Why did Japan surrender?

Sixty-six years ago, we dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Now, some historians say that’s not what ended the war.

General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, accepted the unconditional surrender document signed by the Japanese. (Keystone/Getty Images) General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, accepted the unconditional surrender document signed by the Japanese.

By Gareth Cook

What ended World War II?

For nearly seven decades, the American public has accepted one version of the events that led to Japan’s surrender. By the middle of 1945, the war in Europe was over, and it was clear that the Japanese could hold no reasonable hope of victory. After years of grueling battle, fighting island to island across the Pacific, Japan’s Navy and Air Force were all but destroyed. The production of materiel was faltering, completely overmatched by American industry, and the Japanese people were starving. A full-scale invasion of Japan itself would mean hundreds of thousands of dead GIs, and, still, the Japanese leadership refused to surrender.

But in early August 66 years ago, America unveiled a terrifying new weapon, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a matter of days, the Japanese submitted, bringing the fighting, finally, to a close.

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