The Surrender of Japanese
in China, Indochina, and Formosa
On 2 September 1945, representatives of the Japanese
government and the Japanese armed forces formally surrendered to the
Allies by signing the Instrument of Surrender aboard the U.S.S.
Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay. Immediately following the signing
ceremony, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for
the Allied Powers (SCAP), issued his General Order no. 1 laying out
measures for the surrender of Japanese forces in Japan and her
territories. General Order no. 1 assigned responsibility for
demobilising Japanese forces in three areas, China, Indochina, and
Formosa, to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. On 9 September 1945,
pursuant to the General Order, Japanese commanders in China and
representatives of Generalissimo Chiang signed the Act
of Surrender – China Theatre in Nanking. Because the surrender
of Japan is alleged by China to be the event transferring sovereignty
of Formosa to China, an examination of the events surrounding the
surrender and the Act of Surrender is warranted.
As a result of the acceptance by the Japanese
government on 15 August 1945 of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration
calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan, Generalissimo Chiang
Kai-shek, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the China Theatre,
issued a telegraphic instruction to Lieut. Gen. Okamura Yasutsugu,
Commander of Japanese Forces in Central China, to order the forces
under the latter’s command to cease all military operations and to
send a surrender mission to Yushan in Kiangsi, to receive orders from
Gen. Ho Ying-chin, Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Army. Upon
receipt of the instruction, Gen. Okamura forwarded to the
Generalissimo a reply informing him that he would send Brig. Gen.
Kiyoshi, Deputy Chief of Staff, as his surrender envoy. In a second
telegraphic instruction to Gen. Okamura, the Generalissimo ordered the
Japanese envoy to proceed to Chihkiang in Hunan, instead of Yushan as
originally designated, because the airdrome at Yushan was no ready for
Gen. Kiyoshi, accompanied by two staff officers and one interpreter
landed at the Chihkiang airfield on 21 August. He was received by Gen.
Hsiao Yi-shu, Chief of Staff of the Chinese Army Headquarters, who, in
an audience attended by more than one hundred Chinese and Allied
officers, handed to Brig. Gen. Kiyoshi a memorandum from Gen. Ho
Ying-chin for transmission to Gen. Okamura. The memorandum contained
measures to be taken to effectuate the surrender of Japanese forces,
and assigned the responsibility for accepting the surrender amongst
fifteen Chinese generals. Brig. Gen. Kiyoshi formally accepted the
memorandum and pledged to convey it to Gen. Okamura. The surrender
party departed for Nanking on 23 August.
On 27 August, Lieut. Gen. Leng Hsin, Deputy Chief of
Staff of the Chinese Army Headquarters, together with a party of 159
Chinese officers arrived in Nanking to establish an advance
headquarters for the purpose of facilitating the Japanese surrender.
The ceremony for the surrender in the China Theatre, which marks the
conclusion of the eight-year Second Sino-Japanese War, took place in a
simple 20-minute ceremony in the auditorium of the Central Military
Academy in Nanking on 9 September 1945 at 09:00am. Gen. Ho Ying-chin
and Lieut. Gen. Okamura Yasutsugu, representing their respective
governments, signed the Act of Surrender. Immediately following the
signing of the surrender document, Gen. Ho handed General Order no. 1
of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Lieut. Gen. Okamura as a
supplement to the Act of Surrender.
According to a report submitted by the Japanese
Headquarters, there were in the China Theatre (excluding Manchuria),
Indochina north of the 16th parallel, and Formosa over
1,385,000 Japanese troops and over half a million Japanese civilians.
Pursuant to provisions embodied in Gen. Ho’s
memorandum, the China
Theatre was divided into sixteen areas (expanded from the original
fifteen to include Formosa) and the commanders in their respective areas were empowered to
receive Japanese surrender and to disarm Japanese troops. By the end
of December 1945, over one million Japanese troops had been interned
and ready for repatriation.
in late September 1945, 50,000 United States Marines, mainly of the 1st
and 6th Marine
Divisions, were deployed to North China to assist Chiang Kai-shek’s
forces in disarming and repatriating the Japanese in China and in
controlling ports, railroads, and airfields.
