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The Japanese Surrender in World War II

Marc Gallicchio

Publication Date - 07 April 2023

ISBN: 9780197621844

288 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

A new look at the eleventh hour drama that led to the collapse of the Japanese empire


A new look at the drama that lay behind the end of the war in the Pacific

Signed on September 2, 1945 aboard the American battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay by Japanese and Allied leaders, the instrument of surrender that formally ended the war in the Pacific brought to a close one of the most cataclysmic engagements in history. Behind it lay a debate that had been raging for some weeks prior among American military and political leaders. The surrender fulfilled the commitment that Franklin Roosevelt had made in 1943 at the Casablanca conference that it be "unconditional." Though readily accepted as policy at the time, after Roosevelt's death in April 1945 support for unconditional surrender wavered, particularly among Republicans in Congress, when the bloody campaigns on Iwo Jima and Okinawa made clear the cost of military victory against Japan. Germany's unconditional surrender in May 1945 had been one thing; the war in the pacific was another. Many conservatives favored a negotiated surrender.

Though this was the last time American forces would impose surrender unconditionally, questions surrounding it continued through the 1950s and 1960s--with the Korean and Vietnam Wars--when liberal and conservative views reversed, including over the definition of "peace with honor." The subject was revived during the ceremonies surrounding the 50th anniversary in 1995, and the Gulf and Iraq Wars, when the subjects of exit strategies and "accomplished missions" were debated. Marc Gallicchio reveals how and why the surrender in Tokyo Bay unfolded as it did and the principle figures behind it, including George C. Marshall and Douglas MacArthur. The latter would effectively become the leader of Japan and his tenure, and indeed the very nature of the American occupation, was shaped by the nature of the surrender. Most importantly, Gallicchio reveals how the policy of unconditional surrender has shaped our memory and our understanding of World War II.


  • A dramatic and compelling narrative of this crucial moment in American and world history
  • Examines the ideological implications of "unconditional" surrender in American foreign policy
  • A new look at the eleventh hour drama that led to the collapse of the Japanese empire

About the Author(s)

Marc Gallicchio is Professor of History at Villanova University and was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer in Japan, 1998-1999 and 2004-2005. He is co-author, with Waldo Heinrichs, of Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, which won the Bancroft Prize in History.


"Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals." -- J. Daley, CHOICE

". . . a narrative that unwinds less like a debate than a geopolitical thriller." --New York Times

"Unconditional Surrender: Sounds like a tidy formula for ending a war. During America's war against Japan, it turned out to be anything but tidy. In this fascinating volume, Marc Gallicchio unpacks the diplomatic, political, bureaucratic, and civil-military complexities involved in translating a seemingly simple formula into an actual outcome. An illuminating book." --Andrew Bacevich, author of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History

"The superbly told and thoroughly researched story of how American politics shaped peace in the Pacific War. New Dealers, including Truman, insisted on unconditional surrender, while conservatives, who had never wanted to fight Japan, clamored for softer terms. Truman won the battle but the American left lost the war, as they eventually adopted the right's revisionist history." -- Eric Rauchway, Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Davis

"A reasoned, researched, and persuasive voice in the debates over the use of the atomic bomb, the survival of the Japanese Emperor, and the end and aftermath of the Pacific War." -- Michael Barnhart, Stony Brook University

"Skillfully connecting the strands of war policy, military strategy, diplomacy, and the play of key personalities, Marc Gallicchio illuminates the seminal issue of Japan's unconditional surrender and reveals how our fraught politics today arise from what many have erroneously supposed to be the happier, consensual days of World War Two and its immediate aftermath." --Thomas Zeiler, University of Colorado, Boulder

"Marc Gallicchio's Unconditional: the Japanese Surrender in World War II stands out as a well-researched glimpse of the last months of World War II, revealing the many layers of decision-making which escape most cursory discussions of the war's conclusion. It is not merely diplomatic or military history, as it considers other key aspects which impacted the decision such as public opinion, economic factors and coalition warfare." -- Navy History

"The strength of Unconditional is Gallicchio’s exhaustive research of events and debate leading up to Japan’s surrender presented in a highly readable style and prose. It is simply hard to put down. This would be a fine complement to Implacable Foes and an excellent addition to the library of any historian or student with an interest on the subject. It is a must for foreign policy makers and military strategists." --Military Review

Table of Contents

    Introduction: A Great Victory Has Been Won
    Chapter I: "Our Demand has been and it remains-Unconditional Surrender!"
    Chapter II: "Popular opinion can offer no useful contribution."
    Chapter III. "[Admiral Leahy] said that his matter had been considered on a political level and consideration had been given to the removal of the sentence in question."
    Chapter IV: "I deem this reply a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan."
    Chapter V: "[T]he surrender today is no negotiated surrender. The Japanese are submitting to superior force now massed here."
    Chapter VI: "We demanded unconditional surrender, then dropped the bomb and accepted conditional surrender..."
    Chapter VII: "The curators simply will not let go of the notion that the policy of demanding Japan's unconditional surrender was (a) unreasonable, (b) prolonged the war needlessly, and foiled Japan's earnest desire to make peace."
    Conclusion: "Much of the success of the occupation derived from the fact that Japan surrendered unconditionally, thereby ceding absolute and nonnegotiable authority to the victors."

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