At noon on August 15, 1945, the Emperor of Japan delivered the following over the radio. Not only did this speech signify the end of World War II, but it meant the end of the Emperors status as a deity. This was the first time in history the people of Japan had ever heard their Emperors voice.
To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply on the general trend of the world and the actual conditions pertaining to our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our government to inform the government of the United States, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union that our Empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration (the Potsdam declaration).
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations, as well as for the security and well-being of our subjects, is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by out Imperial ancestors and which lies close to our heart. Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japans self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Although the best has been done by everyonethe gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state, and the devoted service of our hundred million peoplethe war situation has developed not necessarily to Japans advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interests.
The enemy, moreover, has begun to employ a new most cruel bomb, the power which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation . . . but would lead also to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are we to save millions of our subjects, or ourselves, to atone before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial ancestors? This is the reason we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the Powers.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men who have fallen on the field of battle, of those who have died at their posts of duty, or those who have met with untimely death, and of their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and war victims and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood are objects of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will certainly be great.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly least any out burst of emotion, which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife, which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Devote your united strength to construction for the future. Cultivate ways of rectitude, further nobility of spirit, and work with resolution, so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.
Article courtesy of David B. Lee
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