Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview

Epilogue: The World the War Made

We cannot get away from the results of the war.

-- Josef Stalin, Potsdam, July 1945

Of the men who had survived the Great War of 1914-18 to lead the major powers into World War II, only one still stood on history's stage by the end of 1945. Roosevelt was dead of natural causes, Hitler and Konoye by their own hands. Churchill had been shunted out of office by a people more weary of sacrifice than warmed by gratitude. Still unsated, Stalin alone remained.1

The war with Japan formally concluded on September 2, 1945. Days earlier, the battleship Missouri had glided into Tokyo Bay and anchored within cannon-shot of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's moorage of 1853. At dawn on Sunday the second, crewmen set up a table on the Missouri's deck and laid out the surrender documents. On a bulkhead above, they displayed the thirty-one-star flag that Perry's flagship, the sidewheeler steam frigate Mississippi, had carried into Tokyo Bay nearly a century earlier. High atop the big battleship's flagstaff luffed the forty-eight-star flag that had flown above the Capitol dome in Washington on December 7, 1941.

Shortly before 9:00 A.M., the Japanese delegates arrived, the civilian officials in formal morning clothes, the naval and military officers in dress uniform. A few minutes later General MacArthur and Admirals Nimitz and Halsey stepped onto the deck, dressed simply in open-collar khaki shirts. MacArthur gave a brief speech. He expressed the hope "that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge . . . a world founded on faith and understanding." The Japanese officials came for

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1
Rather than face trial as a war criminal, Konoye took cyanide at his Tokyo home on December 16, 1945.

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