72nd ANNIVERSARY V-J DAY AUGUST 14, 1945
Canandaigua, NY 1
On December 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) using 6 of its aircraft carriers and hundreds of aircraft launched a sneak attack on the United States by bombing the U. S. Navy ships and personnel at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This “Day of Infamy”, as President Roosevelt called it was devastating with over 3,500 Americans killed or injured, and many ships/planes sunk, destroyed or heavily damaged. Japan’s war against the United States had begun. Germany as a member of the Axis powers declared war on the United States on Dec. 11, 1941. World War II was now official. Remember Pearl Harbor!
America was confronted with a two-front war, the European-Atlantic (E-A) and the Asia-Pacific (A-P). President Roosevelt focused most of America’s limited resources on the E-A theatre but also began the difficult, brutal and bloody land, sea and air battles to defeat Japan. The entire A-P war alone from 1941 thru 1945 cost hundreds of thousands of American and allied deaths, injuries, POWs and MIAs with great sacrifices on the Home Front.
By early 1942 the Axis powers had conquered a large part of the world. Germany/Italy had North Africa, Europe/France and were poised to invade England. Japan had Manchuria, much of Southeast Asia, Philippines, much of China, the Western Pacific and was on its way to invade Australia.
The Japanese people were united under the ultra-nationalistic State Shinto religion from pre-WWII until 1945. State Shinto doctrine included, Emperor Hirohito’s sovereignty was exercised by divine right, the Japanese people were superior to other peoples, Japan’s unlimited expansion, the suppression of individual freedoms and democratic principles. Japan’s leaders convinced their troops and the nation that it was a greater humiliation to surrender to the enemy than to die. Suicide was an honorable final action.
Under the unconditional surrender terms in 1945 all government sponsorship of State Shinto was abolished, individual freedoms and democratic principles were instituted.
Japan, during their wars of expansion begun in the 1930s, committed thousands of horrendous atrocities such as the “Rape of Nanking” in 1937, the “Bataan Death March” in 1942. Emperor Hirohito sanctioned the policy to “Kill all, burn all, loot all” causing the deaths of millions of Chinese. Japan’s War Ministry issued an edict that all POWs were to be killed by any means necessary. War crimes trials found many of Japan’s leaders guilty and sentenced to death or life in prison.
The leaders of Japan knowing America was going to invade their Homeland developed a fanatical, suicidal defense plan called Operation Ketsugo (OK). OK mobilized and trained civilians to defend their Homeland along with the military. Japan was not going to surrender.
America’s invasion plan was called Operation Downfall (OD), approved in early 1945 after considering other options such as blockades and continued air bombardment. This land, sea and air invasion was to be by far the largest such invasion in history, many times larger than D-day Normandy and was to begin November 1, 1945. The Joint Chiefs estimated OD would result in over a million American and allied casualties and several million Japanese casualties. Operation Downfall was the invasion that never happened.
President Truman (President since April, 1945 upon President Roosevelt’s death) called for Japan’s unconditional surrender in July 1945, implementing President Roosevelt’s 1943 Doctrine of Unconditional Surrender for all Axis powers. Japan refused. President Truman made the decision to drop the 1st atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6. 1945. He again called for Japan’s surrender. Japan again refused. President Truman dropped the 2nd atomic bomb on August 9, 1945. On August 14, 1945 President Truman announced Japan’s unconditional surrender. Americans and the world took to the streets to celebrate. World War II, called “history’s greatest catastrophe” was now over. America will always be grateful to those, military and civilian, who served. Remember V-J Day!