This week in the War, 16–22 July 1945: Opening of the Potsdam conference

British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, US President Harry S. Truman, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, Potsdam, July 1945 [Public domain, wiki]

The Potsdam conference opened this week in the war, on 17 July 1945.

Three countries participated: The Soviet Union—represented by Joseph Stalin, the United States—represented by Harry S. Truman (who had become president following the death of President Roosevelt), and Great Britain—represented at first by Winston Churchill and then by Clement Atlee, who became prime minister as a result of the Labour Party winning the July 1945 general election.

The continuation of the war against Japan was a major item on the agenda. So was the re-organization of post-war Europe, including moving the boundary of Poland westward into Germany.

Meanwhile, a top-secret telegram was sent from Washington to Potsdam, to inform the US Secretary for War, Henry Stimson, that the atomic bomb had been successfully tested at Alamogordo in New Mexico.

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This week in the War, 9–15 July 1945: Preparing to invade Japan

Troops of the US 92nd Infantry (‘Buffalo’) Division, Italy 1945 [Public domain, wiki]

This week in the war, on 15 July 1945, the first contingent of American troops that had been serving in Europe boarded their ship in Naples, Italy, and set sail for Japan.

The invasion of the Japanese homeland had been set for 1 November.

American warships had already been bombarding the Japanese mainland as a preparation, and the Japanese were making preparations of their own by training thousands of men for kamikaze air and sea attacks against Allied shipping.

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This week in the War, 2–8 July 1945: Ivan Lyon and Z Force

Ivan Lyon enjoying a beer with friends, Brisbane 1944 [Public domain, wiki]

This week in the war saw the final and sad end of Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Lyon’s Z Force.

Since the fall of Singapore, Lyon had served with special forces (British, Australian and Free French) that were fighting behind the Japanese lines.

In September 1943, he led a successful raid against Japanese shipping in Singapore harbor.

He died while engaged in a similar raid in October 1944.

All of the members of Z Force were eventually killed or captured. Those captured were executed by beheading on 7 July 1945.

 

 

Once over twenty strong, Z Force had begun

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This week in the War, 25 June–1 July 1945: The San Francisco Conference

Future Canadian prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, addresses one of the committees at the United National Conference in San Francisco, 1945 [Public domain]

A photograph of future Canadian prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, addressing delegates at the San Francisco Conference is fitting for Canada Day, 1 July.

The United Nations Conference on International Organization, which had opened on 26 April 1945, ended two months later, this week in the war, with the signing of the United Nations Charter.

Delegates to the conference came from nations that had fought on the Allied side.

A central feature of the Charter was the agreement that the Security Council of the United Nations would assume responsibility for order in the world and that the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China (the ‘Big Five’) would have permanent seats on the Council.

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This week in the War, 18–24 June 1945: The marshal and the stallion

Marshal Zhukov, riding his stallion ‘Idol’ during the Moscow Victory Parade, 24 June 1945 [Public domain]

June was the month for victory parades in places as far apart as Moscow and Rangoon.

This week in the war, on 24 June 1945, Marshal Georgy Zhukov rode his white stallion, Idol, in a gigantic march-past in Moscow’s Red Square. (Zhukov had begun his army career as a private in the Czarist cavalry.)

Soviet soldiers carried hundreds of captured German banners and laid them before the Lenin Mausoleum.

 

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This week in the War, 11–17 June 1945: Victory parade in Rangoon

Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command, Admiral the Lord Louis Mountbatten, takes the salute during the Rangoon Victory Day Parade, 15 June 1945 [Public domain]

By June 1945, the Japanese army had pulled out of Rangoon. This week in the war, on 15 June 1945, Lord Louis Mountbatten held a victory parade in the city.

Rangoon—where Aung San Suu Kyi, the current head of state for Myanmar (Burma), has her home—had been occupied by the Japanese since 8 March 1942.

Fighting continued in Burma well into July, with the Japanese suffering heavy losses in their attempts to withdraw their armies.

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This week in the War, 4–10 June 1945: Hirohito holds a meeting

Emperor Hirohito presides over an Imperial General Headquarters meeting, 1943 [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 8 June 1945, Emperor Hirohito presided over a meeting of the Japanese cabinet. They decided that Japan would continue fighting until the very end.

Japanese kamikaze pilots were still effective and, in his book Second World War (Stoddart, 1989), Martin Gilbert reports that, on average, an American infantryman on Okinawa could expect to become a casualty after three weeks of fighting.

 

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