navy, and of the army defending the Home Islands. The Emperor received a report by Prince Higashikuni from which he concluded that "it was not just the coast defense the divisions reserved to engage in the decisive battle also did not have sufficient numbers of weapons." [42] According to the Emperor:

I was told that the iron from bomb fragments dropped by the enemy was being used to make shovels. This confirmed my opinion that we were no longer in a position to continue the war. [42]

On June 22, the Emperor summoned the Big Six to a meeting. Unusually, he spoke first: "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts made to implement them." [43] It was agreed to solicit Soviet aid in ending the war. Other neutral nations, such as Switzerland, Sweden, and the Vatican City, were known to be willing to play a role in making peace, but they were so small they were believed unable to do more than deliver the Allies' terms of surrender and Japan's acceptance or rejection. The Japanese hoped that the Soviet Union could be persuaded to act as an agent for Japan in negotiations with the United States and Britain. [44]

On June 30, Tōgō told Naotake Satō, Japan's ambassador in Moscow, to try to establish "firm and lasting relations of friendship." Satō was to discuss the status of Manchuria and "any matter the Russians would like to bring up." [45] Well aware of the overall situation and cognizant of their promises to the Allies, the Soviets responded with delaying tactics to encourage the Japanese without promising anything. Satō finally met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov on July 11, but without result. On July 12, Tōgō directed Satō to tell the Soviets that:

His Majesty the Emperor, mindful of the fact that the present war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice upon the peoples of all the belligerent powers, desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated. But so long as England and the United States insist upon unconditional surrender, the Japanese Empire has no alternative but to fight on with all its strength for the honor and existence of the Motherland. [46]

The Emperor proposed sending Prince Konoe as a special envoy, although he would be unable to reach Moscow before the Potsdam Conference.

Satō advised Tōgō that in reality, "unconditional surrender or terms closely equivalent thereto" was all that Japan could expect. Moreover, in response to Molotov's requests for specific proposals, Satō suggested that Tōgō's messages were not "clear about the views of the Government and the Military with regard to the termination of the war," thus questioning whether Tōgō's initiative was supported by the key elements of Japan's power structure. [47]

On July 17, Tōgō responded:

Although the directing powers, and the government as well, are convinced that our war strength still can deliver considerable blows to the enemy, we are unable to feel absolutely secure peace of mind . Please bear particularly in mind, however, that we are not seeking the Russians' mediation for anything like an unconditional surrender. [48]

It goes without saying that in my earlier message calling for unconditional surrender or closely equivalent terms, I made an exception of the question of preserving [the imperial family]. [49]

On July 21, speaking in the name of the cabinet, Tōgō repeated:

With regard to unconditional surrender we are unable to consent to it under any circumstances whatever. . It is in order to avoid such a state of affairs that we are seeking a peace, . through the good offices of Russia. . it would also be disadvantageous and impossible, from the standpoint of foreign and domestic considerations, to make an immediate declaration of specific terms. [50]

American cryptographers had broken most of Japan's codes, including the Purple code used by the Japanese Foreign Office to encode high-level diplomatic correspondence. As a result, messages between Tokyo and Japan's embassies were provided to Allied policy-makers nearly as quickly as to the intended recipients. [51]

Soviet intentions

Security concerns dominated Soviet decisions concerning the Far East. [52] Chief among these was gaining unrestricted access to the Pacific Ocean. The year-round ice-free areas of the Soviet Pacific coastline—Vladivostok in particular—could be blockaded by air and sea from Sakhalin island and the Kurile Islands. Acquiring these territories, thus guaranteeing free access to the Soya Strait, was their primary objective. [53] [54] Secondary objectives were leases for the Chinese Eastern Railway, Southern Manchuria Railway, Dairen, and Port Arthur. [55]

To this end, Stalin and Molotov strung out the negotiations with the Japanese, giving them false hope of a Soviet-mediated peace. [56] At the same time, in their dealings with the United States and Britain, the Soviets insisted on strict adherence to the Cairo Declaration, re-affirmed at the Yalta Conference, that the Allies would not accept separate or conditional peace with Japan. The Japanese would have to surrender unconditionally to all the Allies. To prolong the war, the Soviets opposed any attempt to weaken this requirement. [56] This would give the Soviets time to complete the transfer of their troops from the Western Front to the Far East, and conquer Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, northern Korea, South Sakhalin, the Kuriles, and possibly Hokkaidō [57] (starting with a landing at Rumoi). [58]

After several years of preliminary research, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had authorized the initiation a massive, top-secret project to build atomic bombs in 1942. The Manhattan Project, under the authority of Major General Leslie R. Groves Jr. [59] employed hundreds of thousands of American workers at dozens of secret facilities across the United States, and on July 16, 1945, the first prototype weapon was detonated during the Trinity nuclear test. [60]

As the project neared its conclusion, American planners began to consider the use of the bomb. In keeping with the Allies' overall strategy of securing final victory in Europe first, it had initially been assumed that the first atomic weapons would be allocated for use against Germany. However, by this time it was increasingly obvious that Germany would be defeated before any bombs would be ready for use. Groves formed a committee that met in April and May 1945 to draw up a list of targets. One of the primary criteria was that the target cities must not have been damaged by conventional bombing. This would allow for an accurate assessment of the damage done by the atomic bomb. [61] The targeting committee's list included 18 Japanese cities. At the top of the list were Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura, and Niigata. [62] [63] Ultimately, Kyoto was removed from the list at the insistence of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had visited the city on his honeymoon and knew of its cultural and historical significance. [64]

Although the Vice President Henry A. Wallace had been involved in the Manhattan Project since the beginning, [65] his successor, Harry S. Truman, was not briefed on the project by Stimson until April 23, 1945, eleven days after he became president on Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945. [66] On May 2, 1945, Truman approved the formation of the Interim Committee, an advisory group that would report on the atomic bomb. [63] [66] It consisted of Stimson, James F. Byrnes, George L. Harrison, Vannevar Bush, James Bryant Conant, Karl Taylor Compton, William L. Clayton, and Ralph Austin Bard, advised by a Scientific Panel composed of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, and Arthur Compton. [67] In a June 1 report, the Committee concluded that the bomb should be used as soon as possible against a war plant surrounded by workers' homes and that no warning or demonstration should be given. [68]

