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This Day in History: End of WWII Anniversary
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Photo: flickr.com/Simon Lea

This Day in History: End of WWII Anniversary

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September 2, 1945. Japan surrenders, which means the end of the deadliest war in the history of humanity.

It happened 73 years ago. The War that led to the death of more than 80 million people all around the world (the countries which suffered the most were the Soviet Union and China: both lost no less than 27 million people, yet the overall number of casualties is still unknown) was over.

The battles fought during the Second World War were the deadliest as well. The Battle of Stalingrad alone cost the warring sides about 2 million people dead, wounded and captured. This is twice the number of people living nowadays in one of the major Russian cities, Volgograd (former Stalingrad, renamed in 1961), where the battle took place in the severe autumn and winter 1942/1943. The Battle of Kursk (July-August 1943), which marked the final offensive Germany and the Axis in general could launch on the Eastern Front and ended with a decisive Soviet victory cost the Union and Germany more than 1.5 million people, which is three times more than the size of the city of Kursk itself nowadays.

The Battle of Moscow, the Blockade of Leningrad, The liberation of Belarusian SSR, Ukrainian SSR and Eastern Europe territory in general from the Nazis, the battles of Prague, Budapest and Berlin cost the Soviet Union millions of lives. Despite the fact we still don’t know the exact numbers of Soviet citizens that died in the Great Patriotic War (which is also referred as the “Eastern Front” in the West), what we know for sure is: there is not a single family in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus nowadays, who didn’t lost any of its ancestries during the War. When you talk to a person in Russia and say the word “War”, it’s excessive to specify, which war you mean. The Soviet Union paid the ultimate price for Victory, annihilating more than 80 % of total number of Axis troops deployed during WWII.

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. Stalin, Churchill, and Truman gathered to decide how to administer Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier on 8 May (Victory in Europe Day). The goals of the conference also included the establishment of postwar order, peace treaty issues, and countering the effects of the war. This system of world order, with some details and exceptions, existed for more than 45 years after it: till the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Yet, after the Fall of Berlin and Germany signing the capitulation May 8, 1945 (Central European time, that already was May 9 in Moscow, so people from all over the Soviet republics nowadays celebrate Victory day on this date) the War didn’t end. Militarist Japan, the mightiest Axis member in the Pacific (the other was Thailand by the way), kept on fighting, despite crucial casualties it suffered not only in the Ocean, but in the homeland as well: air raids on Tokyo, launched by the Allied (for the most – the U.S.) Air Force led to the death of more than 100 thousand Japanese people and to the displacement of more than a million of them. The spirit of samurais couldn’t allow the Japanese Empire to surrender. The Japanese were all-ready to defend their islands. However, in the beginning of August there appeared something that was able to break even the strongest, centuries-old, Japanese war codex rules: the nuclear bomb.

The discussion on this issue hasn’t stopped for a day since it happened. What is known, is that the U.S. anticipated losing many combatants in Operation Downfall (potential Allied invasion of Japan, that never happened), although the number of expected fatalities and wounded is subject to some debate. U.S. President Harry S. Truman stated in 1953 he had been advised U.S. casualties could range from 250,000 to one million combatants. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese cities nuked on August 6 and 9 respectively, became both the symbols of Japanese national tragedy for the country and the enormous destruction nuclear weapons could bring.

What we know for sure, is that after nuclear bombings Japan was doomed to surrender, and first of all – psychologically. The operation in Manchuria launched by the Soviet Union, that started August 9, 1945, almost simultaneously with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, forced the Kwantung Army to wave the white flag. As a result, Japan lost the vast majority of its troops in continental China. Clamped by the USSR and the U.S. Japan had no chance to continue the war, so the talks about ultimate capitulation of the last Axis power fighting in WWII started in Tokyo.

The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced on August 15 and formally signed on September 2, 1945, bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close. Three weeks before, together with the British Empire and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945 - the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction". 

«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…» - said Japanese emperor Hirohito in his speech to nation, that was broadcasted at 12:00 Japan standard time August 15, 1945.

The surrender ceremony was held on September 2, aboard the United States Navy battleship USS Missouri. The Japanese government had no other option, than to sign the surrender, so it happened, thus ended the deadliest war in the history of the humanity.

People celebrated Victory Day all over the world and hoped the Peace would be eternal since now on. Unfortunately, their hopes couldn’t come true and soon humanity stepped into the Cold War era, but this, surely, is a completely different topic to discuss.

Author: USA Really