This was in addition to approximately 60,000 U.S. soldiers remaining
in China at the end of the war. On 15 October 1945, the United States
Marine Corps accepted the surrender of more than 500,000 Japanese
troops in Tientsin. Over the next few months the Marines continued to
accept the surrender of and repatriate Japanese forces. The Marines
occasionally rearmed the Japanese to protect them from vengeful
Chinese. In one instance, Marines transporting a large number of
Japanese troops were surrounded by a much larger contingent of Chinese
communists. The Marine officer in charge rearmed several hundred
troops under their Japanese major. After the Chinese Communists
retreated, the Japanese major disarmed his men and the repatriation
resumed. The United States Marines remained in China for four years, guarding American property and civilian personnel, but
gradually withdrawing southward in the face of the communist advance.
During this period, more than 70,000 Marines served in China. The
Marines finally departed in June 1949.
the area excluded from China in the Act of Surrender, had been
occupied by over 630,000 Soviet troops since early August 1945, when
the Soviet Union commenced Operation Autumn Storm following her
Declaration of War against Japan. This territory would never be turned
over to the Generalissimo as it was ultimately occupied by the Chinese
communists following the Soviet withdrawal.
In the waning days of the war, the Japanese removed
the Vichy French administration and granted nominal independence to
the Indochinese states of Vietnam, Cambodia and Luang Prabang (later
Laos). In the latter two states, royalist administrations were formed,
whilst Vietnam fell under the control of the nationalist Vietminh led
by Ho Chi Minh.
SCAP General Order no. 1 divided Indochina at the 16th
parallel, and gave the responsibility for accepting the Japanese
surrender to Chiang Kai-shek in the north and to Britain in the south.
The British landed a division of the Indian Army under Maj. Gen.
Douglas Gracey at Saigon. He found a Provisional Executive Committee,
with a Vietminh minority, nominally in charge and anti-French
sentiment running high. Responding to pleas from French inhabitants,
Gen. Gracey released French troops from Japanese internment and ordered all
Vietnamese disarmed. The nationalists responded by calling a general
strike. Disorder spread and Gen. Gracey used rearmed French troops to help
restore order. Cochin china was plunged into civil war.
In the north, the Vietminh retained control until the
appearance of the Chinese 1st Area Army under Gen. Lu Han
in mid-September 1945. With American acquiescence, the Chinese kept the
interned French troops in detention and systematically looted the
economy, manipulating the currency and seizing the Laotian opium crop.
Prince Pethsarath, Prime Minister of Luang Prabang, commented that the
ill-discipline and shabby appearance of Chinese troops made it easy to
confuse victor and vanquished.
Meanwhile the Truman Administration recognised French
sovereignty over Indochina, reversing President Roosevelt's
anti-colonial doctrine. The French rebuilt their forces in Saigon, and
in October armored units under Gen. Philippe Leclerc broke the
Vietminh blockade and began a pacification campaign in the South. Ho
Chi Minh flew to France to negotiate the future of Vietnam, but France
was unwilling to recognize independence in any meaningful form. The
ensuing maneuverings were complex, but the result was that Ho, bereft
of international support and fearing prolonged Chinese occupation,
invited the French to return. By April, the French had relieved
Chinese forces in Tonkin and were warily confronting the Vietminh in
Hanoi and Haiphong. Chiang’s forces, however, would not completely
withdraw from Indochina until May 1946, despite repeated demands by
the Allies to relinquish control to the French.
