Several days after the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, Secretary of State James Byrnes drafted the following letter to a Swiss diplomat serving as an intermediary in negotiations with the Japanese. At issue in the terms dictating the end of the war was the Japanese emperor's status and authority, which the Japanese had expended many months -- and many lives -- trying to preserve.


August 11, 1945

Sir:

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your note of August 10, and in reply to inform you that the President of the United States has directed me to send to you for transmission by your Government to the Japanese Government the following message on behalf of the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and China:

"With regard to the Japanese Government's message accepting the terms of the Potsdam proclamation but containing the statement, 'with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler,' our position is as follows:

"From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms."

Letter from James Byrnes to Max Grasali, charge d'affaires ad interim of Switzerland. August 11, 1945. Source: Truman Library.

 

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