United States and American History: Late 1945 WWII and the Atomic Bomb

About the history of the United States in 1945, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan with the atomic bomb, the end of World War II.


June 26 The Charter for the United Nations was written in San Francisco, Calif., with delegates from 50 nations in attendance. Selected as the UN Secretary General for the conference: Alger Hiss.

Aug. 6 The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Weighing a respectable 400 lbs., it had a destructive power exceeding that of 20,000 tons of TNT. The air detonation killed over 100,000 including the entire 2nd Japanese Army and leveled 4 sq. mi. In a 2nd drop at Nagasaki, 3 days later, following Russia's declaration of war on Japan, 36,000 more were killed.

Through the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, Truman, Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek of China issued a joint statement calling for Japan to surrender unconditionally or face complete destruction. Japan had already, on June 22, held a meeting of its Supreme Council and Emperor Hirohito had ordered that steps be taken to secure a negotiated peace. To speed up the progress, the Russians were asked to inquire about deletion of the "unconditional" clause announced at Potsdam. Russian Foreign Minister Molotov gave no reply to the Japanese, but did inform Truman of the inquiry. The President allowed the unconditional surrender demand to stand.

Still believing that negotiations were possible, the Japanese voted to wait, pending further diplomatic maneuvers. In a release to the world press, the Japanese translator used the English word "ignore" in describing the attitude of Japan, and this was viewed by U.S. leaders as a Japanese expression of contempt for the U.S.

Truman gave the order for the Hiroshima drop. Even then, the Japanese did not answer. On August 8, the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow was called before Molotov. The shocked Ambassador learned that Russian troops were immediately taking over Manchuria. After the 2nd atomic strike at Nagasaki, the following day, the Japanese Government waited no longer. It offered to surrender.

Aug. 25 Capt. John M. Birch, Baptist missionary and army intelligence expert, was killed by Chinese communists in northern Anhwei Province. The 1st victim of the "Cold War with Communism," he became the hero of Robert H. W. Welch, Jr., who founded the John Birch Society in his honor.

Sept. Hideki Tojo, Japanese general and Prime Minister, attempted suicide. After his recovery, he and 5 other former ministers of the Japanese Cabinet were tried for war crimes, found guilty, and executed. In lesser trials, 720 officers and civilians were executed, primarily for torture and murder of prisoners. Nearly 3,500 others served prison terms.

Sept. The Surplus Property Board, custodian of war supplies no longer needed, announced the availability of 10 million lbs. of contraceptive jelly. It had $90 billion in other leftovers to be placed on sale in the civilian market.

Sept. 2 Japan formally surrendered in a ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. General MacArthur, as the Allied Supreme Commander, was assigned the task of occupying Japan and rehabilitating the Japanese. He disbanded the secret police, purged the hardcore militarists from the civil service, broke up the cartels (or zaibatsu), and redistributed almost 5 million acres of land to the peasants. Politically, he set up a new democratic government guided by a liberal constitution. Women were allowed to vote and workers were encouraged to form trade unions. General MacArthur's civilian achievements in his role as administrator for a vanquished nation of 83 million overshadowed his most impressive feats as a military leader.

Nov. 20 The trials in Nuremberg, Germany, for war crimes, began. The Charter for the International Military Tribunal required 2 days to read in 4 languages. (See also: Highlights of World History, Chap. 8.)

New milestones for international law were set. Blind obedience to superiors was declared to be no defense. Entire organizations such as the SS were found guilty collectively. This plugged loopholes that had permitted 890 out of 896 to go free in W.W.I war crimes trials.

Dec. 14 John D. Rockefeller, Jr., donated $8 1/2 million for purchase of land along New York City's East River, to erect the permanent headquarters of the United Nations.

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