The committee's mandate did not include the use of the bomb—its use upon completion was presumed. [69] Following a protest by scientists involved in the project, in the form of the Franck Report, the Committee re-examined the use of the bomb, posing the question to the Scientific Panel of whether a "demonstration" of the bomb should be used before actual battlefield deployment. In a June 21 meeting, the Scientific Panel affirmed that there was no alternative. [70]

Truman played very little role in these discussions. At Potsdam, he was enthralled by the successful report of the Trinity test, and those around him noticed a positive change in his attitude, believing the bomb gave him leverage with both Japan and the Soviet Union. [71] Other than backing Stimson's play to remove Kyoto from the target list (as the military continued to push for it as a target), he was otherwise not involved in any decision-making regarding the bomb, contrary to later re-tellings of the story (include Truman's own embellishments). [72]

The leaders of the major Allied powers met at the Potsdam Conference from July 16 to August 2, 1945. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represented by Stalin, Winston Churchill (later Clement Attlee), and Truman respectively.


Although the Potsdam Conference was mainly concerned with European affairs, the war against Japan was also discussed in detail. Truman learned of the successful Trinity test early in the conference and shared this information with the British delegation. The successful test caused the American delegation to reconsider the necessity and wisdom of Soviet participation, for which the U.S. had lobbied hard at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences. [73] High on the United States' list of priorities was shortening the war and reducing American casualties—Soviet intervention seemed likely to do both, but at the cost of possibly allowing the Soviets to capture territory beyond that which had been promised to them at Tehran and Yalta, and causing a postwar division of Japan similar to that which had occurred in Germany. [74]

In dealing with Stalin, Truman decided to give the Soviet leader vague hints about the existence of a powerful new weapon without going into details. However, the other Allies were unaware that Soviet intelligence had penetrated the Manhattan Project in its early stages, so Stalin already knew of the existence of the atomic bomb but did not appear impressed by its potential. [75]

The Potsdam Declaration

It was decided to issue a statement, the Potsdam Declaration, defining "Unconditional Surrender" and clarifying what it meant for the position of the emperor and for Hirohito personally. The American and British governments strongly disagreed on this point—the United States wanted to abolish the position and possibly try him as a war criminal, while the British wanted to retain the position, perhaps with Hirohito still reigning. Furthermore, although it would not initially be a party to the declaration, the Soviet government also had to be consulted since it would be expected to endorse it upon entering the war. The Potsdam Declaration went through many drafts until a version acceptable to all was found. [76]

On July 26, the United States, Britain and China released the Potsdam Declaration announcing the terms for Japan's surrender, with the warning, "We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay." For Japan, the terms of the declaration specified:

  • the elimination "for all time [of] the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest"
  • the occupation of "points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies"
  • that the "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." As had been announced in the Cairo Declaration in 1943, Japan was to be reduced to her pre-1894 territory and stripped of her pre-war empire including Korea and Taiwan, as well as all her recent conquests.
  • that "[t]he Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives."
  • that "[w]e do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners."

On the other hand, the declaration stated that:

  • "The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamentalhuman rights shall be established."
  • "Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to rearm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted."
  • "The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people, a peacefully inclined and responsible government."

The only use of the term "unconditional surrender" came at the end of the declaration:

  • "We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction."

Contrary to what had been intended at its conception, the Declaration made no mention of the Emperor at all. Allied intentions on issues of utmost importance to the Japanese, including whether Hirohito was to be regarded as one of those who had "misled the people of Japan" or even a war criminal, or alternatively, whether the Emperor might become part of a "peacefully inclined and responsible government" were thus left unstated.

The "prompt and utter destruction" clause has been interpreted as a veiled warning about American possession of the atomic bomb (which had been tested successfully on the first day of the conference). [77] On the other hand, the declaration also made specific references to the devastation that had been wrought upon Germany in the closing stages of the European war. To contemporary readers on both sides who were not yet aware of the atomic bomb's existence, it was easy to interpret the conclusion of the declaration simply as a threat to bring similar destruction upon Japan using conventional weapons.

Japanese reaction

On July 27, the Japanese government considered how to respond to the Declaration. The four military members of the Big Six wanted to reject it, but Tōgō, acting under the mistaken impression that the Soviet government had no prior knowledge of its contents, persuaded the cabinet not to do so until he could get a reaction from Moscow. In a telegram, Shun'ichi Kase, Japan's ambassador to Switzerland, observed that "unconditional surrender" applied only to the military and not to the government or the people, and he pleaded that it should be understood that the careful language of Potsdam appeared "to have occasioned a great deal of thought" on the part of the signatory governments—"they seem to have taken pains to save face for us on various points." [78] The next day, Japanese newspapers reported that the Declaration, the text of which had been broadcast and dropped by leaflet into Japan, had been rejected. In an attempt to manage public perception, Prime Minister Suzuki met with the press, and stated:

I consider the Joint Proclamation a rehash of the Declaration at the Cairo Conference. As for the Government, it does not attach any important value to it at all. The only thing to do is just kill it with silence (mokusatsu). We will do nothing but press on to the bitter end to bring about a successful completion of the war. [79]

The meaning of mokusatsu ( 黙殺 , lit. "killing with silence") is ambiguous and can range from "refusing to comment on" to "ignoring (by keeping silence)". [80] The meaning intended by Suzuki has been the subject of debate. [81]

On July 30, Ambassador Satō wrote that Stalin was probably talking to Roosevelt and Churchill about his dealings with Japan, and he wrote: "There is no alternative but immediate unconditional surrender if we are to prevent Russia's participation in the war." [82] On August 2, Tōgō wrote to Satō: "it should not be difficult for you to realize that . our time to proceed with arrangements of ending the war before the enemy lands on the Japanese mainland is limited, on the other hand it is difficult to decide on concrete peace conditions here at home all at once." [83]

