After the War

September 1945 – the war is over!

…You’ll never know how many dreams
I’ve dreamed about you
Or how empty they all seem without you
So kiss me once…and kiss me twice
And kiss me once again
It’s been a long…long time
It’s been a mighty, mighty long time


WWII caused >60 million deaths – approximately 3% percent of the 1940 world’s population. After the war, Allied powers worked to reduce the potential military power of conquered Axis nations and prosecute those accused of war crimes. Millions of Germans and Japanese were forced to leave territories they had colonized (e.g. in Eastern Europe, Korea, Taiwan and Manchuria). Tension between Western Allies and Communist Russia became particularly heated in Germany and the Korean Peninsula, resulting in the ultimate creation of East and West Germany and North and South Korea.


WWII:After the War: Click this link for 45 fascinating photos from The Atlantic October 30, 2011

Allies Occupy Germany

Your Job In Germany was a short film shown to US soldiers embarking on post-war occupation duty in Germany. Produced by the United States War Department in 1945, the film was made by a military film unit directed by Frank Capra and was written by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

The film exhorts occupying American troops to realize they are in hostile territory. Trust no one. Always be on the alert. There is an inner German lust for power. Be cautious. And enter into into no personal relationships.

Burmese Harp / Grave of the Fireflies

Adapted from the novel by Michio Takeyama, this 1956 film directed by Ichikawa Kon, involves a company of Japanese Imperial Army troops who finally surrender in the last desperate stages of the Burma campaign. When their company commander begins to lead them in songs from their homeland, they discover renewed energy and the will to survive.  After they surrender, one of the men, a harp player, fails to convince another group of soldiers holed up in a cave to surrender. Disguised as a Buddhist monk, he escapes to systematically bury dead Japanese troops scattered about the countryside. The film is very powerful and touching.

You don’t have to know Japanese to understand this film trailer.



Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 animated film adapted from the 1967 short story of the same name written by Akiyuki Nosaka. Based on his own experiences during the firebombing of Kobe in 1945, the book was written as a personal apology to his younger sister Keiko who died of starvation under his care after the bombing.


A-Bomb Morality – 1945

Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd

The concept of a nuclear chain reaction reportedly came to the physicist Leó Szilárd as an epiphany while waiting to cross a London street in 1933.

“…It suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.”

With his theory rejected by prominent physicists of the time, Szilárd, a Hungarian Jewish refugee, pursued his own research experiments. When, in 1939, German physicists bombarded uranium with neutrons, causing it to split in two and release extra neutrons in the process, Szilárd realized the scientific and military implications. Concerned that Nazi Germany might first develop a nuclear weapon, Szilárd composed a letter U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and convinced his celebrity friend Albert Einstein to sign it instead of him. FDR responded with interest and the Manhattan Project was ultimately born in 1942.


But with the defeat of Nazi Germany looming in the Spring of 1945, Szilárd co-authored the Franck Report that warned of a possible nuclear arms race  or war with Russia that would cost more lives than might be saved by using the atomic bomb against Japan. On the 4th of July, 1945, he sent this petition to fellow scientists.

July 4, 1945


Inclosed is the text of a petition which will be submitted to the President of the United States. As you will see, this petition is based on purely moral considerations.

It may very well be that the decision of the President whether or not to use atomic bombs in the war against Japan will largely be based on considerations of expediency. On the basis of expediency, many arguments could be put forward both for and against our use of atomic bombs against Japan. Such arguments could be considered only within the framework of a thorough analysis of the situation which will face the United States after this war and it was felt that no useful purpose would be served by considering arguments of expediency in a short petition.

However small the chance might be that our petition may influence the course of events, I personally feel that it would be a matter of importance if a large number of scientists who have worked in this field went clearly and unmistakably on record as to their opposition on moral grounds to the use of these bombs in the present phase of the war.

Many of us are inclined to say that individual Germans share the guilt for the acts which Germany committed during this war because they did not raise their voices in protest against these acts. Their defense that their protest would have been of no avail hardly seems acceptable even though these Germans could not have protests without running risks to life and liberty. We are in a position to raise our voices without incurring any such risks even though we might incur the displeasure of some of those who are at present in charge of controlling the work on “atomic power”.

The fact that the people of the people of the United States are unaware of the choice which faces us increases our responsibility in this matter since those who have worked on “atomic power” represent a sample of the population and they alone are in a position to form an opinion and declare their stand.

Anyone who might wish to go on record by signing the petition ought to have an opportunity to do so and, therefore, it would be appreciated if you could give every member of your group an opportunity for signing.   Leo Szilard



Was the atomic bombing of Japan justifiable?.

Reportedly, many others in the U.S. government and military at the time were opposed to use of the atomic bomb:



Those who defend the bombings always invoke the alternative of a full-scale invasion of the Japanese homeland, Operation Downfall, which would have undoubtedly caused many American and Japanese casualties. The numbers are debatable, but estimates range from the hundreds of thousands to the millions

But the Allies had several other options available in 1945:


  • barren island
  • center of Tokyo Bay


Changing the targets.

Hiroshima was chosen as a first target for the atomic bomb because it had not yet been bombed during the war and could therefore emphasize the power of the bomb. 


Clarifying the Potsdam Declaration which continued to demand “unconditional surrender.” The Allies could have made it clear that the Emperor would be allowed to continue in a symbolic role. 


Waiting for the Soviets.The USSR had been promised several concessions, including the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands  for their entry in the war, but by late July 1945, the Americans were having second thoughts. 




Japan Surrenders – September 2, 1945

After the bombing of Hiroshima, some members of Japan’s supreme war council favored acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, but the majority resisted unconditional surrender. Things grew worse when the USSR declared war against Japan. Then, a second atomic bomb was dropped on  Nagasaki.

About midnight on August 9,  Emperor Hirohito convened the supreme war council. After a long, emotional debate, the council obeyed his order to accept the Allied peace terms.

On August 12 the United States replied: “The authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.” After two days of debate within the council, Hirohito ignored the nuances in the text and ordered the Japanese government to prepare a surrender message.

During the night of August 15, 1945 a military coup, the Kyūjō incident was attempted by a faction led by Major Kenji Hatanaka. The rebels seized control of the imperial palace and burned Prime Minister Suzuki’s residence. Shortly after dawn the coup was crushed and the leaders committed suicide.

At noon, Emperor Hirohito went on national radio for the first time to announce the Japanese surrender. In  court language, unfamiliar to his subjects, he said: “We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.”

終戦の詔書 Emperor Hirohito Rescript at WWII end, English Translation

Japanese citizens in front of the Imperial palace on August 15, 1942. (

President Truman appointed General Douglas MacArthur to head the Allied occupation of Japan as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. The site of Japan’s formal surrender on September 2, 1942, was the seasoned battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay along with 250 other Allied warships.


(1) – We…agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

(2) – …determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

(3) -The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan…

(4) -The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue…or whether she will follow the path of reason.

(5) Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.

(6) There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

(7) Until such a new order is established AND until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.

(8) The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we determine.

(9) The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

(10) We don not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights, shall be established.

(11) Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to rearm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.

(12) The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people, a peacefully inclined and responsible Government.

(13) We call upon the Government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.