Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for
Japanese Surrender is a statement that called for the surrender of all
Japanese armed forces during World
War II. On July 26, 1945, United
States President Harry S. Truman,
United Kingdom Prime Minister
Clement Attlee, and Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China
Chiang Kai-shek issued the document, which outlined the terms of
surrender for the
Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam
Conference. This ultimatum stated that, if Japan did not surrender, it
would face "prompt and utter destruction".
Potsdam Conference session including Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin,
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov,
Joseph Stalin (white uniform),
William D. Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S.
1 Terms of the Declaration
2 Leaflets and radio broadcasts
4 See also
6 External links
Terms of the Declaration
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
the elimination "for all time of the authority and influence of those
who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on
the occupation of "points in Japanese territory to be designated by
that the "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of
Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we
determine," as had been announced in the Cairo Declaration in 1943.
that "the 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 "we 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
On the other hand, the declaration offered 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 fundamental human 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 mention of "unconditional surrender" came at the end of the
"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, which was to
disenfranchise the Japanese leadership so the people would accept a
mediated transition, instead the declaration made no direct mention of
the Emperor at all. It did, however, insist that "the authority and
influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan
into embarking on world conquest must be eliminated for all time".
Allied intentions on issues of utmost importance to the Japanese,
including the extent and number of Allied "occupation points," the
fate of Japan's minor islands, and the extent to which the Allies
planned to "control" Japan's "raw materials," as well as whether
Hirohito was to be regarded as one of those who had "misled the people
of Japan" or whether the Emperor might potentially become part of "a
peacefully inclined and responsible government," were thus left
unstated, essentially a blank check for the Allies.
The "prompt and utter destruction" clause has been interpreted as a
veiled warning about American possession of the atomic bomb which had
been successfully tested in
New Mexico on July 16, 1945, the day
Potsdam Conference opened. Although the document warned of
further destruction like the Operation Meetinghouse raid on Tokyo and
other carpetbombing of Japanese cities, it did not mention anything
about the atomic bomb.
A major aspect relating to the
Potsdam Declaration was that it was
intended to be ambiguous. It is not clear from the document itself
whether a Japanese government was to remain under Allied occupation or
whether the occupation would be run by a foreign military government.
In the same manner, it was not clear whether after the end of the
occupation Japan was to include any territory other than the four main
Japanese islands, i.e., whether the set of sets of islands potentially
satisfying the description "such minor islands as [the Allies]
determine" included the empty set. This ambiguity was intentional on
the part of the U.S. government in order to allow the Allies a free
hand in running the affairs of Japan afterwards.
Leaflets and radio broadcasts
The Declaration was released to the press in Potsdam on the evening of
July 26 and simultaneously transmitted to the Office of War
Information (OWI) in Washington. By 5 p.m. Washington time, OWI's
West Coast transmitters, aimed at the Japanese home islands, were
broadcasting the text in English, and two hours later began
broadcasting it in Japanese. Simultaneously, American bombers dropped
over 3 million leaflets describing the declaration over Japan. The
Declaration was never transmitted to the Japanese government through
diplomatic channels. Although picking up enemy propaganda leaflets
and listening to foreign radio broadcasts (in Japan) was illegal, the
American propaganda efforts were successful in making the key points
of the declaration known to most Japanese.
Main article: Surrender of Japan
The terms of the declaration were hotly debated within the Japanese
government. Upon receiving the declaration, Foreign Minister Shigenori
Tōgō hurriedly met with Prime Minister
Kantarō Suzuki and Cabinet
Secretary Hisatsune Sakomizu. Sakomizu recalled that all felt the
declaration must be accepted. Despite being sympathetic to accepting
the terms, Tōgō felt it was vague concerning the eventual form of
government for Japan, disarmament, and the fate of accused war
criminals, and still had hope that the
Soviet Union would agree to
mediate negotiations with the Western Allies to obtain clarifications
and revisions of the declaration's terms. Shortly afterwards, Tōgō
met with Emperor Hirohito, and advised him to treat the declaration
with the utmost circumspection, but that a reply should be postponed
until the Soviet response to the Japanese request to mediate peace.
