Truman, Harry S.

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Harry S. Truman

Statements on the Surrender of Germany and the Surrender of Japan

Transcribed and published in the New York Times, May 9, 1945 and September 2, 1945 Both speeches reprinted in Memoirs by Harry S. Truman,Volume 1: Year of Decisions, 1955

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president of the United States through most of the war, died on April 12, 1945 and vice president Harry S. Truman took office. At the time, Germany was quickly retreating from Allied forces on both the western and eastern fronts. The Allies on the western front consisted of troops from the United States, Great Britain, France, and Canada. After the Normandy invasion the Allies made their way across France and Belgium, pushing the Germans eastward. (See the Veterans of D-Day and Stephen E. Ambrose entries in chapter four for more information on the Normandy invasion and the Battle of Normandy.)

On the eastern front the armies of the Soviet Union were pushing the Germans westward. Germany and the Soviet Union had been fighting for control of Soviet territory since June 1941, when Germany invaded its former ally. (See Adolf Hitler entry in chapter one for more information on the German invasion of the Soviet Union.) Germany was being squeezed between the Allied forces on the two fronts and being pushed back into its own territory. By the end of April 1945, Soviet troops were within the city limits of Germany's capital city, Berlin. On April 30, unable to face defeat, German leader Adolf Hitler committed suicide in an underground bunker in Berlin. On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allied forces.

But World War II was far from over. The Allies were still fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. Japan had conquered a vast territory in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, beginning with Japan's invasion of an American naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941. By the summer of 1942 American troops were pushing the Japanese back, working their way from Australia northward and from the Hawaiian Islands westward. For three years American troops landed on island after tiny island in the Pacific, slowly making their way toward Japan. When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, American forces were in the middle of the largest of these island battles, on Okinawa. They captured Okinawa at the end of June and were then only 400 miles from Japan. (See Franklin D. Roosevelt entry in chapter one and E. B. Sledge entry in chapter four for more information about the war with the Japanese.)

America's next move was to invade Japan's home islands. American war planners believed the invasion would be very difficult and many lives would be lost. Japanese troops had fought very hard in the Pacific and the planners felt that Japanese troops would fight even harder for their home islands. If Allied forces took casualties at the same rate during an invasion of the main Japanese islands as they had on Okinawa, hundreds of thousands would be killed or wounded.

Rather than send America's troops into another vicious battle, President Harry S. Truman decided to use the newly developed atomic bombs to try to force the Japanese to surrender. (See Harry S. Truman entry concerning the Manhattan Project in chapter three for more information about the atomic bomb project.) On August 6, 1945, the American bomber the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, utterly destroying the city and killing approximately seventy-eight thousand people. When on August 9 the Japanese still had not surrendered the United States dropped another bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The top Japanese and military leaders still did not want to surrender. The Japanese government argued over the matter until August 15, when the emperor made the difficult decision, and announced that Japan would surrender unconditionally to the Allies.

Things to remember while reading Truman's statements on the surrender of Germany and Japan:

  • In late July 1943, shortly after the Allied invasion of Sicily, Italian leader Benito Mussolini was forced to resign. (Marshal Pietro Badoglio then became premier of Italy and governed the nation in conjunction with its king, Victor Emmanuel III, until 1946.) For about a year and a half Mussolini led a German-backed "puppet" government that operated out of northern Italy. On April 28, 1945 he was captured by his enemies in Italy and killed. Two days later German leader Adolf Hitler reportedly committed suicide in his underground bunker as Soviet forces moved into the German capital of Berlin.
  • Soviet troops fought their way through Poland, Hungary, Austria, and finally all the way to Berlin. On May 2, 1945the German troops in Italy surrendered. That same day the capital city of Berlin surrendered to the Soviets. Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 8. When the fighting in Europe was over, the Soviet Union joined in the war against Japan, hoping to claim territory in postwar Asia.
  • U.S. general Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Allied Commander and received the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. The proceedings took place on board the battleship USS Missouri as it floated in Tokyo Bay. Representing the conquered nation were Mamoru Shigemitsu, the Japanese foreign minister, and Yoshijiro Umeza, the chief of the Japanese imperial staff. Both men signed the surrender documents. Then, representatives of the Allied nations added their signatures. MacArthur was the last to sign his name.

Truman's Statement on the German Surrender, May 8, 1945

Excerpted from Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, Volume 1: Year of Decisions

This is asolemn but glorious hour. General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to theUnited Nations . The flags of freedom fly all over Europe.

For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to theProvidence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity. Our rejoicing issobered andsubdued by asupreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of [German leader Adolf] Hitler and his evilband . Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartache which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors—neighbors whose mostpriceless possession has beenrendered as a sacrifice toredeem our liberty.

We can repay the debt which we owe our God, to our dead, and to our children, only by work, by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a singlewatchword for the coming months, that word is work, work and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is only half over. (Truman, pp. 206-8)

Truman's Statement on the Japanese Surrender, September 2, 1945

Excerpted from Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, Volume 1: Year of Decisions

My fellow Americans, the thoughts and hopes of all America— indeed of all the civilized world—are centered tonight on the battleship Missouri. There on that small piece of American soil anchored in Tokyo Harbor the Japanese have just officially laid down their arms. They have signed terms of an unconditional surrender.

