After the stealth attack on Pearl Harbor on July 7, 1941 marking the official participation of the United States in WWII, The US and Japan continued their battles for another four years until the Potsdam Conference discussions introduced the Potsdam Declaration on July 26,1945.
The Declaration was issued by Chiang Kai-Shek (Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China), Clement Attlee (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) in addition to Harry S. Truman (President of the United States). The decree was an acceptance of surrender of sorts, with stipulations outlined therein. The terms of the Declaration called for an immediate surrender of the Supreme Leadership of Japan, an agreement reached at the Potsdam Conference. However, if Japan did not comply and lay down arms in accordance with the treaty, it faced immediate and complete destruction.
Additionally, the Declaration stated that Japan must forfeit all dictatorships and attempts of world domination; Freeing the Japanese People from such dictatorships including freedoms of basic human rights. These rights included establishing a democratic government, implementing religious freedoms and the right to individual thoughts or opinions, and the ability to reap the benefits of their resources. It was further documented that there was no intent of enslaving Japanese People or imprisoning soldiers, in fact once the military was completely disarmed they were encouraged to return home to lead productive and fulfilling lives in Japan.
The Potsdam Declaration continued in its details, citing that the specific places would be occupied by allied forces with no mention of time frame or whether the Allied Forces would control the raw goods that Japan supplied. It was stated that those responsible for misleading the people of Japan would be eliminated and Japan would be effectively returned to the people. The Declaration made mention of Japan’s treatment of their prisoners of war, and those who were found to have committed war crimes would be held accountable. The treaty also warned against future attacks including the raid on Tokyo, called Operation Meetinghouse.
The Declaration made no mention of the Allied Forces that would occupy the points in Japan, nor which foreign country would be in control of the Japanese Government. The intent was to accept the surrender of Japanese military personnel, disable the influential oppressing government, and create a productive society in which Japan could participate in World Trade, and benefit from their own economy.
The Potsdam Declaration further warned of future acts of war would indicate blatant disregard for the agreement.
Discussions of the surrender began at the Potsdam Conference, on July 17, 1945. On the very day prior to the start of the conference, The United States of America successfully tested the first Atomic weapon in New Mexico. The failure of the mention of this capability insinuated the utilization of such a weapon, with the above mentioned threat of “Prompt and Utter destruction” if met with non-compliance of the terms in the Declaration.
Japan leaders did not agree to these terms, specifically the unclear status of the Emperor, occupying forces, and eventual government. In hopes that the Soviet Union would step and negotiate with the Western Allies, they opted to wait. Meanwhile, US Bombers dropped 3 million leaflets into Japan as well as broadcasting the terms, outlining the details of the surrender. Although it was illegal to handle enemy propaganda or listen to foreign broadcasts, the details of the Potsdam Declaration became known.
In a press conference held in Japan, the Prime Minister gave a statement basically of “No Comment”, and because of varying translations the US decided it was a rejection of the terms meaning “ignore with contempt” and followed through with the promise of Japanese destruction. President Harry S. Truman signed the order to drop the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be executed in the month of August, 1945. This was less than a month after the Potsdam Conference and subsequent Declaration. After the infamous atomic bombings, Japanese forces surrendered in compliance with Germany soon following suit, effectively ending World War Two.