September 5, 1945
New York Times.
Under the recent Imperial proclamation Japan has accepted the joint declaration of America, Britain, China and the Soviet Union and through this extraordinary step the war of Greater East Asia has now been brought to an end. The termination of the war has been brought about solely through the benevolence of our sovereign. It was His Majesty himself who, in deference to the spirits of the Imperial ancestors, decided to save millions of his subjects from privation and misery and to pave the way for an era of grand peace for generations to come.
Never before have we been moved so profoundly as by this act of boundless benevolence. With tears of overwhelming gratitude we can only offer our humble apologies for having troubled so much the august mind of our sovereign.
I am told that at the time immediately preceding the outbreak of war, when the Imperial Council was held to decide on the momentous question of peace or war, His Majesty was deeply distressed with the thought that should a world's major power like Japan cross swords with America and Britain it would bring on incalculable destruction and confusion that would be the worst imaginable calamity for humanity.
Expressing his desire to tide over the crisis and preserve the peace of the world by removing misunderstanding between Japan and the Anglo-Saxon countries, His Majesty exhorted the Council to do everything possible to reach an amicable settlement. All those in the Imperial presence were struck with awe at this manifestation of great and boundless benevolence.
The attitude of His Majesty in this regard underwent no change following the declaration of war and his mind, as deep and broad as the ocean, was always turned to the question of how to secure peace to the world.
Now owing to new developments in the situation Japan has had to terminate the war of Greater East Asia by an extraordinary step. This only serves to reveal the benevolent mind of His Majesty, set upon the cause of world peace.
As for the causes of our defeat, there are certainly more than one and they may well be left to historians of afterdays for unbiased study and criticism. There is little use of going back to the past, trying to put the blame upon one person or another.
We should rather reflect calmly upon our own conduct, each and every one of us, whether on the front or at home, whether in or out of the Government. A general repentance is demanded of the whole nation. We should purify [words missing] and start anew with fresh and chastened spirit, keeping in mind the lessons of the past.
Following the withdrawal of our forces from Guadalcanal, the war situation began to develop not always in our favor. Especially after the loss of the Marianas Islands, the advance of the Allied forces became progressively rapid, while the enemy's air raids on Japan proper were intensified, causing disastrous damages that mounted as the days went by.
The production of military supplies, which had been seriously affected by the curtailment of our marine transportation facilities, was dealt a severe blow by this turn of the war situation and almost insuperable difficulties began to multiply, beginning with spring of this year.
On the other hand, the general conditions of the country began to show marked signs of impoverishment and exhaustion with the continuation of the conflict, so much so that in the days just preceding the termination of the war it seemed almost impossible to carry on modern warfare further for any long period of time.
You will be acquainted with the details by the Ministers concerned who will respond to interpellations. I limit myself to giving general outlines of the various phases of the situation.
By May of this year our carrying capacity by steamboats had dwindled to about one-fourth of what we had at the beginning of the war, owing to the ever-increasing loss of ships and the diversion of bottoms to the South Seas area.
Moreover, the scarcity of liquid fuel and interference by the enemy caused a marked curtailment in the efficiency of shipping operations. Especially with the loss of the Okinawa Islands and the consequent increase in the striking power of the enemy's air forces, even communications with the China continent were rendered extremely hazardous.
The carrying capacity by motor and sailing vessels also was reduced rapidly and drastically through the insufficiency of fuel supply and interference by Allied forces. Such a general lowering in naval transportation capacity considerably affected the maintenance of our fighting power itself.
As regards railway transportation, frequent air raids together with depreciation of rolling stock and equipment brought about a steady lowering of its capacity and a tendency to lose unified control. On the whole, despite the exertion of all possible efforts, the carrying capacity of railways after the middle of the current year would have to be reduced, it was estimated, to less than one-half as compared with last year.
The excessive reduction of transportation capacity affected conspicuously [words missing] of coal and other basic raw materials for industrial purposes and made well nigh impossible the importation of goods from the south. Moreover, various industries suffered directly from air raids which caused huge damages to plants and lowered the efficiency of the workmen. Finally, the country's production dwindled to such a point that any swift restoration of it came to be considered beyond hope.
Steel production was cut to less than one-fourth of the pre-war figure so that little could be expected regarding the construction of steel vessels. The conversion of materials on hand into fighting power also became more and more difficult of realization, owing to the dislocation of the system for coal distribution and the lack of minor transportation facilities.
As for coal, because of the wholesale reductions in land and sea transportation capacities, in addition to the steady decrease in output, the supply rapidly diminished, causing a general decline of industries in the vital zones of Japan, where even the closing of a large number of plants was expected.
