Five Things You'd Want to Know in Explaining Japan's Surrender in 1945

Garon, Sheldon M. GND; Koshiro, Yukiko GND

To most Americans, it is perfectly obvious that the two atomic bombs ended World War II. Yet at least four other developments helped persuade Japanese leaders to surrender. The Soviet Union’s entry into the war against Japan on August 8 may have been more decisive, some historians argue. However, the other three factors are rarely discussed. The Allied blockade increasingly deprived the Japanese home front of food and fuel. In its final phase called “Operation Starvation”, the U.S. aerial mining campaign stopped nearly all food imports, resulting in widespread malnutrition. Nor have historians fully considered the expansion of the U.S. firebombing campaign to nearly 60 small and medium cities during summer 1945. Bombing and food shortages led millions to flee the cities, crippling Japan’s capacity to wage total war. Finally, Japanese officials and industrialists closely followed the recent defeat of Nazi Germany, which had fought to the finish. Influential elites passionately wished to avoid a similar Allied invasion, and they pressed top leaders to end the war before Japan’s infrastructure and its people were obliterated.

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