Remembering the Potsdam Declaration 70 years later

World Today

Potsdam Conference 1945A picture of a Potsdam Conference session June 30, 1945 that includes Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin of the U.K.; Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union; and William D. Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S. Truman of the U.S. Photo: German Federal Archives / Creative Commons license.

Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the Potsdam Declaration, when the Allies called on Japan to surrender.

On July 26, 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the then Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin gathered to make the crucial decisions that would end the Second World War. After the conference, China, the U.K. and the U.S. jointly issued the Potsdam Proclamation outlining the terms of Japan’s surrender.

According to the Proclamation, the Allies supported the elimination of Japanese militarism which they said “misled Japanese people into the conquest.” It also said that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands,” as had been announced in the Cairo Declaration two years earlier.

“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,” it also said.

Japan rejected the Allies demands and refused to surrender. The U.S. responded by dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945. President Harry Truman warned in a radio broadcast that if Japan didn’t accept the Potsdam Declaration it could “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

The staggering loss of life led Japanese Emperor Hirohito to finally accept the Potsdam Proclamation and declare Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945 and formally signed on Sept. 2, 1945.

Associated Press