atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima

Victory Over Japan

Above: On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, then three days later, on the city of Nagasaki. At left is the atomic mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, and, right, the bombing aftermath of Hiroshima. Word of the frightful new weapon raced around the world. Some people, including Japanese Americans with relatives in the blasted cities, questioned whether the bombings were necessary. Many MIS Nisei and other GIs, however, believe that the bombs saved thousands of U.S. lives and millions of Japanese by convincing Japan’s leaders to end the war rather than drag it out.

The world’s first atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Two days later, the Soviet Union jumped into the war, attacking Japanese forces in Manchuria. On August 9, a second atom bomb leveled Nagasaki.

Japan's Emperor Hirohito
Japan’s Emperor Hirohito

Emperor Hirohito’s recorded message announcing the surrender was broadcast over radio throughout Japan on August 15, 1945. It was the first time most of his subjects had ever heard his voice. U.S. officials immediately began reaching out via radio, leaflets and other means to make arrangements for the formal surrender and to inform the Japanese public and military.

While the world celebrated the end of the war, MIS Nisei were needed more than ever as Allied commanders throughout Asia and the Pacific contacted their Japanese counterparts.

IE SHIMA, August 19, 1945: Green cross plane taxis past GIs with bayonets on their M-1 rifles. (U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

On August 19, Hoichi “Bob” Kubo, who fought his way across the Pacific, saw the Japanese surrender party arriving at Ie Shima near Okinawa in planes specially marked with green crosses. The Japanese delegation transferred to a U.S. plane and flew to Manila to make arrangements for a formal signing of the instruments of surrender on September 2.

Meanwhile, MIS Nisei began arriving in Japan with advance teams. Charles “Slim” Matsumoto of Puhi, Kauai, arrived at Atsugi air base where some diehards had just given up trying to prolong the war.

August 17, 1945: The “Operation Duck” rescue team of six Americans, including MIS Nisei Tad Nagaki, and a Chinese interpreter, parachutes from a B-24 bomber into the Weihsien prison camp and frees 1,400 Allied civilian prisoners. (Sketch by freed prisoner courtesy of Dick Hamada)

Six Nisei who had served with the Office of Strategic Services in Burma were deployed with small teams to parachute into Japanese prisoner of war camps to protect thousands of Allied POWs from retribution.

That same day, “Operation Magpie” freed four Doolittle Raiders and 600 other POWs in Peiping.
“Operation Magpie” freed four Doolittle Raiders and 600 other POWs in Peiping.

On August 17, Dick Hamada jumped into the camp at Peiping, with six other Americans, bearing food, medicine and other supplies for the POWs there. Upon landing they were surrounded by armed Japanese troops. After convincing the commander that Japan had surrendered, the GIs liberated more than 600 Allied prisoners, including four survivors of the April 1942 Doolittle Tokyo Raid. Also on August 17, another team freed Weihsien prison camp. On August 27, Ralph Yempuku of Honolulu dropped onto Hainan Island, again to a potentially deadly reception.

ABOARD USS MISSOURI (BB 63), in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945: Lieutenant General Richard Sutherland, left, watches Japan Foreign Affairs Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

On September 2, three MIS Nisei – Tom Sakamoto and Noboru Yoshimura of California and Jiro Yukimura of Kauai – were aboard USS Missouri for the formal signing of the surrender documents. That ceremony triggered similar ceremonies across Asia and the Pacific as Japanese troops laid down their arms and surrendered to American and Allied commanders. Many of the isolated Japanese garrisons had to be convinced to surrender. MIS Nisei did much of the convincing.

Ralph Yempuku was at the September 16 surrender of Japanese in Hong Kong to the British. One of his kid brothers, Donald, who had returned to Japan with the family before the war, was translating for the Japanese that day. He recognized Ralph but dared not say a word, for fear of disrupting the ceremony.

ATSUGI AIR BASE, Japan, August 30, 1945: General Douglas MacArthur addresses U.S. and Japanese reporters after his victorious arrival on Japanese soil. MIS linguist Tom Sakamoto is behind MacArthur, in upper right. (National Archives photo)
ATSUGI AIR BASE, Japan, August 30, 1945: General Douglas MacArthur addresses U.S. and Japanese reporters after his victorious arrival on Japanese soil. MIS linguist Tom Sakamoto is behind MacArthur, in upper right. (National Archives photo)
MINGALADON AIRFIELD, Burma, August 26, 1945: U.S. interpreter, right center, talks with Commander S. Kusumi of the Japanese delegation that arrived in specially marked aircraft to begin preliminary surrender negotiations for Japanese forces in South Burma.
TENTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, Okinawa, September 7, 1945: Lieutenant General Toshiro Nomi, representing Japanese forces in the Sakishima Islands, signs the surrender document. Standing beside him are Colonel Philip Bethune, of the G-2 Section, and Major General Frank Merrill, Tenth Army chief of staff. Standing opposite the table at right are MIS Nisei Robert H. Oda and Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, commanding general, Tenth Army. (U.S. Navy photo)
TAROA, Marshall Islands, September 10, 1945: Japanese Rear Admiral Shoichi Kamada, left, surrenders to U.S. Navy Captain H.B. Grow while MIS linguist Donald S. Okubo, of Honolulu, translates. Okubo went alone to Taroa and convinced Kamada to surrender his garrison of 1,000 men. Okubo, who also served with the 1st Marine Division on Peleliu, earned a Bronze Star, which was later upgraded to the Silver Star. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)
OMINATO NAVAL BASE, Japan, September 10, 1945: MIS linguist William Wada translates as a U.S. Navy delegation accepts the surrender of Japanese forces in Northern Honshu.
ABOARD USS DUNLAP (DD 384), off Chichi Jima, September 3, 1945: Lieutenant General Yoshio Tachibana, assisted by MIS Nisei Edwin Kawamoto, prepares to sign documents surrendering the Bonin Islands. (U.S. Navy photo)


Next: Forging Peace from War

Japanese Americans of the Military Intelligence Service during World War II