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The Surrender of Japanese Forces
 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 use.[1]

Brig. 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.[2]

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.[3]

Beginning 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.[4] 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.[5]

Manchuria, 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]


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 documenting finds.[9]

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 harbour 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 go ashore.  

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 Formosa's security. 

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] 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.

The 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 fifteen generals.

(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, which states:

[T]he 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:

We [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.

So 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.

[Aside: 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, not China][14]

(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 same principle.

(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 China.


Neither 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.

Japan 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: 

“The 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 also the only one making claims on occupied territories entrusted to her.  

Note: 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. 


[1] Tsao Wen-yen, ed. Chinese Yearbook 1944-1945. Chungking: Council of International Affairs, 1946, p. 371.

[2] ibid., p. 373.

[3] ibid., p. 373.

[4] Russell, Lee E. The US Marine Corps Since 1945. Oxford: Osprey, 1983.

[5] Collier, Ellen C. Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad, 1798 – 1993. Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division Washington DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, October 7, 1993.

[6] Guilmartin, John. America in Vietnam: The Fifteen-Year War. New York: Military Press, 1991, p. 9.

[7] Stuart-Fox, Martin. A History of Laos. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

[8] Guilmartin, op. cit. p. 9.

[9] Kerr, George H. Formosa Betrayed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965, pp. 67-70.

[10] ibid. p. 78.

[11] Lai, Tse-han et al. A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991, p. 63.

[12] ibid.

[13] Shakelton, Allan. Formosa Calling: An Eyewitness Account of Conditions in Taiwan During the February 28th, 1947 Incident. Chevy Chase: Taiwan Publishing Company and Taiwan Communiqué, 1998.

[14] U. S. Govt. I Imperial Rescript Granted the Ministers of War and Navy. 17 August 1945. Reproduced in facsimile as Serial *2118, in Psychological Warfare, Part Two, Supplement *2 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin #164-45. 64-45.


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This essay was written by Charlie Chi for Taiwan Documents Project 
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