As the importation of industrial salt from the continent diminished, the outputs of chemical industries based on the sodium industry had to decline with increasing rapidity and we were confronted since the middle of this year with a possibility that the supply of explosives and other indispensable materials as well as production of metals would be impeded.
The supply of liquid fuel already had been limited to what could be obtained in Japan, Manchuria and China. In the light of the shortage of oil stock and the difficulty of supplementing it, extraordinary efforts were devoted to an increase in the production of alcohol and pine root oil. However, the decrease of aircraft fuel was bound to cause serious effects in the near future upon the prosecution of the war.
In the meantime it was expected that the manufacture of modern war materials, principally aircraft, by mass production methods such as we had adopted before, would shortly have to face insurmountable difficulties as a result of the destruction of transportation and communications facilities caused by intensified air raids and shortages of fuel and materials. Thus our strength was rapidly weakened.
In May and June of this year, the basis of our material fighting resources to carry on modern warfare had been disastrously undermined. Even with all the measures adopted by the fighting services, the Government and the people in close cooperation, and their unparalleled endeavors for the restoration of national strength, it was feared that complete realization of our material resources would hardly be possible in the near future. The situation took a grave turn, particularly after the loss of Okinawa.
Moreover, the long period of war had caused increasing difficulties to the people's life, especially to the supply of foodstuffs, while the effects of inflation gradually were being felt by all classes of people, compelling careful consideration as regards the actual state of our fighting power.
In the meantime, the losses suffered by our forces in the many momentous battles during the protracted war had reached no small figures, although they succeeded in each battle to inflict heavy losses upon the Allied forces. Our losses in both naval and aerial strength were so enormous as to obstruct seriously the prosecution of the war.
But under the existing circumstances, as described above, the replenishment of these losses proved far from satisfactory. Our ground forces continued operations in various parts of Greater East Asia but it became hardly possible to provide them with adequate equipment. Our material fighting resources in the last days of the war thus were grievously deteriorating.
On the other hand, the capacity for supply and replenishment on the part of the Allied nations, with their vast resources and industrial power, was ever on the increase. Following up their victory over Germany, they collected their entire fighting strength around Japan, precipitating a break in the balance between our material fighting strength and theirs.
Such was the state of our national strength and the deterioration of the equipment of our armed forces. Regrettable as it was, the technical basis of our confidence in final victory was weakened and the war entered upon a really critical stage.
Meanwhile, air raids on Japan proper by Allied aircraft were steadily intensified. Medium and small cities, let alone great cities, were gradually destroyed in rapid succession with calamitous consequences. Two million, two hundred thousand houses were burned and hundreds of thousands of persons were killed and wounded, while the number of war sufferers approximates ten millions.
Moreover, in August the Allied forces started the use of the atomic bomb. The ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were subjected to the attack of this bomb, are indeed too ghastly to look on. The terrific weapon was likely to result in the obliteration of the Japanese people and lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union suddenly declared war on Japan, forcing us into the worst international situation. The United States, Britain and China previously had issued at Potsdam a joint declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan. Under the existing circumstances Japan had to stand at the crossroads, whether to hope against hope in the desperate struggle involving the annihilation of her 100,000,000 people or to stop fighting.
The final and farsighted decision, however, was made by our sovereign, who is ever concerned about the future of the Japanese people and the peace of all mankind. It was decided to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration with the understanding that the declaration did not comprise any demand that would prejudice the prerogatives of His Majesty as the sovereign ruler.
The war of Greater East Asia has thus been brought to an end. The signature of the instrument of surrender took place between Japan and the Allied powers aboard a United States warship off Yokohama last Sunday. An Imperial proclamation was issued on the same day commanding all Japanese forces to cease hostilities and to lay down their arms.
With my heart full of deep emotion, I avail myself of this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to our allies in Greater East Asia who spared no effort for the attainment of our common aims during the last four years of war.
Allied forces already are stationed in our country. This is really an unprecedented event and must be said to be the most serious situation our nation has ever faced in its history of 3,000 years.
It is the duty of us all to conform absolutely with the Imperial command and never depart from it. In obedience to the Imperial proclamation we should bear the unbearable and suffer what is unsufferable, admitting frankly the fact of our defeat of today, and fulfill manfully and faithfully with broadmindedness befitting a great nation the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and prove to all the world the true worth of our pledged word.
When I received the Imperial command to organize a new Cabinet, the Emperor was so gracious as to say to me: "Respect especially the Constitution and seek to solve the present problems by exerting your efforts toward control of the armed forces and the maintenance of law and order."
I was deeply moved, thinking of the anxieties shown by His Majesty regarding the present situation. Wishing only to obey His Majesty's word, I resolved to make it the fundamental principle of my administration, and I want to lead my fellow-countrymen by dedicating myself to the task of laying a foundation for a new and peaceful Japan, doing everything in my power. I wish that all the nation obey this [words missing] august command and march forward toward the realization of a new and prosperous era with fresh vigor and enthusiasm.