August 6: Hiroshima

On August 6 at 8:15 AM local time, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, dropped an atomic bomb (code-named Little Boy by the U.S.) on the city of Hiroshima in southwest Honshū. [84] Throughout the day, confused reports reached Tokyo that Hiroshima had been the target of an air raid, which had leveled the city with a "blinding flash and violent blast". Later that day, they received U.S. President Truman's broadcast announcing the first use of an atomic bomb, and promising:

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake we shall completely destroy Japan's power to make war. It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth … [85]

The Japanese Army and Navy had their own independent atomic-bomb programs and therefore the Japanese understood enough to know how very difficult building it would be. Therefore, many Japanese and in particular the military members of the government refused to believe the United States had built an atomic bomb, and the Japanese military ordered their own independent tests to determine the cause of Hiroshima's destruction. [86] Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, argued that even if the United States had made one, they could not have many more. [87] American strategists, having anticipated a reaction like Toyoda's, planned to drop a second bomb shortly after the first, to convince the Japanese that the U.S. had a large supply. [63] [88]

August 9: Soviet invasion and Nagasaki

At 04:00 on August 9 word reached Tokyo that the Soviet Union had broken the Neutrality Pact, [89] [90] [91] declared war on Japan, [92] subscribed to the Potsdam Declaration and launched an invasion of Manchuria. [93]

When the Russians invaded Manchuria, they sliced through what had once been an elite army and many Russian units only stopped when they ran out of gas. The Soviet 16th Army—100,000 strong—launched an invasion of the southern half of Sakhalin Island. Their orders were to mop up Japanese resistance there, and then within 10 to 14 days—be prepared to invade Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's home islands. The Japanese force tasked with defending Hokkaido, the 5th Area Army, was under strength at two divisions and two brigades, and was in fortified positions on the east side of the island. The Soviet plan of attack called for an invasion of Hokkaido from the west. The Soviet declaration of war also changed the calculation of how much time was left for maneuver. Japanese intelligence was predicting that U.S. forces might not invade for months. Soviet forces, on the other hand, could be in Japan proper in as little as 10 days. The Soviet invasion made a decision on ending the war extremely time sensitive.

These "twin shocks"—the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the Soviet entry—had immediate profound effects on Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki and Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō, who concurred that the government must end the war at once. [95] However, the senior leadership of the Japanese Army took the news in stride, grossly underestimating the scale of the attack. With the support of Minister of War Anami, they started preparing to impose martial law on the nation, to stop anyone attempting to make peace. [96] Hirohito told Kido to "quickly control the situation" because "the Soviet Union has declared war and today began hostilities against us." [97]

The Supreme Council met at 10:30. Suzuki, who had just come from a meeting with the Emperor, said it was impossible to continue the war. Tōgō said that they could accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, but they needed a guarantee of the Emperor's position. Navy Minister Yonai said that they had to make some diplomatic proposal—they could no longer afford to wait for better circumstances.

In the middle of the meeting, shortly after 11:00, news arrived that Nagasaki, on the west coast of Kyūshū, had been hit by a second atomic bomb (called "Fat Man" by the United States). By the time the meeting ended, the Big Six had split 3–3. Suzuki, Tōgō, and Admiral Yonai favored Tōgō's one additional condition to Potsdam, while General Anami, General Umezu, and Admiral Toyoda insisted on three further terms that modified Potsdam: that Japan handle their own disarmament, that Japan deal with any Japanese war criminals, and that there be no occupation of Japan. [98]

Following the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Truman issued another statement:

The British, Chinese, and United States Governments have given the Japanese people adequate warning of what is in store for them. We have laid down the general terms on which they can surrender. Our warning went unheeded our terms were rejected. Since then the Japanese have seen what our atomic bomb can do. They can foresee what it will do in the future.

The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction.

I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.

Its production and its use were not lightly undertaken by this Government. But we knew that our enemies were on the search for it. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first.

That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production.

We won the race of discovery against the Germans.

Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.

We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us. [99]

The full cabinet met on 14:30 on August 9, and spent most of the day debating surrender. As the Big Six had done, the cabinet split, with neither Tōgō's position nor Anami's attracting a majority. [100] Anami told the other cabinet ministers that under torture a captured American P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, Marcus McDilda, had told his interrogators that the United States possessed a stockpile of 100 atom bombs and that Tokyo and Kyoto would be destroyed "in the next few days". [101]

In reality the United States would not have had a third bomb ready for use until around August 19, and a fourth in September. [102] However the Japanese leadership had no way to know the size of the United States' stockpile, and feared the United States might have the capacity not just to devastate individual cities, but to wipe out the Japanese people as a race and nation. Indeed, in the morning meeting Anami had already expressed a desire for this outcome rather than surrender, stating "Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed like a beautiful flower?" [103]

The cabinet meeting adjourned at 17:30 with no consensus. A second meeting lasting from 18:00 to 22:00 also ended with no consensus. Following this second meeting, Suzuki and Tōgō met the Emperor, and Suzuki proposed an impromptu Imperial conference, which started just before midnight on the night of August 9–10. [104] Suzuki presented Anami's four-condition proposal as the consensus position of the Supreme Council. The other members of the Supreme Council spoke, as did Kiichirō Hiranuma, the President of the Privy Council, who outlined Japan's inability to defend itself and also described the country's domestic problems, such as the shortage of food. The cabinet debated, but again no consensus emerged. At around 02:00 (August 10), Suzuki finally addressed Emperor Hirohito, asking him to decide between the two positions. The participants later recollected that the Emperor stated:

I have given serious thought to the situation prevailing at home and abroad and have concluded that continuing the war can only mean destruction for the nation and prolongation of bloodshed and cruelty in the world. I cannot bear to see my innocent people suffer any longer. .

I was told by those advocating a continuation of hostilities that by June new divisions would be in place in fortified positions [at Kujūkuri Beach, east of Tokyo] ready for the invader when he sought to land. It is now August and the fortifications still have not been completed. .

