Why Did Japan Surrender?

As we remember the end of World War Two by the dropping of two nukes on two Japanese cities in August 1945…..there has always been a debate on why Japan surrendered…was it a direct result of the bombs?  Or were there other factors that we may not be aware of?

My personal opinion is……I do not think that the bombs were necessary….and most people think they were so that the US could avoid a lengthy invasion of the Japanese Islands….

There is contentious debate among scholars about why Japan surrendered in World War II. Some believe the Aug. 15, 1945, declaration was the result of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It’s possible that these finally pushed Emperor Hirohito (posthumously called Emperor Showa) to break the deadlock in the Supreme War Council and accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration for unconditional surrender issued by the Allied leaders on July 26, 1945. In that declaration, there was a promise of “prompt and utter destruction” if the armed forces of Japan didn’t surrender. The use of weapons of mass destruction causing the incineration of large swaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in quick succession backed up that threat, highlighting the futility of continuing the war. Emperor Hirohito’s intervention on the side of those favoring capitulation was crucial to winning over those hardliners who didn’t. In this narrative, the dawning of the nuclear age brought peace. It also allowed military leaders to save face, since they could claim that the war was not lost on the battlefield, and agree to surrender to spare the Japanese people from more suffering.


If you, my reader, would like to let us know your thoughts on the closing days of World War Two….then we would appreciate them…..

22 thoughts on “Why Did Japan Surrender?

  1. I’m sure you know my feelings from previous comments. I think the bombs were necessary to gain -unconditional- surrender, and to stop Japan re-militarizing if they had got a ‘better deal’. As someone whose close relatives were POWs of the Japanese during WW2, I would have happily dropped a lot more atom bombs on that country, had they been available. That’s without even considering the appalling atrocities during their occupation of much of China. I know that sounds unfeeling, cruel, and harsh, but that’s what they were too. Perhaps younger readers will have a less emotional opinion.
    Best wishes, Pete.

      1. I have no doubt it will be condemned as an ‘atrocity’ by the allies, much like the bombing of Dresden is reviled by many in the UK.

  2. It’s so very tough judging past events from a contemporary perspective because the passage of time tends to numb the original context and mixes the results. At the time the decision to drop the bombs was being contemplated the majority of the cities were already fire-bombed to less than 20-30% of their original size.. and most certainly the military industrial complex was utterly finished as well. Dropping the bombs had little if any military strategic value. We wanted unconditional surrender to establish a political end to the fighting so we could send in our occupation force to assure control and grab whatever culprits were left who decided to fight us and the other allies, including the Emperor if necessary, and do the war crimes thing as we had already started in Europe.
    As far as I know… while the Big Three Allies met at Yalta and Potsdam to hammer out a post-war Europe and carve up Germany… I am not aware that Truman consulted or even briefed any Allied powers that he was going to drop the bombs.. much less even letting them know the bombs existed given it was super secret at the time. So the decision to drop was an American affair. While this had really no influence over the end result of having dropped them, I simply found it a bit interesting by contrast to Europe… and protocol among allies.
    Anyway.. we can’t leave out the mood of the moment; the feeling during those times. There still was some fear inside the public mood regarding Japan even after V-E Day. The government, for various and important reasons, was telling the public very little, and had been playing up for the previous four years that all was going well, in spite of all the dead coming home, and wounded telling their graphic stories of the battlefield fighting… and there was a fatigue factor growing on the home front. All this was being felt through Congress… and understood inside the Truman administration. So the desire to end the conflict once and for all was strong. To get the “Japs” (and that’s what they were called back then.. no damn political correctness awarded to this bunch) to the table to surrender was all-important.

    Now.. did Truman make the correct decision? In it’s fullest possible ramifications of history since, absolutely he did. Was that the only decision/alternative he could have made? Of course not. He had other options. Did he know he was making the right decision at the time? Anyone with that kind of power over life and death of other humans will always question their decision. Fortunately Truman lived to see the results of his decision to some small measure in going beyond the initial human suffering of the blasts and radiation, as the event relates to history since.

    Why do I think his decision was a good one? The death and devastation and resulting radiation suffering for years graphically illustrated without a doubt and without speculative theories of what WILL happen when one of these things go off. That in itself became the moral deterrent during the coming Cold War arms buildup… which led to the scientific measures of explosive potential as “X times the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, easily understood by the public, and making world leaders think twice. When Truman made the decision he knew all that mattered is that he was killing Japs to end the war… to get their leadership to surrender and move on… and maybe send an ever slight message to Stalin at best.

    Another important sidebar to Truman’s decision.. that he would have never contemplated at the time… the vast scientific advancement in learning about radiation, treating its effects, and harnessing it for treatments of forms of cancer. One might also assign the obvious military desire to weaponize whatever it can get their hands on, in this case, “maybe we can mount one of these things inside a captured German V-2”.. thus spawning the development of ICBM’s.. and… the space program… the man on the moon.. and our iPhones.

  3. I failed to mention another side effect of having dropped the bombs. The Japs did indeed surrender… and it was rather with great moral inspiration that MacArthur administered the occupation and subsequent investigation on the Emporer to lay the groundwork for a new Japan.. that has far surpassed even the most daring of dreams by those Shinto-code nutjobs who wanted to conquer the world for the Emperor and started the war.

  4. Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the American progress on the atomic bomb. I don’t know if Stalin was included in the discussions, but doubt it.

  5. Based on what we know now it was not necessary and did not cause Japan to surrender. They would have without the bombs. But Truman did not know that. His decided has to be judged on the basis of the information he had at the time. Based on that he made the right decision. Based on what we know now he did not.

    1. You said…
      “Based on what we know now he did not.”

      I’m just curious.. is that based on fact or your opinion? No problem if it’s opinion.. we all have them.

      1. Based on reading accounts of Japanese government thinking and decision making.

  6. I guess I am missing something here. To suggest Truman made a “bad” call to decide to drop the bomb rather suggests that would be a matter of perspective depending on what end of the bomb dropping you were on at the time. I contend in the short term the Japanese surrendered.. the entire reason for the bombs.
    In the longer term, the decision helped the world. Are you talking strictly strategically? Sure.. as I stated, by the time the bombs dropped there wasn’t much of a military left.

    1. I am not necessarily calling it “bad” but rather unnecessary….it did flex our muscle for the years to came after the end of the war…….chuq

  7. Human reasons. The bombs killed and maimed a lot of people and did lasting damage to the psyche of the Japanese and created guilt in the IS and condemnation from our own citizens and world opinion. We still are the only country to have used the bombs in anger. That fact does not help our standing in some parts of the world as the evil and the devil. We used the bomb on yellow people is the charge to support the charge that we are racist against non white peoples

  8. Let me keep my comment real simple and brief — They surrendered because they were not in favor of witnessing their entire habitat turned into an uninhabitable waste heap for the next thousand years and they had this inner compulsion to see some of their generations somehow survive and bring their offspring into future generations,. In other words, they surrendered so that their entire culture would not be entirely annihilated from the face of the earth. I wish America would go back to waging their wars the way they used too instead of pussyfooting around the way they have a tendency to do. We used to wage war to win and this post of yours highlights that fact very adequately.

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