For that purpose it is most necessary, I believe, that there should spring up spontaneously a will toward reconstruction among our people through lively and free discussion and correct public opinion. Upon the formation of the present Cabinet I expressed my opinion to the effect that freedom of speech should be encouraged and freedom of organizing associations should be recognized.
Regarding freedom of speech and freedom of association, the Government intends to abolish temporary regulations governing publications, assemblies, associations, etc., at the earliest opportunity and already has mitigated the rules, as has been made public.
I am of the opinion that we should be very careful not to cool the ardor and zeal of the nation at all. It is my sincere wish that the Imperial Diet as an organ representing the nation will discharge its true function in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution so that it may reflect fairly the will of the people in fact as in name.
Military and industrial demobilization is being carried out as a result of the termination of the war. People are to return to their homes and to their old occupations. The return to the homeland of large numbers of soldiers stationed in every quarter of Greater East Asia is indeed a tremendous task which will take, it is feared, a long time.
As regard the matter of affording help to these demobilized men, such as finding employment or promoting their welfare, the Government is leaving no stone unturned to make the necessary preparations, but it is desired that all people treat them with sympathy and fraternal feeling.
At this hour of national crisis, the turning point of our history, many difficulties will be encountered in our endeavors for post-war reconstruction in every direction. As stated in the rescript, the trials and tribulations that we have to undergo hereafter are not of an ordinary nature. Of course, the Government will do everything to insure the security of the nation's life involving problems of clothing, food and housing and intends to carry out necessary measures along all lines.
If there is anyone who dreams of going back quickly to the easy life of the pre-war days, he is wrong. With such an attitude, reconstruction for the future is unthinkable.
How to cope with the food situation of today is one of the most serious and difficult problems, since we cannot expect much by way of imports from Manchuria or other lands. It is a matter of course that the Government and people should cooperate in order to solve this problem.
As regards the problem of housing, an enormous number of houses was reduced to ashes during the war. Rebuilding is a matter of urgent necessity which permits of no delay. His Majesty, who is greatly concerned about the question, let it be known the other day that 1,000,000 koku [10,000,000 cubic feet] of timber would be granted as an Imperial gift to the people. The Government desires to solve housing problems as quickly as possible, taking measures such as construction of simple houses in large numbers.
The problem of clothing also is serious. Especially now when winter is not afar, the question of clothing, beds and [words missing] requires serious attention. In addition to the scarcity of textile products in stock and the difficulty of obtaining raw materials, the fact that most of the mills have been converted so as to meet military demands makes it very difficult for the moment to supply the nation with textile goods.
The Government will inaugurate various measures for restoring production facilities so as to supply as much clothing as possible, but at the same time it is desired that the difficulty on clothing will be mitigated more or less through voluntary donations of clothing by those who have not suffered from the war.
The blows dealt to the economy of our country by the war are very serious. On reviewing economic [words missing] various lines it cannot be denied that potential factors to create inflation are being fostered, one after another. When we consider the situation that is to arise in the wake of the post-war settlement, we must say that the burden on our economy will not lessen but will be made heavier by the termination of the war.
If the people should relax their determination or [words missing] fail to take any appropriate measures, inflation is bound to come, causing unmitigated destruction and confusion. The Government will do its best to prevent inflation and to take all possible measures to cope with the situation, but it is needless to say that efforts of the Government can bear fruit only with cooperation of all people.
To find employment for soldiers and workers who have been deprived of their jobs on account of demobilization and stoppages or reconversion of the munitions industry is an important problem as mentioned now in the disposal of post-war affairs. A considerable number of men are expected to be thrown out of work and the question of unemployment must be treated with special care as a problem of the administration, just as important as that of security of the nation. For the time being the Government intends to divert such labor to agricultural production as much as possible.
New education, development of culture and reconstruction of industries all are big enterprises. And there are many more tasks to be undertaken. Only when those problems have been disposed of rightly and speedily will the foundation have been laid for construction along new lines.
The Government is resolved to move vigorously forward in order to solve all these problems, but much depends upon whether or not the people are equally determined in this regard and prepared to endure a hard life or privation. The road before us is long and beset with difficulties. But convinced of the imperishableness of our race and ever hopeful of the future of the Empire, let us toil unto the last.
"We are always with ye subjects." Such are the gracious words of our sovereign. Inspired thereby, let us resolve afresh to march forward in order to build a new Japan of peace and culture. Only in this manner shall we be able to set the august mind at ease and answer the spirits of the heroes who died in far and strange lands.