There are those who say the key to national survival lies in a decisive battle in the homeland. The experiences of the past, however, show that there has always been a discrepancy between plans and performance. I do not believe that the discrepancy in the case of Kujūkuri can be rectified. Since this is also the shape of things, how can we repel the invaders? [He then made some specific reference to the increased destructiveness of the atomic bomb.]

It goes without saying that it is unbearable for me to see the brave and loyal fighting men of Japan disarmed. It is equally unbearable that others who have rendered me devoted service should now be punished as instigators of the war. Nevertheless, the time has come to bear the unbearable. .

I swallow my tears and give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied proclamation on the basis outlined by [Tōgō,] the Foreign Minister. [105]

According to General Sumihisa Ikeda and Admiral Zenshirō Hoshina, Privy Council President Hiranuma then turned to the Emperor and asked him: "Your majesty, you also bear responsibility (sekinin) for this defeat. What apology are you going to make to the heroic spirits of the imperial founder of your house and your other imperial ancestors?" [106]

Once the Emperor had left, Suzuki pushed the cabinet to accept the Emperor's will, which it did. Early that morning (August 10), the Foreign Ministry sent telegrams to the Allies (by way of the Swiss "Federal Political Department" (Department of Foreign Affairs) and Max Grässli in particular) announcing that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration, but would not accept any peace conditions that would "prejudice the prerogatives" of the Emperor. That effectively meant no change in Japan's form of government—that the Emperor of Japan would remain a position of real power. [107]

August 12

The Allied response to Japan's qualified acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration was written by James F. Byrnes and approved by the British, Chinese, and Soviet governments, although the Soviets agreed only reluctantly. The Allies sent their response (via the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department) on August 12. On the status of the Emperor it said:

From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms. . The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people. [108]

President Truman issued instructions that no further atomic weapons were to be dropped on Japan without presidential orders, [109] but allowed military operations (including the B-29 firebombings) to continue until official word of Japanese surrender was received. However, news correspondents incorrectly interpreted a comment by General Carl Spaatz, commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, that the B-29s were not flying on August 11 (because of bad weather) as a statement that a ceasefire was in effect. To avoid giving the Japanese the impression that the Allies had abandoned peace efforts and resumed bombing, Truman then ordered a halt to all further bombings. [110] [111]

The Japanese cabinet considered the Allied response, and Suzuki argued that they must reject it and insist on an explicit guarantee for the imperial system. Anami returned to his position that there be no occupation of Japan. Afterward, Tōgō told Suzuki that there was no hope of getting better terms, and Kido conveyed the Emperor's will that Japan surrender. In a meeting with the Emperor, Yonai spoke of his concerns about growing civil unrest:

I think the term is inappropriate, but the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war are, in a sense, divine gifts. This way we don't have to say that we have quit the war because of domestic circumstances. [112]

That day, Hirohito informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, then asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai (imperial sovereignty) could not be preserved. The Emperor simply replied "of course." [113] [114]

August 13–14

At the suggestion of American psychological operations experts, B-29s spent August 13 dropping leaflets over Japan, describing the Japanese offer of surrender and the Allied response. [115] The leaflets, some of which fell upon the Imperial Palace as the Emperor and his advisors met, had a profound effect on the Japanese decision-making process. It had become clear that a complete and total acceptance of Allied terms, even if it meant the dissolution of the Japanese government as it then existed, was the only possible way to secure peace. [115] The Big Six and the cabinet debated their reply to the Allied response late into the night, but remained deadlocked. Meanwhile, the Allies grew doubtful, waiting for the Japanese to respond. The Japanese had been instructed that they could transmit an unqualified acceptance in the clear, but instead they sent out coded messages on matters unrelated to the surrender parlay. The Allies took this coded response as non-acceptance of the terms. [115]

Via Ultra intercepts, the Allies also detected increased diplomatic and military traffic, which was taken as evidence that the Japanese were preparing an "all-out banzai attack." [115] President Truman ordered a resumption of attacks against Japan at maximum intensity "so as to impress Japanese officials that we mean business and are serious in getting them to accept our peace proposals without delay." [115] In the largest and longest bombing raid of the Pacific War, more than 400 B-29s attacked Japan during daylight on August 14, and more than 300 that night. [116] [117] A total of 1,014 aircraft were used with no losses. [118] B-29s from the 315 Bombardment Wing flew 6,100 km (3,800 mi) to destroy the Nippon Oil Company refinery at Tsuchizaki on the northern tip of Honshū. This was the last operational refinery in the Japanese Home Islands, and it produced 67% of their oil. [119] The attacks would continue right through the announcement of the Japanese surrender, and indeed for some time afterwards. [120]

Truman had ordered a halt to atomic bombings on August 10, upon receiving news that another bomb would be ready for use against Japan in about a week. He told his cabinet that he could not stand the thought of killing "all those kids." [109] By August 14, however, Truman remarked "sadly" to the British ambassador that "he now had no alternative but to order an atomic bomb dropped on Tokyo," [121] as some of his military staff had been advocating. [122]

As August 14 dawned, Suzuki, Kido, and the Emperor realized the day would end with either an acceptance of the American terms or a military coup. [123] The Emperor met with the most senior Army and Navy officers. While several spoke in favor of fighting on, Field Marshal Shunroku Hata did not. As commander of the Second General Army, the headquarters of which had been in Hiroshima, Hata commanded all the troops defending southern Japan—the troops preparing to fight the "decisive battle". Hata said he had no confidence in defeating the invasion and did not dispute the Emperor's decision. The Emperor asked his military leaders to cooperate with him in ending the war. [123]

At a conference with the cabinet and other councilors, Anami, Toyoda, and Umezu again made their case for continuing to fight, after which the Emperor said:

I have listened carefully to each of the arguments presented in opposition to the view that Japan should accept the Allied reply as it stands and without further clarification or modification, but my own thoughts have not undergone any change. . In order that the people may know my decision, I request you to prepare at once an imperial rescript so that I may broadcast to the nation. Finally, I call upon each and every one of you to exert himself to the utmost so that we may meet the trying days which lie ahead. [124]

