Aug. 30, 1945: MacArthur comes to Japan

Christy Karras
Christy Karras

U.S. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur — Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers — came to Japan to officially end World War II. Emperor Hirohito, shown with MacArthur in this U.S. Army photograph, had already agreed to sign the "instrument of surrender" and notified his subjects and the rest of the world.

Although Yokohama was MacArthur's first base of operations, the document was signed aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on Sept. 2 — a date sometimes known as Victory in Japan, or V-J Day. Victory in Europe, or V-E Day, was a few months earlier, making the end of conflict with Japan the end of the war.

When the emperor signaled his willingness to surrender two weeks earlier, Allied troops and Chinese and Korean citizens erupted in celebration, some firing weapons into the air and alarming bystanders who hadn't yet heard the news.

MacArthur, who after early defeats in the war's Pacific Theater fought his way back via the Philippines, subsequently oversaw the occupation of Japan, which lasted until 1951. By the time he left, the country was transformed into a modern, independent democracy that retained its ancient sense of community.