Tuesday, August 14, 2012

10 Things You Don't Know About The Japanese Surrender




 (Today marks the 67th anniversary of the announcement on August 14 (August 15 Tokyo time) 1945 by Emperor Hirohito of the acceptance of the Potsdam terms for unconditional surrender (with the condition that he could remain as a figurehead emperor). I find the period from Hirohito's announcement until the formal surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2 to be a fascinating period chock full of things you probably don't know. Although my last blog entry was about the Guadalcanal campaign, the next edition will be about a completely different topic than WWII.)


1. Although the formal surrender of Japan did not occur until September 2, 1945 aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, the occupation of that nation began five days earlier when a team of 150 American personnel arrived at Atsugi airfield on August 28.  They were originally supposed to arrive on August 25 but a Japanese delegation in Manila informed the Americans that several more day were needed to ensure that military resistors to the surrender could be disarmed. They were correct since a few days before the Americans arrived, Japanese pilots took off from Atsugi airfield and dropped leaflets on Tokyo and other cities urging resistance by the civilians. Fortunately those pilots were gone, along with any resistance, by the time the Americans arrived at Atsugi.

2. The surrender ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2 was carefully planned...except for one small but very important detail. The fancy British mahogany table brought aboard the Missouri for the surrender was too small for the two large documents that had to be signed. In desperation, an ordinary table from the crew’s mess was drafted as a replacement. It was covered by a green coffee-stained tablecloth from a wardroom. After the 2 surrender documents were signed on the table, it was returned to the mess and was being set for lunch until the ship’s captain and others realized it was an historical object and removed for posterity.

3. There were 280 allied warships in Tokyo Bay when the surrender took place but no aircraft carriers. They were out at sea as a reserve force  just in case the Japanese changed their minds.

4. There was a thick cover of low dark clouds over Tokyo Bay during the 20 minute surrender ceremony. Unfortunately, 2000 planes were scheduled to fly over the bay the moment the ceremony finished. However, at the last moment the clouds suddenly parted, as if in a Hollywood movie production, and the sun burst through allowing all aboard the U.S.S. Missouri to view the mightiest display of air power ever seen.

5. When Emperor Hirohito announced over the radio the acceptance of the allied terms of surrender on August 15 (Tokyo time), very few Japanese listening to him understood what he was saying because he was using formal court language not used by the general populace. It wasn’t until the radio announcers followed up by describing what he said that the public understood what he meant.

6. After Emperor Hirohito made his surrender announcement, the Japanese public ran through a gamut of emotions...anger, despair, sadness, and relief. However, one Japanese person had a very different thought on his mind...how to make money off the surrender. He was Ogawa Kikumatsu, a book editor. Ogawa was on a business trip when the surrender was announced on the radio. He immediately returned to Tokyo by train and while traveling he began thinking of how to take advantage of the impending occupation.. By the time he reached Tokyo, he had his idea...to publish a guide booklet of Japanese phrases translated into English with the aid of phonetics. It took less than three days for Ogawa and his team to prepare the 32 page booklet and it was published exactly a month after the surrender. Its first run of 300,000 copies sold out immediately and by the end of 1945, 3.5 million copies had been sold.  Here are some sample English phrases from the booklet followed by the phonetics that the Japanese used:

Thank you! 
Thank you, awfully!
How do you do?


San kyu!
San kyu, ofuri!
Hau dei dou?

7. One of the biggest concerns of the Japanese government after the announcement by Hirohito on August 15 was to find “comfort girls” who would serve as a buffer to protect the chastity of the majority of the Japanese women from the occupation troops. Government funds were used to set up the “Recreation and Amusement Association” for this purpose. Ironically most Japanese prostitutes resisted recruitment since they believed wartime propaganda cartoons portraying Americans as having oversized sex organs and they didn’t want to risk bodily injury. Therefore, other women had to be recruited into the “buffer zone.”

8. The women of the Recreation and Amusement Association were known as Okichis after a woman named Okichi who was assigned to be the consort of the first American consul to Japan, Townsend Harris,  in 1856 to keep him from hitting on other Japanese women. You can see Okichi portrayed in a 1958 movie, “The Barbarian and the Geisha,” starring Eiko Ando as Okichi and John Wayne as Townsend Harris. However, there is no record of consul Harris ever saying, “Hit the sack, pilgrim!”

9. Soupy Sales was almost torpedoed by the Japanese after the surrender... Although most Japanese surrendered peacefully following the surrender, some of them didn’t know about the surrender due to poor communications. The U.S.S. Randall, an attack transport, was on its way back to the states just after the surrender when a Japanese submarine was detected following it. One of the sailors aboard who performed a White Fang comedy act over the ship’s PA system, Seaman Milton Supman (Soupy Sales) worried that the Japanese submarine captain hadn’t heard about the surrender. Or perhaps the Japanese captain just didn’t like Soupy’s shtick. No torpedoes were fired nor was Soupy Sales harmed during that incident.

10. For a long time after the Japanese surrender, many imperial troops had not heard about it and took years to surrender. The last holdout was Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda who was discovered to be still holding out on Lubang island in the Phillipines in 1974. Although he was known to be a holdout he eluded searchers until he was found by a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was on a mission to travel the world in a search for Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman in that order. In 1986, Suzuki died in the Himalayas attempting to find the Abominable Snowman. It is unknown whether Suzuki ever found a panda but perhaps he was unable to travel to the San Diego Zoo to see them.

1 comment:

  1. My dad was there, but I'm having trouble find photos of the USS Jeffers he served on while it was assisting at the Surrender. 3 ships went in ahead of the "Mighty MO". My dad's was the 3rd (all "destroyer mine sweepers") and then the MO. Still looking for more picks of that BIG day with the USS Jeffers in them. Thanks!

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