The cabinet immediately convened and unanimously ratified the Emperor's wishes. They also decided to destroy vast amounts of material pertaining to war crimes and the war responsibility of the nation's highest leaders. [125] Immediately after the conference, the Foreign Ministry transmitted orders to its embassies in Switzerland and Sweden to accept the Allied terms of surrender. These orders were picked up and received in Washington at 02:49, August 14. [124]

Difficulty with senior commanders on the distant war fronts was anticipated. Three princes of the Imperial Family who held military commissions were dispatched on August 14 to deliver the news personally. Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda went to Korea and Manchuria, Prince Yasuhiko Asaka to the China Expeditionary Army and China Fleet, and Prince Kan'in Haruhito to Shanghai, South China, Indochina and Singapore. [126] [127]

The text of the Imperial Rescript on surrender was finalized by 19:00 August 14, transcribed by the official court calligrapher, and brought to the cabinet for their signatures. Around 23:00, the Emperor, with help from an NHK recording crew, made a gramophone record of himself reading it. [128] The record was given to court chamberlain Yoshihiro Tokugawa, who hid it in a locker in the office of Empress Kōjun's secretary. [129]

Late on the night of August 12, 1945, Major Kenji Hatanaka, along with Lieutenant Colonels Masataka Ida, Masahiko Takeshita (Anami's brother-in-law), and Inaba Masao, and Colonel Okikatsu Arao, the Chief of the Military Affairs Section, spoke to War Minister Korechika Anami (the army minister and "most powerful figure in Japan besides the Emperor himself"), [130] and asked him to do whatever he could to prevent acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. General Anami refused to say whether he would help the young officers in treason. [131] As much as they needed his support, Hatanaka and the other rebels decided they had no choice but to continue planning and to attempt a coup d'état on their own. Hatanaka spent much of August 13 and the morning of August 14 gathering allies, seeking support from the higher-ups in the Ministry, and perfecting his plot. [132]

Shortly after the conference on the night of August 13–14 at which the surrender finally was decided, a group of senior army officers including Anami gathered in a nearby room. All those present were concerned about the possibility of a coup d'état to prevent the surrender—some of those present may have even been considering launching one. After a silence, General Torashirō Kawabe proposed that all senior officers present sign an agreement to carry out the Emperor's order of surrender—"The Army will act in accordance with the Imperial Decision to the last." It was signed by all the high-ranking officers present, including Anami, Hajime Sugiyama, Yoshijirō Umezu, Kenji Doihara, Torashirō Kawabe, Masakazu Kawabe, and Tadaichi Wakamatsu. "This written accord by the most senior officers in the Army . acted as a formidable firebreak against any attempt to incite a coup d'état in Tokyo." [133]

Around 21:30 on August 14, Hatanaka's rebels set their plan into motion. The Second Regiment of the First Imperial Guards had entered the palace grounds, doubling the strength of the battalion already stationed there, presumably to provide extra protection against Hatanaka's rebellion. But Hatanaka, along with Lt. Col. Jirō Shiizaki, convinced the commander of the 2nd Regiment of the First Imperial Guards, Colonel Toyojirō Haga, of their cause, by telling him (falsely) that Generals Anami and Umezu, and the commanders of the Eastern District Army and Imperial Guards Divisions were all in on the plan. Hatanaka also went to the office of Shizuichi Tanaka, commander of the Eastern region of the army, to try to persuade him to join the coup. Tanaka refused, and ordered Hatanaka to go home. Hatanaka ignored the order. [129]

Originally, Hatanaka hoped that simply occupying the palace and showing the beginnings of a rebellion would inspire the rest of the Army to rise up against the move to surrender. This notion guided him through much of the last days and hours and gave him the blind optimism to move ahead with the plan, despite having little support from his superiors. Having set all the pieces into position, Hatanaka and his co-conspirators decided that the Guard would take over the palace at 02:00. The hours until then were spent in continued attempts to convince their superiors in the Army to join the coup. At about the same time, General Anami committed seppuku, leaving a message that, "I—with my death—humbly apologize to the Emperor for the great crime." [134] Whether the crime involved losing the war, or the coup, remains unclear. [135]

At some time after 01:00, Hatanaka and his men surrounded the palace. Hatanaka, Shiizaki, Ida, and Captain Shigetarō Uehara (of the Air Force Academy) went to the office of Lt. General Takeshi Mori to ask him to join the coup. Mori was in a meeting with his brother-in-law, Michinori Shiraishi. The cooperation of Mori, as commander of the 1st Imperial Guards Division, was crucial. When Mori refused to side with Hatanaka, Hatanaka killed him, fearing Mori would order the Guards to stop the rebellion. [136] Uehara killed Shiraishi. These were the only two murders of the night. Hatanaka then used General Mori's official stamp to authorize Imperial Guards Division Strategic Order No. 584, a false set of orders created by his co-conspirators, which would greatly increase the strength of the forces occupying the Imperial Palace and Imperial Household Ministry, and "protecting" the Emperor. [137]

The palace police were disarmed and all the entrances blocked. [128] Over the course of the night, Hatanaka's rebels captured and detained eighteen people, including Ministry staff and NHK workers sent to record the surrender speech. [128]

The rebels, led by Hatanaka, spent the next several hours fruitlessly searching for Imperial House Minister Sōtarō Ishiwata, Lord of the Privy Seal Kōichi Kido, and the recordings of the surrender speech. The two men were hiding in the "bank vault", a large chamber underneath the Imperial Palace. [138] [139] The search was made more difficult by a blackout in response to Allied bombings, and by the archaic organization and layout of the Imperial House Ministry. Many of the names of the rooms were unrecognizable to the rebels. The rebels did find the chamberlain Yoshihiro Tokugawa. Although Hatanaka threatened to disembowel him with a samurai sword, Tokugawa lied and told them he did not know where the recordings or men were. [140] [141]

