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How Japan lost WWII

U.S. soldiers fight their way through Baleta Pass near Baugio, Luzon, Philippines, sometime in late February 1945. (Department of Defense)
January 02, 2023

World War II ended in Japan on September 2, 1945, when Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers, bringing an end to the war in the Pacific. 

The surrender came after several key events that led to Japan’s defeat, including the United States’ use of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan, and Japan’s internal political and military struggles.

The United States had been fighting Japan in the Pacific since the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. In the years that followed, the United States and its allies made significant progress in the war, eventually pushing the Japanese back to their home islands.

In 1944, the United States began a campaign of firebombing major Japanese cities, including Tokyo, in an effort to destroy Japan’s industrial and economic infrastructure. These attacks were devastating, and Japan’s military and civilian leaders knew that they were on the verge of defeat.

In July 1945, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China issued the Potsdam Declaration, which called for Japan’s unconditional surrender. The declaration stated that if Japan did not surrender, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.” Japan’s leaders were divided on whether to accept the terms of the declaration or to continue fighting.

In the end, Japan’s decision to surrender was influenced by several factors. First, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, killing hundreds of thousands of people and causing widespread devastation. These attacks were a major factor in Japan’s decision to surrender, as the Japanese leadership knew that they could not withstand another atomic bomb.

Second, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 9, 1945, and began a rapid advance into Japanese-occupied territories in Manchuria and Korea. The Soviet Union’s involvement in the war was a major blow to Japan, as the Japanese knew that they could not fight a war on two fronts against the United States and the Soviet Union. Also, many Japanese military leaders had favored a negotiated peace mediated by the Soviet Union, but that became impossible after the Soviets declared war.

On September 2, 1945, Japan officially surrendered to the Allied Powers, signing the instrument of surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The surrender brought an end to World War II in the Pacific, and marked the beginning of a long and difficult process of reconstruction and rebuilding for Japan.

In the years that followed, Japan underwent a period of rapid economic and political transformation, eventually becoming a major economic and political power in the world. Today, Japan is a key ally of the United States and a leader in the global community, and the events of World War II and Japan’s surrender continue to shape the country’s relationship with the rest of the world.