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Bringing an End to War: Douglas MacArthur and the Japanese Surrender Ceremony

On this day 75 years ago, the Japanese government officially surrendered to bring an end to WWII. After four long, years of war between the United States and Japan-ending with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki-delegates of the Imperial Japanese government officially surrender onboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri. Douglas MacArthur, as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, had the honor of being the head of the surrender ceremony. He would later go on to oversee the rebuilding and restructuring of Japan.


Handout A: Douglas MacArthur Opening Statement


Have students watch Douglas MacArthur’s Opening Statement (2:45-4:35 marks in Handout A) and then answer the following questions.

  1. Why do you think that the Allied members of the surrender ceremony are all members of the military? Why were some of the Japanese delegation civilians?
  2. MacArthur describes the war as fought between “divergent ideas and ideologies.” What do you think he means by this statement? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  3. What are examples in this speech of MacArthur showing respect for the Japanese?
  4. In the post-war era, the U.S. committed itself to rebuilding both Germany and Japan. Why do you think the U.S. pursued this policy?
  5. MacArthur knew that he would go on to lead the restructuring of Japan’s government and society. How might have this impacted this speech?

Looking for more material on the post-WWII era? Be sure to check out our Close Reading episode of the Marshall Plan.