At about the same time, another group of Hatanaka's rebels led by Captain Takeo Sasaki went to Prime Minister Suzuki's office, intent on killing him. When they found it empty, they machine-gunned the office and set the building on fire, then left for his home. Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief secretary to Suzuki's Cabinet, had warned Suzuki, and he escaped minutes before the would-be assassins arrived. After setting fire to Suzuki's home, they went to the estate of Kiichirō Hiranuma to assassinate him. Hiranuma escaped through a side gate and the rebels burned his house as well. Suzuki spent the rest of August under police protection, spending each night in a different bed. [140] [142]

Around 03:00, Hatanaka was informed by Lieutenant Colonel Masataka Ida that the Eastern District Army was on its way to the palace to stop him, and that he should give up. [143] [144] Finally, seeing his plan collapsing around him, Hatanaka pleaded with Tatsuhiko Takashima, Chief of Staff of the Eastern District Army, to be given at least ten minutes on the air on NHK radio, to explain to the people of Japan what he was trying to accomplish and why. He was refused. [145] Colonel Haga, commander of the 2nd Regiment of the First Imperial Guards, discovered that the Army did not support this rebellion, and he ordered Hatanaka to leave the palace grounds.

Just before 05:00, as his rebels continued their search, Major Hatanaka went to the NHK studios, and, brandishing a pistol, tried desperately to get some airtime to explain his actions. [146] A little over an hour later, after receiving a telephone call from the Eastern District Army, Hatanaka finally gave up. He gathered his officers and walked out of the NHK studio. [147]

At dawn, Tanaka learned that the palace had been invaded. He went there and confronted the rebellious officers, berating them for acting contrary to the spirit of the Japanese army. He convinced them to return to their barracks. [140] [148] By 08:00, the rebellion was entirely dismantled, having succeeded in holding the palace grounds for much of the night but failing to find the recordings. [149]

Hatanaka, on a motorcycle, and Shiizaki, on horseback, rode through the streets, tossing leaflets that explained their motives and their actions. Within an hour before the Emperor's broadcast, sometime around 11:00, August 15, Hatanaka placed his pistol to his forehead, and shot himself. Shiizaki stabbed himself with a dagger, and then shot himself. In Hatanaka's pocket was found his death poem: "I have nothing to regret now that the dark clouds have disappeared from the reign of the Emperor." [142]

Broadcast of the Imperial Rescript on surrender

At 12:00 noon Japan Standard Time on August 15, the Emperor's recorded speech to the nation, reading the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War, was broadcast:

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart.

Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable. [150]

The low quality of the recording, combined with the Classical Japanese language used by the Emperor in the Rescript, made the recording very difficult to understand for most listeners. [151] [152] In addition, the Emperor did not explicitly mention surrender in his speech. To prevent confusion the recording was immediately followed by a clarification that Japan was indeed unconditionally surrendering to the allies. [153]

Public reaction to the Emperor's speech varied—many Japanese simply listened to it, then went on with their lives as best they could, while some Army and Navy officers chose suicide over surrender. A small crowd gathered in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and cried, but as author John Dower notes, the tears they shed "reflected a multitude of sentiments . anguish, regret, bereavement and anger at having been deceived, sudden emptiness and loss of purpose". [154]

On August 17, Suzuki was replaced as prime minister by the Emperor's uncle, Prince Higashikuni, perhaps to forestall any further coup or assassination attempts [155]

Japan's forces were still fighting against the Soviets as well as the Chinese, and managing their cease-fire and surrender was difficult. The last air combat by Japanese fighters against American reconnaissance bombers took place on August 18. [156] The Soviet Union continued to fight until early September, taking the Kuril Islands.

Occupation and the surrender ceremony

News of the Japanese acceptance of the surrender terms was announced to the American public via radio at 7 p.m. on August 14, sparking massive celebrations. Allied civilians and servicemen everywhere rejoiced at the news of the end of the war. A photograph, V-J Day in Times Square, of an American sailor kissing a woman in New York, and a news film of the Dancing Man in Sydney have come to epitomize the immediate celebrations. August 14 and 15 are commemorated as Victory over Japan Day in many Allied countries. [157]

Japan's sudden surrender after the unexpected use of atomic weapons surprised most governments outside the US and UK. [158] The Soviet Union had some intentions of occupying Hokkaidō. [159] Unlike the Soviet occupations of eastern Germany and northern Korea, however, these plans were frustrated by the opposition of President Truman. [159]

In the aftermath of Japan's declaration of surrender, US B-32 Dominator bombers based in Okinawa began flying reconnaissance missions over Japan in order to monitor Japanese compliance with the cease-fire, gather information to better enable the establishment of the occupation, and test the fidelity of the Japanese, as it was feared that the Japanese were planning to attack occupation forces. During the first such B-32 reconnaissance mission, the bomber was tracked by Japanese radars but completed its mission without interference. On August 18, a group of four B-32s overflying Tokyo were attacked by Japanese naval fighter aircraft from Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Yokosuka Naval Airfield. The Japanese pilots were acting without authorization from the Japanese government. They were either opposed to the cease-fire or believed that Japanese airspace should remain inviolate until a formal surrender document was signed. They caused only minor damage and were held at bay by the B-32 gunners. The incident surprised US commanders, and prompted them to send additional reconnaissance flights to ascertain whether it was an isolated attack by die-hards acting independently or if Japan intended to continue fighting. The following day, two B-32s on a reconnaissance mission over Tokyo were attacked by Japanese fighter aircraft out of Yokosuka Naval Airfield, with the pilots again acting on their own initiative, damaging one bomber. One of the bomber's crewmen was killed and two others wounded. It was the last aerial engagement of the war. The following day, as per the terms of the cease-fire agreement, the propellers were removed from all Japanese aircraft and further Allied reconnaissance flights over Japan went unchallenged. [160]

Japanese officials left for Manila on August 19 to meet Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur, and to be briefed on his plans for the occupation. On August 28, 150 US personnel flew to Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the occupation of Japan began. They were followed by USS Missouri, whose accompanying vessels landed the 4th Marines on the southern coast of Kanagawa. The 11th Airborne Division was airlifted from Okinawa to Atsugi Airdrome, 50 km (30 mi) from Tokyo. Other Allied personnel followed.