At the conclusion of the war,
approximately 170,000 Japanese troops remained in Formosa. As in
northern China, the surrender and repatriation of Japanese forces in
Formosa was carried out with substantial assistance from United States
armed forces. The first Allied personnel, a contingent
of four United States Army officers and two members of Chiang Kai-shek’s
secret police (the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics) arrived in
Formosa on 1 September 1945. They were followed on 10 September by a
team of fifteen officers and men of the United States Office of
Strategic Services (OSS). Finally, in mid-September, officers of the
United States Army Graves Registration Unit arrived, with the duty of
searching for the bodies of fallen American airmen and the graves of
prisoners of war, retrieving their effects, identifying wreckage, and
On 5 September, an United States
naval task force, standing off Keelung, began the evacuation of Allied
prisoners of war. Airplanes dropped orders directing preparation for a
swift evacuation of POWs, whilst destroyers entered the crowded
and within two days evacuated approximately 1,300 men, to be
immediately airlifted to Manila. A British hospital ship came in to
receive about 100 men too ill for transport by air.
In the first week of September,
Gen. Isayama Haruki, Japanese Chief of Staff on Formosa, flew to
Nanking to represent Gen. Ando Rikichi, Governor-General of Formosa,
at the formal surrender ceremonies in China. Five prominent Formosans
were also invited by Gen. Ho Ying-chin to represent the Formosan
people at the signing of the Act of Surrender on 9 September.
In Chungking, Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, Chief of Staff of the China Theatre,
established an United States Army Advisory Group, with the mission of
planning the transport of Chinese troops to Formosa and the
repatriation of Japanese forces. On 30 September, a Col. Chang of the
Chinese Air Force was escorted to Taipei for a brief survey, becoming,
forty-six days after the surrender, the first Chinese officer to set
foot on Formosa. On 5 October, an advance team flew to Formosa,
nominally headed by Lieut. Gen. Keh Ching-en, who was accompanied by
an escort of about one hundred American officers and men of the Army
Advisory Group. A few days later they were joined by about 1,000
Chinese gendarmes ferried across the Formosa Strait in United States
commandeered Japanese ships.
On 15 October, elements of the
United States Seventh Fleet escorted troopships into Keelung and
Kaohsiung. Aboard were the 62nd and
70th Divisions of the Chinese
Army, numbering in excess of 12,000 men. Conscious of the presence of
Japanese forces concentrated inland, the Chinese troops refused to
disembark. At Keelung, Chinese officers, hearing reports that Japanese
suicide squads lurked in the hills, begged the U.S. commanders to send
an advance – American - unit overland to secure the narrow valleys
leading to Taipei some 29 kilometres away. Only a rancorous argument
forced the Chinese to accept their fate and go ashore. At Kaohsiung,
the Americans, eager to empty the transports, had to threaten bodily
ejection of the Chinese troops before their reluctant passengers would
On 24 October, Gen. Chen Yi,
appointed by the Generalissimo in September
as Governor-General of Taiwan, arrived in Taipei, and immediately
pursued a policy of denigrating the Americans in the eyes of the
population. He suspended all meaningful cooperation and deleted all
references to the United States role in the war in his public
pronouncements. From then on the United States would be relegated to spectator
status in Formosa until Generalissimo Chiang's final defeat in
China four years later revived the U.S. role as the guarantor of
On 25 October 1945, Gen. Ando
Rikichi and Gen. Chen Yi met in Taipei’s old City Hall in the
West Gate district, which had been the site for the yamen of the
Manchu governor of Taiwan and served as the offices of the President
of the Republic of Taiwan for just about two weeks in 1895. The old
City Hall was also the site where in 1935 Chen Yi had helped to
celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Japanese sovereignty in Formosa,
congratulating the Formosan people on their good fortune to be
Japanese subjects. At 10:00am, Gen. Ando, as
commander of the Japanese 10th
Area Army and
Governor-General of Taiwan, signed and handed to Gen. Chen an instrument of
surrender, concluding the war in Formosa.
On 30 October, the Chen
administration ordered all Japanese troops to turn in their weapons
and equipment. During November and December, the Chinese collected
arms from the Japanese troops and assigned the internees, both
military and civilian, to camps to await repatriation. As late as
February 1946, however, 322,149 Japanese were still in detention camps
in Formosa, in addition to thousands required to remain at their posts
in the civil administration and police, some until 1948, when Chinese
civil administration was finally established in Formosa.
