75th Anniversary of the end of WWII

Today, 75 years ago… 2 September 1945 – representatives of the Empire of Japan formally signed instruments of surrender on the deck of USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

WWII ended formally.  2194 days after Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 to 2 September 1945. 6 years and 1 day.

Celebrations at the time must have been amazing.  I like this photo of the mostly peaceful conga line in Lafayette Park near the White House!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kerry says:

    Two shorts. Another lifetime ago, my adult woodworking student came to class wearing his WWII hat. It read, “George Rice, Silver Star”. “George, you got the Silver Star”. “Yes”, he said. “I was the .30 cal machine gunner. I got into a duel with a German with a rocket launcher. We were back there a few years ago; I didn’t remember us being so close”.
    In an ice cream line, the man ahead, “Yes, I shouldn’t be here. I was in three invasions”. “Excuse me”, said I, “Would that be North Africa, Sicily and Normandy?” “Yes”, he says. “What beach at Normandy?” says I. “Omaha”. ( pause). “What wave?” “The first wave” he says.
    My father flew F-6F’s off an escort carrier and took a Kamikaze off Okinawa. His brother was on the ground in Europe for three years, married a Frau from Berlin.
    Seventy five years isn’t so long ago.

  2. Semper Gumby says:

    Kerry: Great comment. God bless ’em all.

    “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill in 1940, in praise of the Allied pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain.

    Present at the Surrender of Imperial Japan in Tokyo Bay was Gen. Wainwright of Bataan and Gen. Percival of Singapore.

  3. oakdiocesegirl2 says:

    I love your story too, Kerry. My dad and his brother were both in the South Pacific waiting to invade Japan when the atom bombs thankfully ended the war. If my dad had not come back, I would never have been born. My dad has been gone since 1985, but my uncle is still going at 98 years old, having outlived his wife and both his sons. My uncle piloted a rhino ferry in the Normandy invasion before being sent to Okinawa in 1945.

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    oakdiocesegirl2: God bless your father and uncle.

    Thankfully indeed the atom bomb ended the war. Other options, such as continuing the air campaign, ground invasion, blockade and starvation, or a cease-fire or treaty that left the predatory Imperial Japanese regime and Emperor cult in place, were even worse alternatives.

  5. Sieber says:

    I well remember the VE and VJ Day celebrations on Hollywood Blvd, sheer , wonderful madness. When we got home, the neighborhood kid were marching in parade banging on pots, pans and toys of all description.

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    The text of the Potsdam Declaration, July 26, 1945. Issued by Pres. Truman, Prime Minister Churchill and President of China Chiang Kai-Shek.

    Key point: The Declaration did not mention the Emperor of Japan. The Declaration stated that the Japanese military would be disarmed (Key point: “unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces”), and that Japan would be occupied until a peaceful order is established.

    The final paragraph of the Declaration:

    13. 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.


  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Sieber: Great comment, there was much rejoicing indeed when Imperial Japan surrendered. Rejoicing in the U.S., in China, in Korea, in the Philippines, in Burma and Southeast Asia, in Indonesia, in many Pacific islands, Australia, and the U.K.

    The folks at “Catholic Answers” should keep that wave of relief in mind when they hold forth every August against the decision to use the atomic bomb.

    For example, Patrick Coffin wrote last month: “I know, I know, “American lives”…But dropping the Atomic Bomb Was Wrong. Period.” Coffin is entitled to his opinion, but that dismissiveness says something about him.

    As for Coffin’s bluster, his words echo a 2011 article written by Christopher Check titled “Dropping the Atomic Bomb Was Wrong. Period.” Well, Check can also have his opinion. Check refers to the Catechism and morality reasonably enough, but his poorly researched article has an axe to grind. Check is pounding the table against two strawmen: “Americanism” and “My Country Right or Wrong.”

    Check shows no knowledge of the courses of action available in 1945. He briefly mentions that there should have been “a negotiated peace”- which highlights Check’s poor research. He is unaware of the basics such as the Potsdam Declaration.

    As for his obsession with “Americanism,” Check should review the first paragraph of this comment, such a review would assist in relieving Check of his own error of “Americanism.”

