“The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb.”
Delivered 14 August 1945, this speech was broadcast to the Japanese people by Emperor Hirohito, breaking imperial tradition to announce Japan’s surrender in World War II. On 6 August 1945, an American aircraft dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese military base of Hiroshima, killing between 75,000 and 100,000 people, obliterating the city. There days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, causing comparable devastation. After the Emperor’s broadcast, a new constitution was drafted by the US occupying forces and the Emperor’s powers were entirely removed.
Biography in brief: Born 29 April 1901 in Tokyo, Hirohito’s chosen imperial name was ‘Showa’, meaning ‘enlightened peace’. He very much wanted to avoid war, but once Japan was involved in World War II, he refused to leave the capital city for safety, saying that he wished to share the experience of his subjects. The surrender of Japan was an unprecedented act in the country’s history. Hirohito, the longest reigning modern monarch, oversaw the transformation of the Japanese throne from a divine to a symbolic institution. He died 7 January 1989 in Tokyo after a long illness.
“To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in 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 communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart.
Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan’s 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. Despite the best that has been done by everyone–the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people–the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, nor to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why 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 as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met death [otherwise] and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.
The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the [unavoidable] 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 of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, 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”.