In the meantime, diversion of
resources to China, official corruption, administrative ineptitude,
and the heavy-handedness of the new administrators, contributed to a
deteriorating economy. The former warlords from an agrarian
society were ill equipped to manage an economy that in 1941 was
second in Asia only to Japan in development. The technical ignorance
of officials was mirrored by the Chinese troops, who had already lost
the respect of Formosans because of their
ill-discipline, shabbiness, and cowardice, beginning with the events
in Keelung Harbour on 15 October. Formosans began to joke about
the young Chinese conscripts who spent hours gawking at elevators in
department stores because they had never seen one before. Bicycle
theft also became a problem, but comically, as Chinese soldiers had to
carry the bicycles away on their backs, because they did not know how
to ride them.
All of this dampened the Formosans’ initial
receptiveness towards the Chinese, and tensions mounted, culminating
in the uprising of 28 February 1947, and the imposition of martial law
that was not lifted until 1987.
Act of Surrender: An Analysis
In view of the Chinese claim that the surrender of
Japan amounted to a transfer of sovereignty over Formosa, it seems
surprising that little attention is given by China to the Japan
surrender documents and the events surrounding the surrender. Instead,
the legal basis for China’s claim to sovereignty over Formosa rests
almost entirely on the Cairo Declaration, a
non-binding press release, issued unilaterally by a group of
belligerents years before victory over the enemy was certain. An
examination of the Act of Surrender in the China Theatre and other
surrender documents may illuminate the situation:
(1) The Act of Surrender, and
SCAP General Order no. 1, authorised the surrender of Japanese forces, not Japanese
territories. The Act and the General Order were military directives,
establishing procedures for demobilising Japanese forces. They were
not meant to settle political issues. The assignment of members of the
Allied coalition to disarm Japanese forces in certain areas in no way
implied the members’ permanent possession of those areas, no more so
than General Ho Ying-chin’s memorandum partitioned China amongst
(2) The Act of Surrender authorised the surrender of
Japanese forces to Chiang Kai-shek as Supreme Commander of Allied
Forces in the China Theatre, not to the National Government of
the Republic of China. This is clear from paragraph 1 of the Act,
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, having directed by his
General Order no. 1 that the senior commanders and all ground, sea,
air and auxiliary forces within China excluding Manchuria, Formosa
and French Indo-China north of 16 degrees north latitude shall
surrender to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
Thus, the Act derives its authority directly from an
order issued by General MacArthur, an order issued pursuant to the
Instrument of Surrender signed in Tokyo Bay, which declares:
[Hirohito] hereby command all civil, military and naval officials to
obey and enforce all proclamations, and orders and directives deemed
by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to
effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority
and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to
continue to perform their non-combatant duties unless specifically
relieved by him or under his authority.
any directive made to effectuate the surrender of Japanese forces was
made under the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied
Powers. Nowhere in the Act is the Chinese government or the Chinese
state ever mentioned; only the Generalissimo and SCAP are.
Hirohito was so reluctant to recognise defeat at the hands of the
Chinese that in his rescript issued upon accepting the terms of
surrender on 15 August 1945, he stated " ... we are about to make
peace with the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and Chungking"
(" ... Bei, Ei, So narabi-ni Ju-kei" ), i.e. with the
three states and the Supreme Allied Headquarters in the China Theatre,
(3) Formosa was not considered Chinese territory in
the Act of Surrender. It was distinguished from China, and listed alongside French
Indochina as an area to be disarmed by Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang was
authorised to accept the surrender of Japanese forces in three areas:
China, Formosa, and French Indochina north of the 16th
parallel. Japanese possessions considered for transfer to China, such
as Port Arthur, were not separately mentioned in the Act because they
fell under the definition of China.