  8. Kerry says:

    Semper, you may have read Paul Fussell’s ‘Thank God for the Atom Bomb”. It is here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3321309/posts
    Perhaps less familiar is an excerpt from George MacDonald Fraser’s “Quartered Safe out Here”. Found here: https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2020/08/saturday-snippet-atomic-bomb-hiroshima.html
    A snippet from the latter: “Some years ago I heard a man denounce the nuclear bombing of Japan as an obscenity; it was monstrous, barbarous, and no civilised people could even have contemplated it; we should all be thoroughly ashamed of it.
    I couldn’t argue with him, or deny the obscenity, monstrosity, and barbarism. I could only ask him questions, such as:
    “Where were you when the war ended?”
    “In Glasgow.”
    “Will you answer a hypothetical question: if it were possible, would you give your life now, to restore one of the lives of Hiroshima?”
    He wriggled a good deal, said it wasn’t relevant, or logical, or whatever, but in the end, to do him justice, he admitted that he wouldn’t.”
    And Fraser asks more difficult questions.

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Kerry: Thanks, Paul Fussell’s essay I read several years ago and it is worth one’s time. The George MacDonald Fraser at Bayou Renaissance I have not yet read.

    Two items. In Check’s article he writes, without citation, about a ground invasion of Imperial Japan: “The U.S. government’s estimate of American casualties was closer to 50,000.”

    This is untrue. Estimates were one million Allied casualties and ten million Japanese casualties. If Check had done basic research on actual casualties from the Pacific island landings and the Battle of Manila in 1945 (Americans and Filipinos against the Japanese) then common sense should have informed Check that 50,000 is a fabrication.

    The Islamist group CAIR National in Washington DC repeats Leftist propaganda about Hiroshima and Nagasaki several times a year. Here is a quote by CAIR Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell last month:

    “Bismillah. 75 years ago, our government perpetrated a horrific crime against humanity. Dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a racist act of state terrorism, not a legitimate act of war. Our nation should apologize to the Japanese people every year.”

    Ah, “racism.”

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    In 1938 nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin.

    On August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein, after prompting by several Hungarian refugees, wrote a letter (the Einstein-Szilard Letter) to Pres. Roosevelt. The letter stated that a uranium chain-reaction could lead to the construction of an “extremely powerful bomb.” Also in the Letter:

    “I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over.”

    In 1942 the U.S. began the “Manhattan Project” to build a nuclear bomb.

    While National Socialist Germany surpassed the Allied arsenal with the jet fighter and V-2 missile, the Nazi nuclear effort was slow and, of course, insufficient. The “Alsos Mission” was an Allied effort to determine the status of the Nazi nuclear weapons program.

    In Britain, the 1940 Frisch-Peierls Memorandum led to the British and Canadian “Tube Alloys” nuclear weapon project, which was eventually joined to the Manhattan Project.

    The Soviet Union had their own nuclear weapons program, but to advance their research the Soviets clandestinely penetrated (“Enormoz”) the U.S. and U.K. nuclear programs (for example, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico) using American Communists and Communist sympathizers.

    Imperial Japan’s nuclear weapons program is generally agreed to have started in October 1940 with the Suzuki Report, and known as “Ni-Go” with a smaller project “F-Go.” The progress of these programs was very slow and, of course, unsuccessful. The Imperial Japanese biowar program was part of “Unit 731.”

    There was some cooperation between National Socialist Germany and Imperial Japan. Two examples: the Nazi U-864 in 1944 sailed to Imperial Japan and delivered jet fighter blueprints and other materials. The U-234 sailed with materials such as a half-ton of uranium oxide, however the U-boat captain surrendered in mid-voyage to Allied forces, during which the two Imperial Japan officers on board committed suicide.

    In 2019 the identity of a 1945 Los Alamos Soviet atomic spy, Oscar Seborer, was publicly identified.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Kerry: Thanks for the George MacDonald Fraser excerpt (a buddy is a fan of his Flashman novels).

    Another good point by Fraser in that excerpt:

    “I did point out that we were, in fact, civilians, too – civilians in uniform.”

    Most Allied soldiers were not career military, they rather would have been home than beating off banzai attacks in malarial jungles and Nazis in frozen forests. But, despite the grumbling that naturally goes with military service, they knew someone had to do it. The same with our sterling GWOT volunteers today.

    A comment under that Bayou Renaissance post on Fraser recalls this Stars and Stripes article from 2010:

    “”Time and combat will continue to erode the WW II stock, but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will be before the last Purple Heart for the invasion of Japan is pinned on a young soldier’s chest,” said D.M. Giangreco [editor of Military Review at Ft. Leavenworth], said in an e-mail.

    “A defense official was less certain, but she acknowledged it is possible.