Four years ago the thoughts and fears of the whole civilized world were centered on another piece of American soil—Pearl Harbor. The mighty threat tocivilization which began there is now laid to rest. It was a long road to Tokyo—and a bloody one.

We shall not forget Pearl Harbor.

The Japanesemilitarists will not forget the U.S.S. Missouri.

The evil done by the Japanesewar lords can never be repaired or forgotten. But their power to destroy and kill has been taken from them. Their armies and what is left of their navy are nowimpotent .

To all of us there comes first a sense of gratitude to Almighty God who sustained us and our Allies in the dark days of grave danger, who made us … grow from weakness into the strongest fighting force in history, and who now has seen us overcome the forces oftyranny that sought to destroy His civilization.…

Our first thoughts, of course—thoughts of gratefulness and deep obligation—go out to those of our loved ones who have been killed or maimed in this terrible war. On land and sea and in the air, American men and women have given their lives so that this day of ultimate victory might come and assure the survival of a civilized world.…

We think of those whom death in this war has hurt, taking from them husbands, sons, brothers and sisters whom they loved. No victory can bring back the faces they longed to see.

Only the knowledge that the victory, which these sacrifices made possible, will be wisely used can give them any comfort. It is our responsibility—ours, the living—to see to it that this victory shall be a monument worthy of the dead who died to win it.

We think of all the millions of men and women in our armed forces and merchant marine all over the world who, after years of sacrifice and hardship andperil, have been spared by Providence from harm.

We think of all the men and women and children who during these years have carried on at home, in lonesomeness and anxiety.

Our thoughts go out to the millions of American workers and businessmen, to our farmers and miners—to all who have built up this country's fighting strength, and who have shipped to our Allies the means to resist and overcome the enemy.…

And our thoughts go out to ourgallant Allies in this war; to those who resisted the invaders; to those who were not strong enough to hold out, but who nevertheless kept the fires of resistance alive within the souls of their people; to those who stood up against great odds and held the line, until the United Nations together were able to supply the arms and the men with which to overcome the forces of evil.

This is a victory of more than arms alone. This is a victory of liberty over tyranny.

From our war plants rolled the tanks and planes which blasted their way to the heart of our enemies; from our shipyards sprang the ships which bridged all the oceans of the world for our weapons and supplies; from our farms came the food and fibre for our armies and navies and for our Allies in all the corners of the earth; from our mines and factories came the raw materials and the finished products which gave us the equipment to overcome our enemies.

But back of it all were the will and spirit and determination of a free people—who know what freedom is, and who know that it is worth whatever price they had to pay to preserve it.

It was the spirit of liberty which gave us our armed strength and which made our meninvincible in battle. We now know that that spirit of liberty, the freedom of the individual, and the personal dignity of man are the strongest and toughest and most enduring forces in the world.

And so onV-J Day, we take renewed faith and pride in our own way of life. We have had our day of rejoicing over this victory. We have had our day of prayer and devotion. Now let us set aside V-J Day as one of renewedconsecration to the principles which have made usthe strongest nation on earth and which, in this war, we have striven so mightily to preserve.

… Liberty … has provided more solid progress and happiness and decency for more people than any other philosophy of govern ment in history. And this day has shown again that it provides the greatest strength and the greatest power which man has ever reached.

… We face the future and all its dangers with great confi dence and great hope. America can build for itself a future ofemployment and security. Together with the United Nations, it can build a world of peace founded on justice and fair dealing and tolerance.…

From this day we move forward. We move toward a new era of security at home. With the other United Nations we move toward a new and better world of peace and international goodwill and cooperation.

God's help has brought us to this day of victory. With His help we will attain that peace and prosperity for ourselves and all the world in the years ahead. (Truman, pp.460-63)

What happened next …

Germany and Japan were occupied by Allied armies, and key decisions were made about the territorial division of postwar Europe. General MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan. Its military was disarmed and work began on the formation of a new constitution.

Did you know …

  • The Japanese lived and fought by a code of honor. Members of Japan's military considered dying in war a glorious end; they dedicated their lives—and deaths—to their emperor, Hirohito (1901-1989).
  • In August 1945 Emperor Hirohito proclaimed that Japan was ready to stop the fighting and accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, provided the Allies allowed him to remain as sovereign ruler. Japan's military leaders wanted to continue the fight, but Hirohito felt that surrender was the only way to save the Japanese nation from complete destruction. In his radio broadcast to the Japanese regarding the surrender, he urged his people to "unite" their "total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future." Prior to this broadcast, the citizens of Japan had never heard Hirohito's voice.
  • An estimated fifty million people—fourteen million of them in the military—died during the course of World War II.

For More Information


Mee, Charles L., Jr. Meeting at Potsdam. New York: M. Evans & Co., 1975.