MacArthur arrived in Tokyo on August 30, and immediately decreed several laws: No Allied personnel were to assault Japanese people. No Allied personnel were to eat the scarce Japanese food. Flying the Hinomaru or "Rising Sun" flag was severely restricted. [161]

The formal surrender occurred on September 2, 1945, around 9 a.m., Tokyo time, when representatives from the Empire of Japan signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay aboard USS Missouri. [162] [163] The dignitaries or representatives from around the world were carefully scheduled to board USS Missouri. [164] Japanese Foreign Minister Shigemitsu signed for the Japanese government, while Gen. Umezu signed for the Japanese armed forces. [165]

The Surrender Ceremony was carefully planned on board USS Missouri detailing the seating positions of all Army, Navy, and Allied Representatives. [166]

Each signatory sat before an ordinary mess deck table covered with green felt and signed two unconditional Instruments of Surrender—a leather-bound version for the Allied forces and a canvas-backed version for the Japanese. Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government followed by the uniformed General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. MacArthur signed on behalf of the Allied nations, followed by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz as U.S. Representative. Representatives of eight other Allied nations – China next – followed Nimitz. [167]

On Missouri that day was the same American flag that had been flown in 1853 on USS Powhatan by Commodore Matthew C. Perry on the first of his two expeditions to Japan. Perry's expeditions had resulted in the Convention of Kanagawa, which forced the Japanese to open the country to American trade. [168] [169]

After the formal surrender on September 2 aboard Missouri, investigations into Japanese war crimes began quickly. Many members of the imperial family, such as his brothers Prince Chichibu, Prince Takamatsu and Prince Mikasa, and his uncle Prince Higashikuni, pressured the Emperor to abdicate so that one of the Princes could serve as regent until Crown Prince Akihito came of age. [170] However, at a meeting with the Emperor later in September, General MacArthur assured him he needed his help to govern Japan and so Hirohito was never tried. Legal procedures for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were issued on January 19, 1946, without any member of the imperial family being prosecuted. [171]

In addition to August 14 and 15, September 2, 1945, is also known as V-J Day. [172] President Truman declared September 2 to be V-J Day, but noted that "It is not yet the day for the formal proclamation of the end of the war nor of the cessation of hostilities." [173] In Japan, August 15 is often called Shūsen-kinenbi ( 終戦記念日 ), which literally means the "memorial day for the end of the war," but the government's name for the day (which is not a national holiday) is Senbotsusha o tsuitō shi heiwa o kinen suru hi ( 戦没者を追悼し平和を祈念する日 , "day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace"). [174]

A nearly simultaneous surrender ceremony was held on September 2 aboard USS Portland at Truk Atoll, where Vice Admiral George D. Murray accepted the surrender of the Carolines from senior Japanese military and civilian officials.

Following the signing of the instrument of surrender, many further surrender ceremonies took place across Japan's remaining holdings in the Pacific. Japanese forces in Southeast Asia surrendered on September 2, 1945, in Penang, September 10 in Labuan, September 11 in the Kingdom of Sarawak and September 12 in Singapore. [175] [176] The Kuomintang took over the administration of Taiwan on October 25. [177] [178] It was not until 1947 that all prisoners held by America and Britain were repatriated. As late as April 1949, China still held more than 60,000 Japanese prisoners. [179] Some, such as Shozo Tominaga, were not repatriated until the late 1950s. [180]

The logistical demands of the surrender were formidable. After Japan's capitulation, more than 5,400,000 Japanese soldiers and 1,800,000 Japanese sailors were taken prisoner by the Allies. [181] [182] The damage done to Japan's infrastructure, combined with a severe famine in 1946, further complicated the Allied efforts to feed the Japanese POWs and civilians. [183] [184]

The state of war between most of the Allies and Japan officially ended when the Treaty of San Francisco took effect on April 28, 1952. Japan and the Soviet Union formally made peace four years later, when they signed the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956. [185]

Japanese holdouts, especially on small Pacific Islands, refused to surrender at all (believing the declaration to be propaganda or considering surrender against their code). Some may never have heard of it. Teruo Nakamura, the last known holdout, emerged from his hidden retreat in Indonesia in December 1974, while two other Japanese soldiers, who had joined Communist guerrillas at the end of the war, fought in southern Thailand until 1991. [186]

Hatazō Adachi, the commander of the Japanese 18th Army in New Guinea, surrenders his sword to the commander of the Australian 6th Division, Horace Robertson.

Kaida Tatsuichi, commander of the Japanese 4th Tank Regiment, and his chief of staff Shoji Minoru listen to the terms of surrender on HMAS Moresby at Timor.

Chen Yi (right) accepting the receipt of Order No. 1 signed by Rikichi Andō (left), the last Japanese Governor-General of Taiwan, in Taipei City Hall

Masatane Kanda signs the instrument of surrender of Japanese forces on Bougainville Island, New Guinea.

A Japanese officer surrenders his sword to a British Lieutenant in a ceremony in Saigon, French Indochina.

A Japanese Navy officer signing the surrender of Penang aboard HMS Nelson on September 2, 1945. Penang was liberated by the Royal Marines on the following day under Operation Jurist.

Masao Baba, Lieutenant General of the Japanese 37th Army signs the surrender document in Labuan, British Borneo, being watched by Australian Major General George Wootten and other Australian units.

The official surrender ceremony of the Japanese to the Australian forces on board HMAS Kapunda at Kuching, Kingdom of Sarawak, on September 11, 1945

The Japanese Southern Armies surrender at Singapore on September 12, 1945. General Itagaki surrendered to the British represented by Lord Mountbatten at Municipal Hall, Singapore.

The surrender ceremony of the Japanese to the Australian forces at Keningau, British North Borneo, on September 17, 1945

The surrender ceremony of the Japanese to the British forces with General Itagaki surrendering his sword to General Frank Messervy at Kuala Lumpur, British Malaya, on February 22, 1946.

