On September 2, 1945, the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers aboard the USS Missouri. Japanese General Yoshijirō Umezu signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japan, and U.S. General Douglas MacArthur accepted the instrument of surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers. Today marks the 75th anniversary of the formal Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

Gemeral Douglas MacArthur signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the victorious Allied Powers aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, formally bringing the Pacific War to its conclusion.
General Douglas MacArthur signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers. Retrieved from Wikipedia.

Below, you will find an audio recording of the surrender ceremony, with remarks from General MacArthur and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz aboard the USS Missouri and President Harry Truman from the White House. The proceedings were narrated for listeners by newscasters Webley Edwards and Merrill Mueller:

Audio recording of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. The recording includes remarks from General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and President Truman. Retrieved from The Internet Archive. National Archives Identifier for the recording: 2363637.

The surrender ceremony officially brought World War II in the Pacific – one of the deadliest wars in history – to an end. Japan’s brutal campaign of conquest caused in the deaths of millions of civilians from China to the Philippines, and ultimately in Japan itself. It was only stopped through the heroic sacrifices of the United States military, military families, and allied forces. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions more, would have died had the United States not achieved the military domination in the Pacific required to compel Imperial Japan’s surrender without needing to undertake an invasion of the Japanese home islands. First and foremost, today we should remember the courageous sacrifices of U.S. service members, their families, and allied forces – who forever sanctified the soil of countless islands between the Hawaii and Japan – in bringing the Pacific War to a decisive end.

In his opening speech at the surrender ceremony, General MacArthur stated: 

“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past – a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wished for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”

In his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan during the occupation, General MacArthur worked to bring about the outcome he hoped for in Japan.  While there will always be a debate over the extent to which General MacArthur allowed the Emperor of Japan to skirt responsibility for the carnage of the Second World War – post-war Japan has been a remarkable success story.  Japan has generally been a consistent ally of the United States, a responsible actor in world affairs, and the source of remarkable technological and cultural exports abroad.  General MacArthur recognized the transformation of Japan in an address to Congress in 1951

“The Japanese people since the war have undergone the greatest reformation recorded in modern history. With a commendable will, eagerness to learn, and marked capacity to understand, they have from the ashes left in war’s wake erected in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy of individual liberty and personal dignity, and in the ensuing process there has been created a truly representative government committed to the advance of political morality, freedom of economic enterprise, and social justice.” 

While, to be sure, the Pacific region continues to face the challenges of a rising and increasingly belligerent Communist China and the always-erratic North Korea, we can and should be thankful for the successful efforts the United States undertook to rebuild Japan from the ashes of the Pacific War. From the ashes of war, a great friendship between two nations was rekindled, and may it continue as we face great contemporary challenges in the region.