The Potsdam Conference was convened by the heads of the Allied governments soon after the defeat of Germany. In addition to the discussion of the administration of Germany, the governments still fighting Japan (the United States, United Kingdom, and China) wrote a declaration announcing terms of unconditional surrender for Japan. The Potsdam Declaration included provisions about disarmament, occupation, and territorial sovereignty, but did not mention the emperor. The Japanese government initially rejected the Declaration outright, but later agreed to it after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Soviet Union invaded Japanese territory. Some have theorized that the declaration's final threat referenced the atomic bomb.
Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender
Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945
- We―the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.
- The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.
- 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. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.
- The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.
- Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We do 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.
- 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 re-arm 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2000.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, 2005.
Alex Wellerstein, "A Day Too Late," Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrets Blog, 2013.
Josette H. Williams, "The Information War in the Pacific, 1945," CIA Studies in Intelligence, 2002.