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70 Years On – Surrender

On September 2, 1945, after the deaths of millions across the globe, the greatest conflict in human history ended.

Representatives of the Japanese government stood on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri and signed the articles of surrender that ended World War II.  Reading the first page takes but a few moments, and the second page is just for signatures.  Japan and her government were to be subject to the Allied powers, would safeguard what remained of her industry and military, and would free all prisoners, both military and civilian.  All power was given to the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, and whatever power the Japanese could exert on their territory sprang from him and was subject to his orders.

It’s a remarkably simple document to end a war that consumed people like lumps of coal in a furnace.  The war also consumed a lot of the compunctions that governments had about war.  For most countries, before the war, the thought of causing the mass destruction of cities and the civilians that lived in them was unthinkable.  By 1945, it was accepted strategy on all sides.  The idea of a “crime against humanity” was created in reaction to the actions taken during the war, and never since have such heinous crimes on such a massive scale been committed.

Up to that point, the horror of World War I had made humanity recoil, causing the deaths of 17 million people and wounding a further 20 million.  In contrast, the China alone had 15 to 20 million deaths, civilian and military.  In total, between 70 and 85 million people around the globe died, with millions more injured, displaced, and enslaved.

The world did not know peace for long, if at all, after 1945.  China’s Communist Revolution restarted almost as soon as the ink was dry in Tokyo harbor.  The world quickly divided itself with an Iron Curtain, and wars would soon be fought in places that most of the combatants didn’t even know existed 70 years ago.  It was only by luck and the intervention of people who had lived through the worst of the war that we have not repeated or surpassed the Second World War in the intervening years.

Man will never stop killing his fellow man, so long as this world exists.  There will always be those who will destroy out of malice or avarice, and those who will stand to when called to stop them.  It is for us, the living and the descendants of the people who fought and lived through the war, to remember that and to jealously guard the world that was bought at such a high cost.

Soon, the World War II generation will be gone, as happens to all things.  We owe it to them, and to our children, to learn their history, to hear their stories.  Tonight, I raise my glass to the men and women who fed the furnace, who walked through it, and I invite all of you to join me.

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1 Comment

  1. Now they’re working on a ‘kinder, gentler’ kind of killing… sigh

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