Hirohito stated that the declaration was "acceptable in principle".
Meanwhile, the Supreme Council for the Direction of the
War met the
same day to discuss the declaration.
War Minister Korechika Anami,
General Yoshijirō Umezu, and Admiral
Teijirō Toyoda opposed
accepting the declaration, arguing that the terms were "too
dishonorable", and advised that the Japanese government openly reject
it. Suzuki, Tōgō, and Admiral
Mitsumasa Yonai leaned towards
accepting it, but agreed that clarification was needed over the status
of the Emperor. Tōgō's suggestion that the government not respond
until it received the Soviet response was accepted.
At a press conference with the Japanese press in Tokyo, Suzuki stated
that the Japanese policy towards the declaration would be one of
mokusatsu, which the
United States interpreted to mean "to kill with
silence", in other words "to ignore", leading to a swift decision by
the Allies to carry out the threat of destruction. However, the word
can also mean "no comment", as it was apparently intended in this case
President Truman and his advisers had mulled over the meaning of
mokusatsu before making a decision. One meaning was a matter of
politeness among the upper classes. An unacceptable offer is made, and
the other person, not wanting to offend the speaker, pretends not to
have heard. The other person realizes his mistake, and makes a better
offer. The other meaning is to view with silent contempt. The White
House decided that the second meaning was intended.
After the war, Prime Minister Suzuki stated that his words were not
meant for international consumption, nor to be taken as an official
message. He had simply tried to speak with strength, to boost the
morale of the troops.
Subsequent to the White House decision, the
United States Army Air
Forces dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima
on August 6, 1945, and then the second atomic bomb on the Japanese
Nagasaki three days later on August 9, 1945. These two
bombings devastated the two cities, killing an estimated
129,000–246,000 people and destroying much of the cities'
infrastructure as well as military bases and war industries in a
matter of seconds in a radius that stretched for more than 1 mile (1.6
In a widely broadcast speech picked up by Japanese news agencies,
President Truman warned that if Japan failed to accept the terms of
Potsdam Declaration it could "expect a rain of ruin from the air,
the like of which has never been seen on this earth". As a result,
Prime Minister Suzuki felt compelled to meet the Japanese press, to
whom he reiterated his government's commitment to ignore the Allies'
demands and fight on. The extent of the Allies' demands brought
home to the Japanese leaders and people the extent of the success
Japan's enemies had achieved in the war. Subsequent to the receipt
of the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese Government attempted to
maintain the issue of the Emperor's administrative prerogative within
Potsdam Declaration through its surrender offer of August 10, but
in the end had to take comfort with Secretary of State James F.
Byrnes' reply "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." Thus, at
1200 JST on August 15, 1945, the Emperor announced his acceptance of
the Potsdam Declaration, which culminated in the surrender documents
signature on board the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.
Incidentally, the radio announcement to the Japanese people was the
first time many of them had actually heard the voice of the
On August 9, 1945, Stalin, based on a secret agreement at the February
1945 Yalta Conference, unilaterally abrogated the USSR's Neutrality
Treaty with Japan on April 13, 1941, and declared war on Japan on
August 9, 1945, beginning the Soviet–Japanese War. The Japanese
Army, which was underequipped and was totally unprepared, were quickly
Manchukuo (Soviet invasion of Manchuria).
Potsdam Declaration was intended from the start to serve as legal
basis for handling Japan after the war.[clarification needed]
Following the surrender of the Japanese government and the landing of
Gen. McArthur in Japan in September 1945, the Potsdam Declaration
served as legal basis for occupation reforms.
Cairo Declaration (1943)
General Order No. 1 (August 1945)
Japanese Instrument of Surrender
Japanese Instrument of Surrender (Sep 1945)
Treaty of San Francisco
Treaty of San Francisco (1951)
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^ Holt, Rinehart and Winston, American Anthem textbook, 2007.
^ Department of State Memorandum, undated, but certainly from late
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Full Text of the
Potsdam Declaration -
National Diet Library
National Diet Library of Japan
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