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The Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender is a statement that called for the Surrender of the Empire of Japan during World War II. On July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China Chiang Kai-shek issued the document, which outlined the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. This ultimatum stated that, if Japan did not surrender, it would face "prompt and utter destruction" although the document did not make any mention of atomic weapons.
Terms of the Declaration 
On July 26, the United States, Britain and China released the Potsdam Declaration announcing the terms for Japan's surrender, with the warning, "We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay." For Japan, the terms of the declaration specified:
- the elimination "for all time [of] the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest"
- the occupation of "points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies"
- "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." As had been announced in the Cairo Declaration in 1943.
- "The Japanese military forces shall be completely disarmed"
- "stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners"
On the other hand, the declaration offered that:
- "We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, ... The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established."
- "Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to rearm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted."
- "The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people, a peacefully inclined and responsible government."
The only mention of "unconditional surrender" came at the end of the declaration:
- "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."
Contrary to what had been intended at its conception, disenfranchising the Japanese leadership so the people would accept a mediated transition, the declaration made no direct mention of the Emperor at all. It did, however, insist that "the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest must be eliminated for all time". Allied intentions on issues of utmost importance to the Japanese, including whether Hirohito was to be regarded as one of those who had "misled the people of Japan" or even a war criminal, or alternatively whether the Emperor might potentially become part of a "peacefully inclined and responsible government" were thus left unstated.
The "prompt and utter destruction" clause has been interpreted as a veiled warning about American possession of the atomic bomb which had been successfully tested on July 16, 1945, the day before the Potsdam Conference opened. Although the document warned of further destruction like was happening during other aerial bombings, it didn't mention anything about nuclear bombing or dropping of any nuclear weapon on Japan. Therefore some interpreted that the "prompt and utter destruction" meant that it was talking about atomic bombs, but during that time, the concept of atomic bomb and the destruction that it can cause wasn't known by anyone with a basic knowledge in Japan.
Leaflets and radio broadcasts 
The government did not disclose the declaration to the Japanese people. However, the ultimatum was broadcast to the Japanese Home Islands on the radio while leaflets describing it were dropped from American bombers. Although picking up leaflets and listening to foreign radio broadcasts had been banned by the government, the American propaganda efforts were successful in making the key points of the declaration known to most Japanese. As a result, Prime Minister Suzuki felt compelled to meet the Japanese press, to whom he reiterated his government's commitment to ignore the Allies' demands and fight on.
The extent of the Allies' demands brought home the extent of the success Japan's enemies had achieved in the war.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were subsequently bombed with airplane-dropped nuclear weapons on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively. Two cities were totally devastated by the atomic bomb killing tens of thousands of civilians in a matter of seconds within a radius that stretched for more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers).
See also 
- Cairo Declaration (1943)
- Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)
- Pacific War (1941–1945)
- General Order No. 1 (Aug. 1945)
- Japanese Instrument of Surrender (Sep. 1945)
- Treaty of San Francisco (1951)
- "Potsdam Declaration: Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945". National Science Digital Library.
- "Milestones: 1937-1945 / The Potsdam Conference, 1945". United States Department of State, Office of the Historian.
- "Potsdam Declaration". Birth of the Constitution of Japan. National Diet Library.
- Scoenberger, Walter (1969). Decision of Destiny. Columbus: Ohio University Press. pp. 248–249.
- Rhodes, Anthony (1976). Propaganda: The art of persuasion: World War II. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. p. 262.
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