General Sun Weiru, commander of the Sixth War Zone of China, accepts the surrender of the Japanese troops in Central China from General Naozaburo Okabe, Wuhan, September 18, 1945.

Truman confronts Molotov - Apr 23, 1945 -

TSgt Joe C.

Less than two weeks after taking over as president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman gives a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had.

When Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman took over as president. Truman was overwhelmed by the responsibilities so suddenly thrust upon him and, particularly in terms of foreign policy, the new president was uncertain about his approach. Roosevelt had kept his vice-president in the dark about most diplomatic decisions, not even informing Truman about the secret program to develop an atomic bomb. Truman had to learn quickly, however. The approaching end of World War II meant that momentous decisions about the postwar world needed to be made quickly. The primary issue Truman faced was how to deal with the Soviet Union. Just weeks before his death, Roosevelt met with Russian leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Yalta to discuss the postwar situation. Agreements made during the meeting left the Soviets in de facto control of Eastern Europe in exchange for Soviet promises to hold “democratic” elections in Poland. Some officials in the U.S. government were appalled at these decisions, believing that Roosevelt was too “soft” on the Soviets and naive in his belief that Stalin would cooperate with the West after the war. Truman gravitated to this same point of view, partially because of his desire to appear decisive, but also because of his long-standing animosity toward the Soviets.

On April 23, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov arrived at the White House for a meeting with the new president. Truman immediately lashed out at Molotov, “in words of one syllable,” as the president later recalled. As Molotov listened incredulously, Truman charged that the Soviets were breaking their agreements and that Stalin needed to keep his word. At the end of Truman’s tirade, Molotov indignantly declared that he had never been talked to in such a manner. Truman, not to be outdone, replied that if Molotov had kept his promises, he would not need to be talked to like that. Molotov stormed out of the meeting. Truman was delighted with his own performance, telling one friend that he gave the Soviet official “the straight one-two to the jaw.” The president was convinced that a tough stance was the only way to deal with the communists, a policy that came to dominate America’s early Cold War policies toward the Soviets.

Truman confronts Molotov - Apr 23, 1945 -

(1) "At the invitation of Pres. Truman, the Soviet Foreign Commisar arrives in Washington to confer with the President, Sec. Stettinius, and Anthony Eden bef.

Thank you TSgt Joe C. for letting us know that on April 23, 1945 with 2 weeks of the death of President FDR, Harry S. Truman berated Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov at the White House for a meeting with the new president.
President Truman charged that the Soviets were breaking their agreements and that Josef Stalin needed to keep his word. At the end of Truman’s tirade, Molotov indignantly declared that he had never been talked to in such a manner.
The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had.


Video (00:07:47) : The Fabulous Fifties (

American culture in the 1950s was a culture of fear, conformity, hope, economic expansion, and youthful celebration. Americans feared nuclear weapons and taught their children to “duck and cover.” President Eisenhower envisioned a system of interstate highways to connect large cities and allow easy evacuation and the movement of military equipment. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 began the largest public works project in American History—with far-reaching consequences. The result was that the demand for automobiles skyrocketed, rail travel dwindled and the inner city began to decay as suburbs (accessible by the new highways) reached ever-further from the city.

Spending Spree

Having little or nothing to spend their paychecks on during World War II, Americans went on a buying spree which spurred industrial output and kept the Depression from returning. Americans bought televisions, moved to the expanding suburbs, lived in row housing and worked for “big” companies. The “G.I. Bill” gave returning soldiers access to education and housing on the cheap which also spurred the growth of the suburbs. Black Americans introduced yet another new form of music, “Rock and Roll,” which scandalized white Americans who viewed it as vulgar and loaded with sexual overtones. When Colonel Parker found a young white man (Elvis Presley) who could effectively perform this new music, it took young Americans by storm.

During the 1950s, many cultural commentators pointed out that a sense of uniformity pervaded American society. Conformity, they asserted, was numbingly common for most Americans. Though men and women had been forced into new employment patterns during World War II, once the war was over, traditional roles were reaffirmed. Men expected to be the breadwinners in each family women, even when they worked, assumed their proper place was at home. In his influential book, The Lonely Crowd, sociologist David Riesman called this new society “other-directed,” characterized by conformity, but also by stability. Television, still very limited in the choices it gave its viewers, contributed to the homogenizing cultural trend by providing young and old with a shared experience reflecting accepted social patterns of dress, behavior and expectation.

By Alden Jewell (1951 Nash Ambassador Custom 4-Door Sedan) [CC BY 2.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Countercultural beginnings

Yet beneath this seemingly bland surface, small, but important segments of American society seethed with rebellion. A number of writers, collectively known as the “Beat Generation,” went out of their way to challenge the patterns of respectability and shock the rest of the culture. Stressing spontaneity and spirituality, they preferred intuition over reason, Eastern mysticism over Western institutionalized religion.

The literary work of the beats displayed their sense of alienation and quest for self-realization. Jack Kerouac typed his best-selling novel On the Road on a 75-meter roll of paper. Lacking traditional punctuation and paragraph structure, the book glorified the possibilities of the free life. Poet Allen Ginsberg gained similar notoriety for his poem “Howl,” a scathing critique of modern, mechanized civilization. When police charged that it was obscene and seized the published version, Ginsberg successfully challenged the ruling in court.

Rock and Roll

Musicians and artists rebelled as well. Tennessee singer Elvis Presley was the most successful of several white performers who popularized a sensual and pulsating style of African-American music, which began to be called “rock and roll.” At first, he outraged middle-class Americans with his ducktail haircut and undulating hips. But in a few years his performances would seem relatively tame alongside the antics of later performers such as the British Rolling Stones. Similarly, it was in the 1950s that painters like Jackson Pollock discarded easels and laid out gigantic canvases on the floor, then applied paint, sand, and other materials in wild splashes of color. All of these artists and authors, whatever the medium, provided models for the wider and more deeply felt social revolution of the 1960s.