Japan’s bold strikes against British and US forces in the Pacific and Asia in December 1941 was the culmination of decades of expansionist growth by Japan at the expense of its neighbours. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, a westernised, politically confident and eventually territorially aggressive regime emerged in Japan. After modernizing the country, by the 1890s Japan was willing to wage war against China and later Imperial Russia for territorial control of Korea. Its membership of the WW1 Allies enabled it to consolidate its role as the new dominate military power in north Asia. By the 1930s, the openly aggressive militarist party in Japan invoked increasing concern in the wider western world. Trade sanctions were imposed on Japan following its invasion of China, but with Europe’s slide into WW2, Japan’s ambitious grew unchecked. The German defeat of France in 1940 embolden Japan to occupy French Indo-china, which became an important launching pad for the next step – the creation of the ‘Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere’ and the conquest of South Asia / South West Pacific in 1941 and 1942.
By the second half of 1942, the Japanese advance ground to halt – in the west, its forces were in Burma on the border with British India; in the south, Japanese and Allied forces battled for New Guinea, and last geographical step before the Australian mainland; while further to the east, Allied forces in the Solomon islands and in the central Pacific checked Japan’s eastward march. For the next 3 years, Japan’s far flung forces were forced onto the defensive, preferring to be overwhelmed and wiped out than to admit defeat.
Within Japan itself, the Japanese people enduring increasing privations and the terror of Allied bombing campaigns. As the Allied forces pushed closer and closer to the Japanese home islands, preparations were made for the final defence against expected Allied invasion forces. However, the Allied leadership resolved on another approach to ending the war – Atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Faced with the new terror weapons of the modern age, the Japanese government became divided on how to respond – one faction urged fanatical resistance, while the other faction urged surrender. Despite an attempted military coup, Emperor Hirohito acceded to the Allied demands for an unconditional surrender.
The following documents are listed with the intention of providing insight into the Japanese experience of WW2.
|Emperor Hirohito announces the Japanese Surrender||Type||Speech (Radio broadcast)|
|Date||15 August 1945|
|WW2 Context||Following the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government was divided on how to respond. One faction favoured surrender, while another faction favoured continuing the war. Hirohito sided with the peace faction; however, faced with a military coup by the militarist faction, Hirohito was forced to prepare the radio broadcast in secret. With the Imperial palace subsequently occupied by rebels, a copy of the broadcast was smuggled out of the Palace. Interestingly, Hirohito does not directly mention surrender in his ‘Gyokuon-hōsō ‘ (Jewel Voice Broadcast), also known as the ‘Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War’.
Instead:‘We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.’