This was bloodiest day in United States history, with a combined tally of 22,717 Americans dead, wounded, or missing.
After pursuing Robert E. Lee into Maryland, George McClellan launched attacks against defensive positions behind Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. At dawn on September 17, Joseph Hooker’s corps mounted an assault on Lee’s left flank. Union assaults pierced the Confederate center, but the Federal advantage was not followed up. In the afternoon, Ambrose Burnside’s Union corps entered the action, capturing a stone bridge over Antietam Creek on the Confederate right. Hill’s Confederate division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a surprise counterattack, driving back Burnside and ending the battle.
Although outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan throughout September 18, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River.
McClellan’s failure allowed Lee to shift forces and moving along interior lines. Despite ample reserve forces that could have been deployed, McClellan failed to destroy Lee’s army. McClellan’s persistent but erroneous belief that he was outnumbered contributed to his cautiousness throughout the campaign.
McClellan had halted Lee’s invasion of Maryland, but Lee was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia. McClellan’s refusal to pursue Lee’s army led to his removal from command by President Abraham Lincoln in November. With Lee’s withdrawal into Virginia, Lincoln had the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which encouraged the British and French governments to drop plans to recognize the Confederacy.
Today is an auspicious day in history. It is V-J Day: Victory over Japan Day. Today is the 74th anniversary of the signing of the formal Articles of Surrender between the United States and Japan.
The formal signing was on the wooden deck of the Battleship USS MISSOURI (BB 63).
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, shown on the left of the table in the picture above, accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Empire from Japan’s representative, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoro Shigemitsu. In the photo, US Forces officers are dressed in their daily khaki work uniforms. MacArthur is said to have ordered that he and his men would wear that uniform, implying that this was just another “day at the office.”
I saved this post from Tara Ross yesterday to share today on the anniversary of the actual date of surrender, September 2, 1945. My dad fought in the Pacific in New Guinea; my father-in-law in Alaska and my uncle was a pilot in Germany…all during World War II. Truly The Greatest Generation.
I read today where the “leader” of today’s four-member “Squad” wants to usurp that sobriquet for her generation. I would warn her that her generation has a long way to go to earn that honorific.
Here is guest writer and historian Tara Ross’ account of that surrender and the end of World War II in the Pacific:
During this week in 1945, a formal surrender ceremony is held aboard the USS Missouri. Tomorrow is the anniversary of V-J Day! On this day, World War II effectively came to an end.
It had been less than a month since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had been devastating, of course. But the second bomb dropped on Nagasaki was—if anything—even worse. That plutonium bomb produced an explosion 40 percent bigger than the uranium one dropped on Hiroshima.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the bombs prompted the Japanese government to consider surrendering—but it still wasn’t willing to do so unconditionally. Instead, it sought to ensure that such a document would not “compromise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler.” Nevertheless, President Harry Truman ordered a halt to the atomic attacks so negotiations could commence. Truman’s Secretary of Commerce later reported that Truman really didn’t want to “wip[e] out another 100,000 people . . . . He didn’t like the idea of killing, as he said, ‘all those kids.’”
By August 12, the Japanese government had the American reply: The United States would accept surrender, but any future government of Japan must be established by the “freely expressed will of the Japanese people.”
Negotiations dragged on much too slowly. The Japanese government still didn’t answer right away. The “days of negotiation with a prostrate and despised enemy,” a British ambassador later said, “strained public patience.”
That seems like a bit of an understatement!
When the Japanese government failed to respond, conventional bombings resumed. The United States continued to prepare a third atomic bomb, just in case it was needed. And it did something else: The United States began dropping leaflets across Tokyo. The leaflets described the terms that had been offered for ending the war.
You don’t think surrender was going to be easy, even after all this, do you? It wasn’t, of course. In Japan, there was one last attempt to stop the surrender. A handful of officers attempted a coup, but they were discovered. In the end, many of those involved in the coup attempt committed ritual suicide.
Finally, on August 15, the emperor made an announcement on public radio: Japan would surrender. It was the first time that many Japanese people had ever heard their Emperor’s voice. Can you imagine that?
The formal surrender ceremony occurred aboard the USS Missouri on September 2. The ceremony lasted for 23 minutes. General Douglas MacArthur accepted and signed the Japanese surrender as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Admiral Nimitz and representatives from other nations also signed the document.
Terms of a final treaty would still need to be negotiated, of course. But, for all intents and purposes, World War II was finally over.
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