President Truman signs his message announcing the surrender of JapanHarry S. Truman Statement Signed as President Announcing the Surrender of Japan. One page, 8" x 10.5", [Washington], August 14, 1945. Four months after assuming the presidency, Harry Truman authorized the use of the only nuclear warfare in history which convinced the Japanese to surrender and end World War II. This statement notified the people of the United States and the world that Japan had surrendered. The paper has toned. Truman's large signature is in bold black ink following the final line of text.
Following the German surrendered in May 1945, Harry Truman attended the Potsdam Conference in Germany from July 17 through August 2. From there, a declaration of surrender terms was drawn up and sent to Japan on July 26. In that declaration, Japan was notified that if it declined the surrender, it would face "utter destruction," a reference to the successfully-tested atomic bomb which the U.S. had been developing since 1939.
Japan ignored the Potsdam Declaration's ultimatum and atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. On the morning that Nagasaki was destroyed, Japan's Supreme Council for the Direction of the War was meeting in Tokyo arguing about how best to continue the war. When news of Nagasaki's destruction arrived to the council, the meeting adjourned. The next day, Emperor Hirohito made the decision to surrender; his message reached President Truman at 4:05 p.m., August 14. At 7:00 that evening, the president read this announcement to reporters gathered in his office, who then notified the world that the deadliest war in history, with an estimated 60 million casualties, was over.
Below "IMMEDIATE RELEASE" (typed in the upper left corner) is the heading, "STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT."
"I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese Government in reply to the message forwarded to that Government by the Secretary of State on August eleventh. I deem this reply a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan. In the reply there is no qualification.
Arrangements are now being made for the signing of the surrender terms at the earliest possible moment.
General Douglas MacArthur has been appointed the Supreme Allied Commander to receive the Japanese surrender. Great Britain, Russia, and China will be represented by high-ranking officers.
Meantime, the Allied armed forces have been ordered to suspend offensive action.
Proclamation of V-J Day must wait upon the formal signing of the surrender terms by Japan.
Following is the Japanese Government's message accepting our terms:
'Communication of the Japanese Government of August 14, 1945, addressed to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China:
'With reference to the Japanese Government's note of August 10 regarding their acceptance of the provisions of the Potsdam declaration and the reply of the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China sent by American Secretary of State Byrnes under the date of August 11, the Japanese Government have the honor to communicate to the Governments of the four powers as follows:
'1. His Majesty the Emperor has issued an Imperial rescript regarding Japan's acceptance of the provisions of the Potsdam declaration.
'2. His Majesty the Emperor is prepared to authorize and ensure the signature of his Government and the Imperial General Headquarters of the necessary terms for carrying out the provisions of the Potsdam declaration. His Majesty is also prepared to issue his commands to all the military, naval, and air authorities of Japan and all the forces under their control wherever located to cease active operations, to surrender arms and to issue such other orders as may be required by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces for the execution of the abovementioned terms.'"
Our research has located very few similar documents that have sold at auction. In 2004, Sotheby's auctioned a typed transcript of General Douglas MacArthur's address - signed by the general - announcing the surrender of Japan. That document sold for $45,000. Also in 2004, Swann's auctioned a mimeographed copy of the Potsdam Proclamation signed by Truman for $22,000. In 2005, Christie's auctioned a very brief letter signed by Harry Truman to the editor of the Baltimore Sun in which the former president downplays his role in the allied victory. That letter sold for $24,000.
Included with the president's statement is a reproduction of a November 1949 typed letter on White House letterhead signed from Secretary to the President Matthew J. Connelly informing the original owner of this document that President Truman was "happy indeed" to autograph the press release. (For a related document, see also lot 34131.)
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