The War Ends
October 1944 brought a naval victory in the Philippine Sea. Further action on Iwo Jima and Okinawa suggested that Japan might long resist despite the ultimate hopelessness of the Japanese position. In August, after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war was brought to an abrupt end. Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945.
Allied military efforts were accompanied by a series of important international meetings on the political objectives of the war. The first of these took place in August 1941 between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at a time when the United States was not yet actively engaged in the struggle and the military situation of Britain and Russia seemed bleak.
Meeting aboard cruisers near Newfoundland, Roosevelt and Churchill issued a statement of purposes--the Atlantic Charter --in which they endorsed these objectives: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes without the consent of the people concerned; the right of all people to choose their own form of government; the restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; economic collaboration between all nations; freedom from war, from fear, and from want for all peoples; freedom of the seas; and the abandonment of the use of force as an instrument of international policy.
In January 1943 at Casablanca, an Anglo-American conference decided that no peace would be concluded with the Axis and its Balkan sateffites except on terms of "unconditional surrender." The term, insisted upon by Roosevelt, sought to assure the people of all the fighting nations that no peace negotiations would be carried on with representatives of Fascism and Nazism; that no bargain of any kind would be made by such representatives to save any remnant of their power; that before final peace terms could be laid down to the peoples of Germany, Italy, and Japan, their military overlords must concede before the entire world their own complete and utter defeat.
In August 1943 at Quebec, an Anglo-American conference discussed plans for action against Japan and other aspects of military and diplomatic strategy; two months later, the foreign ministers of Britain, the United States, and Russia met in Moscow. They reaffirmed the unconditional surrender policy; called for an end to Italian Fascism and the restoration of Austria's independence; and, in the interest of peace, endorsed future postwar collaboration among the Allied powers.
At Cairo, on November 22, 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek to agree on terms for Japan, including the relinquishment of gains from past aggression. At Tehran on November 28, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin reaffirmed the terms of the Moscow conference and called for a lasting peace through the agency of the United Nations. Almost two years later, in February 1945, they met at Yalta, with victory seemingly secure, and made further agreements. Russia secretly agreed to enter the war against Japan not long after the surrender of Germany. The eastern boundary of Poland was set roughly at the Curzon line of 1919. After some discussion of heavy reparations in kind to be collected from Germany--payment demanded by Stalin and opposed by Roosevelt and Churchill--the decision was deferred. Specific arrangements were made concerning Allied occupation in Germany and the trial and punishment of war criminals. And the principles of the Atlantic Charter were reaffirmed with reference to the people of liberated areas.
Also at Yalta it was agreed that the powers in the Security Council of the United Nations should have the right of veto in matters affecting their security. After much difference of opinion, in which Roosevelt was ranged against Stalin and Churchill, it was agreed that all the powers would support the Soviet Union's demand for two additional votes in the United Nations Assembly, based on the great populations of the Ukraine and Byelorussia.
Two months after his return from Yalta, Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing in Georgia. Few figures in American history have been so deeply mourned, and for a time the American people suffered from a numbing sense of irreparable loss. Meanwhile, Vice President Harry S. Truman, having assumed the Presidency, began a period of effective leadership, continuing to work for the essential objectives of the New Deal's foreign and domestic policies.
On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. In July, Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union met at Potsdam to formulate an occupation policy and set up a program for the future of Germany. It was agreed that sufficient industrial capacity should be left Germany for the maintenance of an ample peacetime economy but that no surplus should be avaiiable to permit Germany to rebuild a war machine. Known Nazis were to be tried, and if trials established that they had taken part in the criminal slaughter called for in the Nazi plan, they were to suffer the death penalty.
The conference agreed on the need to assist in the reeducation of a German generation reared under Nazism and to define the broad principles governing the restoration of democratic political life to the country. The conferees also discussed the reparations claims against Germany and provided for the removal of industrial plants and property by the Soviet Union from the Russian-controlled zone, as well as some additional property from the western zones. But the Russian claim, already raised at Yalta, for reparations totaling $10,000 million remained a subject of controversy.
In November 1945 at Nuremberg, the criminal trials that were provided for at Potsdam took place. Before a group of distinguished jurists from Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States, the German leaders were accused not only of plotting and waging aggressive war but also of violating the laws of war and of humanity. The trials lasted more than 10 months and resulted in the conviction of all but three of the defendants.