Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"An unforgettable ceremony" - Newsreel of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945

Thanks to Jamie Plunkett for passing on a remarkable newsreel from 1945, of perfect quality, showing the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the US battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. This newsreel footage vividly captures a historic moment and the way that moment was presented to the world. If nothing else, it's a fascinating piece of cultural history.

It includes a recording of Douglas MacArthur's statements before and after the signing of the surrender document, for anyone curious to hear what he actually sounded like. Among his other qualities, MacArthur was a dramatic and sometimes eloquent showman with a strong sense of his own historical importance, and I think that comes through, too.

Incidentally, as the newsreel explicitly noted, this ceremony brought a formal end not only to the Second World War ("the costly, brutal eastern half of the most horrible world-wide war in human history") but also to the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese War ("a war which had entered its eighth terrible year in China") that merged into World War II after December 1941. One touch I would not have expected was that a Chinese general--Nationalist, of course--was the third signer on the Allied side, right after the American signers but before the British and Soviet signers.

Watch it below or (to go directly to full-screen mode) here:

Japanese Sign Final Surrender!

--Jeff Weintraub