    “As late as 1985, the Defense Logistics Agency still had about 120,000 refurbished Purple Heart sets dating back to World War II, said DLA spokeswoman Mimi Schirmacher.”


  12. Semper Gumby says:

    The de-classified minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee, May 1945, are available at researcher Gene Dannen’s website.


    6. Status of Targets

    A. Dr. Stearns described the work he had done on target selection. He has surveyed possible targets possessing the following qualification: (1) they be important targets in a large urban area of more than three miles in diameter, (2) they be capable of being damaged effectively by a blast, and (3) they are unlikely to be attacked by next August. Dr. Stearns had a list of five targets which the Air Force would be willing to reserve for our use unless unforeseen circumstances arise.


    B. It was the recommendation of those present at the meeting that the first four choices of targets for our weapon should be the following:
    a. Kyoto
    b. Hiroshima
    c. Yokohama
    d. Kokura Arsenal

    [Kyoto was first as many factories and technicians were relocating there as other cities in Japan were bombed. Kyoto was soon removed from the target list by Secretary of War Stimson as Kyoto is the cultural center of Japan and Stimson was concerned about post-war relations. Kokura Arsenal was the target of the second bomb, but cloud cover over Kokura diverted the aircraft to Nagasaki.]

  13. Semper Gumby says:

    Abp. Fulton Sheen:

    “The dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima blotted out boundaries. There was no longer a boundary between the military and the civilian, between the helper and the helped, between the wounded and the nurse and the doctor, and the living and the dead. For even the living who escaped the bomb were already half-dead. So we broke down boundaries and limits and from that time on the world has said we want no one limiting me. The key moral question comes down to the principle that the end does not justify the means. A noble intention to end the war does not make immoral acts moral. The same is true in the moral life more generally.”

    One can reasonably disagree with Venerable Fulton Sheen. Adam and Eve, the French Revolution, Karl Marx, Imperial Germany and World War I, Margaret Sanger, concentration camps and the Rape of Nanking “blotted out boundaries” before the Manhattan Project began in 1942. Secretary of War Stimson, after removing the cultural center of Kyoto from the target list, would disagree with “we want no one limiting me.”

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    Christopher Check does not cite his sources in arriving at the 50,000 casualty figure, but there were a number of estimates that varied wildly from 70,00 to 1.7-4 million (estimated 400,00-800,00 dead):


    Given that the U. S. was considering deploying up to 15 atomic bombs and given the infant understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation, if this scenario had played out, we would have lost quite a few more soldiers due to cancer and radiation poisoning within a few years after the War ended – deaths by our own hands. Then, there is the whole Soviet question, because we did not take into account a possible Soviet invasion of Japan from the north, which, if it could have been coordinated, might have speeded up the ground campaign.

    I do not know how many casualties there would have been. No one does. There are many scenarios that might have played out. Typhoon season was coming up, which would have complicated things even more.

    As for the morality of using the atomic bomb, since no one even knew the yield of an atomic bomb until the Trinity test, just a few days before they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, a proper moral calculus could only be done years later. Some of the theological machinery was missing (G. E. M. Anscombe’s work on Consequentialism, for instance). Monsignor Fulton Sheen was an early opponent of the use of nuclear weapons, but the Vatican vacillated between 1945-1949, given the real prospect of deterrence once the Soviets detonated their own bomb.

    Counterfactual history is an interesting exercise.

    The Chicken

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    Operation Ketsu-Go

    “The sooner the Americans come, the better…One hundred million die proudly.”

    – Japanese slogan in the summer of 1945.


    See also “The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan” by Fr. Wilson Miscamble.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Counterfactual history is indeed interesting, particularly when nuclear weapons are involved.

    An “Operation Olympic” wargame was published by the game company SPI to simulate a 1945 amphibious invasion of Japan.

    Here’s a brief timeline of actual events for exploring counterfactual history.

    1981 The Israeli Air Force heavily damages Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad.

    1991 Coalition forces liberate Kuwait, after which UN and IAEA weapons inspectors in Iraq discover that Saddam Hussein was 18-24 months away from an atomic bomb. (Some inspectors say less than 18-24 months. Regardless, the weapon at that point would be ship-borne, it would take longer to successfully mount and deliver it in a Scud missile. Saddam Hussein launched numerous Scud missiles in 1991).

    December 2003: Muammar Qaddafi surrenders Libya’s nuclear weapons program to the U.S., U.K. and IAEA.

    2011 The Arab Spring revolutions include Libya.

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