Wheeler, Keith, and the editors of Time-Life Books. The Fall of Japan. "Time-Life Books World War II Series." Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983.


MacArthur. Parts I and II. Narrated by David Ogden Stiers. "The American Experience." PBS/WGBH, 1999.

The War Chronicles: World War II. Volume 7: The Return to the Philippines.Produced by Lou Reda Productions. A&E Home Video Presents History Channel Video/New Video, 1995.

Web Sites

The Avalon Project. German Act of Military Surrender; May 8, 1945. [Online] (accessed on September 7, 1999).


Darby, Jean. Douglas MacArthur. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1989.

Dolan, Edward F. America in World War II: 1944. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1993.

Dolan, Edward F. America in World War II: 1945. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1994.

Dunnahoo, Terry. Pearl Harbor: America Enters the War. New York: F. Watts,1991.

Feinberg, Barbara Silberdick. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Cornerstones of Freedom Series." Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.

Feis, Herbert. The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II. Princeton, NJ:Princeton University Press, 1966. Originally published as Japan Subdued, 1961.

Freedmen, Russell. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New York: Clarion Books, 1990.

Newsweek, March 8, 1999, p. 53.

New York Times, May 9, 1945, pp. 1, 6; June 2, 1945, p. 4; August 15, 1945, p. 3; September 2, 1945, p. 4.

Ross, Stewart. World Leaders. New York: Thomson Learning, 1993.

Sandberg, Peter Lars. World Leaders Past and Present: Dwight D. Eisenhower.New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Sweeney, James B. Army Leaders of World War II. New York: F. Watts, 1984.

Truman, Harry S. Memoirs by Harry S. Truman Volume 1: Year of Decisions.Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955.

Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), the son of Captain Arthur MacArthur and Mary Pinkney MacArthur, was born January 26, 1880, in Little Rock, Arkansas. His family believed in the importance of a strong national military, and these beliefs rubbed off on young Douglas. Douglas's older brother, Arthur, attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Douglas himself graduated from the Texas Military Academy in 1897, then went on to attend the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Gifted with an almost photographic memory, he excelled in his studies and ranked first in the academy's class of 1903.

During World War I (1914-18) MacArthur served as chief of staff of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division, which fought with the French against the Germans in France. After the war, he accepted the post of superintendent of West Point. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1920.

MacArthur served in the Philippines as a military adviser in the mid-1930s. Then, in 1941—the year the United States entered World War II—he commanded U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, leading both American and Filipino soldiers in the fight for the Philippine Islands. In March 1942 U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave the Philippines and establish headquarters in Australia, prompting the general make his often-quoted promise to the Philippine people: "I shall return."

As commander of the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific, MacArthur oversaw the capture of a series of Pacific islands north of Australia for the rest of 1942 and all of 1943. He was able to return to the Philippines in October of 1944, thus fulfilling his pledge to return and liberate the Philippines from the Japanese.

The U.S. Army landed on Leyte, in the central Philippines, on October 20, 1944. Americans defeated the Japanese Fleet in the Battle for Leyte Gulf, which raged between October 23 and October 26. By January, U.S. troops were landing at Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands, where fighting continued for six more months. The Allies were victorious, and the Philippines were finally freed from Japanese control. MacArthur, by this time a five-star general, won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in the defense of the Philippines.

On September 2, 1945, on board the battleship Missouri, MacArthur accepted the surrender of the Japanese nation. World War II had reached its official end. MacArthur then served as supreme commander overseeing postwar Japan and ruling its eighty-three million citizens.

When the Korean War (1950-53) broke out in 1950, MacArthur commanded the United Nations troops defending South Korea. (The civil war in Korea began when Communist North Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel— a predetermined dividing line separating the nation's northern and southern sections—and entered non-Communist South Korea. Communism is a system of government in which the state controls the means of production and the distribution of goods. It clashes with the American ideal of capitalism, which is based on private ownership and a free market system.) MacArthur was fired by President Harry S. Truman in April 1951 after organizing an unauthorized move into China from Korea.

Throughout a military career that spanned fifty years, Douglas MacArthur earned a reputation as a difficult man. An unquestionably bold and gutsy military leader, he was also arrogant, temperamental, and even a bit eccentric: he reportedly had a fifteen-foot-long mirror installed in his office so he could be seen from all angles of the room. MacArthur, one of the most controversial and compelling American figures of the World War II era, died April 5, 1964, at the age of eighty-four.

CasablancaJanuary 1943Set date for invasion of Sicily (1943) but put off invasion of France (the Normandy invasion) until 1944; announced policy of "unconditional surrender" for Axis nations.
TeheranNovember 1943Set tentative date of Western European invasion (the Normandy invasion; Operation Overlord) for May of 1944.
YaltaFebruary 1945Scheduled first United Nations conference. Established postwar goals regarding future forms of government in Germany and the rest of Europe.
PotsdamJuly 1945Finalized the Potsdam Declaration and the policy on German reparations. The Soviet Union agreed to enter the war against Japan.

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