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Two tales from World War II: The fall and rise of Japan (First of 2 parts)

On August 15, 1945, the Japanese people heard their Emperor Hirohito’s voice for the first time in a radio broadcast. The Emperor announced to his people of Imperial Japan’s unconditional surrender.

An English translation of the Emperor’s surrender speech was published by the Nippon Times on that date.

This was the Emperor’s speech, in full:

“To Our good and loyal subjects:

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart. Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people — the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.”

Scene aboard the battleship Missouri as the Japanese surrender documents were signed in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945. (AP Photo)

“We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to Our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood, are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that 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 unsufferable.”

“Having been able to safeguard and maintain the Kokutai, We are always with you, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it. Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution — so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.”

A week later, on Sept. 2, 1945, Imperial Japan’s capitulation was formally recognized on board the U.S.S. Missouri,in Tokyo Bay during an elaborate ceremony under the watchful eyes of Gen. Douglas Macarthur.

Some 73 years have passed since those events that signaled the formal end of World War II. Yet it was a global war that started as a series of small conflicts in widely scattered places.

TIMELINE

For China, historians said the conflict can be traced to 1931 when elements of the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Manchuria. It began a series of Japanese expansions into China, which eventually engulfed the rest of Asia. It would be a bloody fight that lasted for 14 years. Traces of this conflict still persist today between Beijing and Tokyo in the East China Sea.

For the Soviet Union and Imperial Japan, the enmity between the two flared up in a series of border conflicts from 1932 to 1939. The brewing war between them was postponed by a non-aggression pact. This row finally broke out in the open when the Soviet Union attacked Japanese-occupied Manchuria in 1945. A dispute between the two countries arising from the Soviet action in 1945 still lingers to this day.

For those in Europe, it was the year 1935 when weapons of war were once again used in anger. This was the Spanish Civil War. The following year, Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, known today as Ethiopia. Things became worse when Adolf Hitler sent troops to the Rhineland, an area that was supposed to be a demilitarized zone between France and Nazi Germany. When France and Great Britain did nothing to stop Hitler, Nazi Germany then gobbled up Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939.

The complacency of France and Great Britain, plus the collusion of Josef Stalin with Hitler in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, allowed Nazi Germany to conquer Poland, the Low Countries, parts of Scandinavia, and the Balkans. During this early period, Stalin, who took advantage of his pact with Hitler, sent his forces to invade Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This was from 1939 to 1940.

United States Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commader commander of Allied forces in the Pacific during World War II

The United States was a late entry to the Second World War, joining the fight only at the end of 1941 while other countries have already been shedding the blood of its citizens since 1931.

When Hitler declared war on the United States to show his support for Imperial Japan, the war in the East and the war in the West became one, creating history’s first truly global conflict.

DEATH TOLL

Historians estimate the death toll from the Second World War at over 80 million.

For the Japanese, the toll in fighting a 14-year war was estimated to range from 2.7 million to 3.1 million deaths.

In the Soviet Union, 24 million soldiers and civilians died while the Germans lost 8 million. The United Kingdom and the United States together suffered a death toll of 800,000. France and Italy together lost almost a million people.

For the Philippines, the number of Filipinos killed from 1941 to 1945 range from 500,000 to a million. Records showed that the Philippine population at that time was 18 million. This would mean when using the higher death toll, one out of 18 Filipinos died during the three-year Japanese Occupation of the Philippines.

At least a hundred thousand of those Filipino deaths occurred during the battle for Manila in 1945.

For most people across the globe today, the Second World War was a deep wound that has long since healed. However, for those who survived the conflict, it was a wound that has left a scar.

The waning days of the Second World War also heralded the start of the dawn of nuclear weapons whose destructive power if unleashed today can lead to the end of our present civilization.

DAY AFTER SURRENDER

A diary entry from August 16, 1945 published by The Philippine Diary Project revealed what happened a day after Japan surrendered according to the perception of a Filipino.

The diary entry, written by Leon Ma. Guerrero, said: “The first impression of calm is wearing off. Underneath all this outward placidity Tokyo is seething with rumor, plot, and counter-plot. It appears new that the average Japanese is saying nothing, not only because he is dazed, knocked silly by a blow on the head, carried through the routine of every-day wartime life by that curious momentum that animates a chicken with its head cut off, but also because he is afraid; he does not know what is the correct thing to do or say because he has not yet been told; he hesitates to rejoice openly, for instance, because the war may suddenly start all over again and he will look foolish, unpatriotic, marked for suspicion.”

“The Cabinet resigned yesterday afternoon, immediately after Suzuki had gone off the air,” Guerrero added. “The war minister General Korechika Anami killed himself at his official residence the night before the rescript was radiocast to express his sincere regret to His Majesty the Emperor for not having been able to fulfill his duties in assisting His Majesty. Tozyo and Araki are also said to have committed suicide in protest against the surrender. other Japanese are reportedly killing themselves before the Imperial Palace.”

Guerrero then shared the perspective that was shared by a Japanese woman.

“She was our own maid, Kubota-san,” Guerrero wrote. “She had two sons in the Imperial forces and they were both alive. Was she not happy, I asked her. Soon they would be coming home.”

Guerrero wrote that she was didn’t know if she was not sure.

“I don’t know. I would have been happier if they had died for the Emperor,” Guerrero quoted her. “When they come back to me now, how shall I face the mothers of those who died, the mothers of the men from the Tokotai? It would have been better if they had died.”

“What can one say to her?” Guerrero wrote in his diary. “In the gaunt groves of the Yasukuni, before the shrines of the war dead, the mothers and the widows kneel today. They say that already many of these women have committed suicide. They do not want to survive their loves and their defeat.”

That was one tale of what happened 73 years ago. There’s another.

Osamu Osada was eight years old on that fateful day when Emperor Hirohito announced Imperial Japan’s agreed to the Allied demand of unconditional surrender.

Osada, through the assistance of Gerardo Teruel, told his tale to the Philippines Graphic.

Osada’s story will be told in the second part of this article

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