Governor Millard F. Caldwell Telegram Dated August 13, 1945, Urging President Harry S. Truman Not to Accept Anything Less than the Unconditional Surrender of Japan; Truman's Note of Reply Dated August 14, 1945, the Day Japan Agreed to Surrender

From: Governor Caldwell (1945-1949) Correspondence, Series 576

Governor Millard F. Caldwell Telegram  Urging President Harry S. Truman Not to Accept Anything Less than the Unconditional Surrender of Japan (August 13, 1945)

About This Document

The nine days of August 6-14, 1945, witnessed the final days of World War II in the Pacific and Japan’s agreement to surrender. Japan’s prior refusal to surrender encouraged President Harry S. Truman to order the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Three days later, on August 9, the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan by attacking Japanese forces in Manchuria. On the same day, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the city of Nagasaki.

These events led Japanese Emperor Hirohito to urge his military and governmental leadership to accept the Allied terms of surrender as specified in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945. The terms called for the end of Japanese military power, the occupation of the Japanese home islands, and the trial of Japanese war criminals. Significantly, however, the Potsdam Declaration did not call for the abdication of Hirohito or the end of the monarchy, an institution which the Japanese regarded as divine. On August 10, the Japanese agreed to the terms of the Potsdam Declaration but insisted on Allied assurance that the emperor would remain in power. While not specifically guaranteeing the continued reign of the emperor, the Allied response on August 12 used language that left open the possibility of Hirohito remaining on the throne. The Japanese finally accepted the Allied response on August 14, and Emperor Hirohito’s recorded speech announced the surrender over radio to the Japanese people, most of whom had never heard his voice.

While Americans were anxious for the war to end, many also believed that the Allies should not allow the Japanese to negotiate the conditions of their surrender, especially if it meant the continued reign of Hirohito, whom most Americans believed to be responsible for the war. This was the view of Florida’s governor, Millard Fillmore Caldwell. After learning of the Allied response of August 12, Governor Caldwell telegraphed President Truman on August 13, informing the president of public opposition to the terms of surrender and advocating a resumption of the fighting against Japan until the Japanese accepted surrender unconditionally.

On August 14, President Truman, in the midst of waiting for the Japanese announcement of surrender, took the time to reply to Governor Caldwell's telegram. Truman told the governor that by the time Caldwell was reading his reply the Japanese would have agreed to surrender. Caldwell’s telegram and Truman’s reply are displayed here.

The following transcription contains all of the original text (no changes have been made in spelling or grammar).

Transcript

August 13, 1945
HONORABLE HARRY S TRUMAN
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
WASHINGTON, D C

WITHOUT PRESUMING TO POSSESS ACURATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE MILITRAY SITUATION AND PURELY IN AN EFFORT TO INFORM YOU AS TO PUBLIC REACTION TO PROPOSED JAPANESE PEACE I RESPECTFULLY SUGGEST ONE—THE SERVICE MEN I HAVE MET, THE FAMILIES OF SERVICE MEN AND THE PUBLIC ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH THE TERMS OF SURRENDER. TWO—ALTHOUGH RELIEVED OVER PROSPECT OF WARS END THEY FEEL THAT ABSOLUTE FREEDOM FROM CONDITION IS ESSENTIAL TO COMPLETE ABOVE AND URGE THAT IN VIEW OF JAPANESE DELAY IN ACCEPTANCE OF OUR OFFER IT BE WITHDRAWN AND THE FIGHT RESUMED WITH RENEWED VIGOR. FOUR—THIS TELEGRAM IS SENT WITH NO PUBLICITY AND SOLELY IN A DESIRE TO BE HELPFUL. RESPECTFULLY.

MILLARD F CALDWELL, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA

STRAIGHT MESSAGE

CHAG GOV'S OFFICE