Trivia Minute August 14, 2015

153: End of World War II

by Marcus Michelson
Jorgensen's Navy photograph of the V J Day kiss in Times Square
Victor Jorgensen’s photograph of the VJ Day kiss in Times Square, New York on August 14, 1945. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the 70th anniversary of the announcement of Japan’s surrender which ended World War Two.

Here are some things you may not have known about what has come to be known as VJ Day.

The surrender came nine days after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and five days after another atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. On the same day as the bombing of Nagasaki, the Soviet army also declared war on Japan. The Japanese government accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration which called for their unconditional surrender.

The announcement came at noon in Tokyo on August 15, 1945, which was 11 p.m. on August 14th in Washington D.C. The announcement was made by Emperor Hirohito via a phonograph recording made in the Imperial Palace. A group of Japanese army officers attempted to prevent the surrender by launching an ultimately unsuccessful coup d’etat against Hirohito. The phonograph record was smuggled out of the palace in a laundry basket and broadcast as planned.

The language used by Hirohito was in classical Japanese that most ordinary listeners would not have been able to understand. This, combined with the poor audio quality of the recording, left many listeners confused as to whether Japan had in fact surrendered. After the announcement, an announcer clarified the Emperor’s message. The original record was eventually recovered, but has never been played again.

The instrument of surrender was signed on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Our question, what year did Hirohito’s reign as Emperor of Japan end?

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