VJ Day timeline: how the war in the Far East unfolded
January 9, 1945
The United States’ Sixth Army lands at Lingayen Gulf, in The Philippine Islands. Whilst the invasion force navigated the Philippine archipelago, it was subject to frequent attacks by Kamikaze aircraft. The attacks sank or damaged forty allied vessels. Despite this, the landing on Luzon was successful.
January 15, 1945
The meeting of two Chinese armies on the Sino-Burmese border enabled the reopening of the Burma Road. In the preceding three years the Chinese Nationalist Army was supplied by the Allies, using aircraft, flown over the Himalayas.
February 19 to March 26, 1945
Battle of Iwo Jima
Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press Photographer, created one of the most evocative images of the war in the Pacific. Six United States Marines raised the Stars and Stripes on Mount Suribachi. The photograph directly inspired the United States Marine Corps’ Memorial, epitomising the intense physical and emotional strain of war. By the time Iwo Jima was captured, more than 26,000 US Marines had been killed or wounded.
March 10, 1945
The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) launched a cataclysmic incendiary bomb raid against Tokyo. The attack represented a change in tactics, from high-altitude daylight bombing. Due to the wooden construction of many dwellings in Japanese cities, firebombing was deemed an effective means of causing widespread devastation.
April 1 to June 22, 1945
Battle of Okinawa. On April 6, United States forces landed on the island of Okinawa – the smallest and least populated of Japan’s islands. The American commanders were puzzled by the lack of Japanese opposition to the landings. The Japanese had constructed deeply sheltered defences, further inland – to shield their forces from American naval gunfire and bombing raids.
The Japanese termed the Battle of Okinawa Tetsu no Ame - Rain of Steel. This referred to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of Japanese Kamikaze attacks and the numbers of Allied ships and armoured vehicles deployed.
The high casualties suffered by the United States on Okinawa led American military planners to conclude that capturing the remaining Japanese islands would be extremely costly in lives. This consideration weighed heavily in President Truman’s decision to authorise the use of atomic bombs.
April 7, 1945
The sinking of the Japanese battleship Yamato. The world’s biggest and most powerful battleship sank after the sustained onslaught from United States carrier-based aircraft. The attack by Yamato was intended to lure American carrier-based aircraft, to render the Allied naval vessels off Okinawa vulnerable to Kamikaze attacks.
May 3, 1945
Allies Capture Rangoon. Rangoon was the principal seaport for Japanese supply in Burma and also an important centre for road and railway communications with Japanese forces in Malaya and Thailand. The commander of the Japanese forces (who were communication troops and naval personnel) in Rangoon, took the view that attempting to defend the city would lead to the destruction of his force. So, on April 26, the evacuation began.
May 8, 1945
The war in Europe ends after Germany’s surrender
May 18, 1945
United States forces on Okinawa suffer heavy casualties. The attack on the capital of Okinawa, Naha, became a battle of attrition, reminiscent of the First World War. The monsoon rains turned roads and hills into a morass, in which men struggled to move.
May 26, 1945
The Japanese Royal Family have a narrow escape. One of the fires caused by an incendiary bombing raid damaged the imperial palace in Tokyo. A Tokyo radio report confirmed that both the Emperor and Empress were unharmed.
June 21, 1945
Japanese Emperor Hirohito, urges senior government ministers and armed service leaders to find a diplomatic means to end the war. The capture of Okinawa may have been the spur to the Emperor’s initiative.
July 26, 1945
The Potsdam Declaration. The leaders of Britain, The United States and China, meeting in Potsdam, issued a joint declaration, saying:
“We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”
July 28, 1945
Japanese rejection of the Surrender Ultimatum
August 6 and 9, 1945
The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. A total of 66,000 people are killed. A second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki. About 39,000 are killed. As at Hiroshima, thousands more die of their injuries or the after effects of radiation.
August 8, 1945
At midnight The Soviet Union enters the war against Japan. Minutes later, Soviet forces invade the Japanese puppet-state of Manchukuo (Manchuria).
August 14, 1945
The Japanese government informs the Allies that it has accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration.
August 15, 1945
The Emperor Hirohito, takes the unprecedented step of broadcasting directly to the Japanese people. Hirohito refers to the atomic explosions saying:
“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 civilisation.”
September 2, 1945
Representatives of the Japanese Empire and the Allies, sign the surrender document aboard the battleship USS Missouri. The Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, General MacArthur, gave the following address:
“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past – a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfilment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”