Moreover, General Ho’s
memorandum, which, in great
detail, assigns forces to accept the surrender of the Japanese in
China and Indochina, is silent on Formosa. It appears that as late as
mid-August 1945, Formosa, which like the Ryukyus fell in the Pacific,
not China, Theatre of Operations, was contemplated as being under the
jurisdiction of the United States Navy.
(4) Although Chiang was not authorised to accept the
surrender of Japanese forces in Manchuria, the Act of Surrender
acknowledged Chinese claims, by specifically excluding the region from
areas in China to be demobilised by Chiang (“China, excluding
Manchuria”). China did not renounce sovereignty over Manchuria,
despite this exclusion agreed to by the Generalissimo. Neither did the
Soviet Union claim a transfer of sovereignty when her forces occupied
the region. No similar implications are made in the Act about
potential Chinese claims to Formosa or Indochina.
(5) China did not acquire sovereignty over Indochina
north of the 16th parallel, although Chiang Kai-shek was
authorised to accept the surrender of Japanese forces there. Neither
did the United Kingdom acquire sovereignty over Indochina south of the
16th parallel, although she was authorised to accept the
surrender of Japanese forces there. China’s claim that by accepting
the surrender of Japanese forces on Formosa, Chiang’s forces had
acquired sovereignty over the island for China is severely weakened by
the fact that she does not make a claim for Indochina based on the
(6) The deployment of over 50,000 United States
Marines, who accepted the surrender of over half a million Japanese
troops in north China, did not injure China’s claim of sovereignty
over those areas. The presence of these forces in China for four years
did not operate to transfer sovereignty over areas of China to the
United States, just as the presence of Chiang Kai-shek’s troops on
Formosa did not transfer sovereignty of the island over to him or
the circumstances surrounding Japan’s surrender in 1945 nor the provisions of
the surrender documents evidence, or even suggest, that Japan transferred
sovereignty over any of her former possessions as a result of her defeat in
war. The best case that could be made is that sovereignty over certain territories were
transferred to the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union
through the principle of conquest. However, all three of these states disclaimed
any acquisition of sovereignty over the territories in which they prevailed
against Japan and occupied. The only territories they retained were those they
possessed prior to the war against Japan. China, unlike the other Allies,
did not prevail against and displace Japan in any of her former
possessions. Indeed, at the end of the war, she was on the brink of
national annihilation. Aside from conquest, no other method
for acquiring sovereignty applies in the period in question. Japan did not cede territories by her
surrender; she would do that in the 1951 Peace Treaty. No sovereignty
issues with respect to former Japanese possessions were addressed
until the 1951 Peace Treaty.
did temporarily yield authority to exercise some of the rights of sovereignty
over herself at the end of the war, not to any state, but
to the Allies collectively:
authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be
subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps
as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender."
(Instrument of Surrender)
Her pre-war possessions were also occupied by
forces that acted on behalf of the Allies. Manchuria and northern Korea did
not become Soviet territory; southern Korea, Japan proper, the Ryukyus and the
Japanese mandate in the Pacific did not become United States territory; and
Formosa did not become Chinese territory. Paradoxically, China,
the only Ally not to have prevailed against Japan, is
only one making claims on occupied territories entrusted to her.
This essay is concerned strictly with the surrender of Japan in the Second World War,
documents related to the Surrender, and their effect on sovereignty issues. For a discussion on the impact of other international agreements on the
sovereignty of Formosa, see the Executive Summary.
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Council of International Affairs, 1946,
Russell, Lee E. The US Marine Corps Since 1945. Oxford:
Collier, Ellen C. Instances of Use of United States Forces
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Division Washington DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of
Congress, October 7, 1993.
Guilmartin, John. America in Vietnam: The Fifteen-Year War.
New York: Military Press, 1991, p. 9.
Stuart-Fox, Martin. A History of Laos. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1997.
Guilmartin, op. cit. p. 9.
Kerr, George H. Formosa Betrayed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
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Lai, Tse-han et al. A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of
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