History Podcasts

5 July 1945

5 July 1945

5 July 1945

Great Britain

General election takes place although the result will not be announced until 26 July

Borneo

Australian troops make a new landing on Borneo

Australia

Prime Minister Curtin dies

Philippines

MacArthur announces the liberation of the Philippines

United States

Military casualties to 1 July announced at 11,921 killed out of a total of 54,891



1945 United Kingdom general election

The 1945 United Kingdom general election was a national election held on 5 July 1945, but polling in some constituencies was delayed by some days, and the counting of votes was delayed until 26 July to provide time for overseas votes to be brought to Britain. The governing Conservative Party sought to maintain its position in Parliament but faced challenges from public opinion about the future of the United Kingdom in the post-war period. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill proposed to call for a general election in Parliament, which passed with a majority vote less than two months after the conclusion of the Second World War in Europe. [1]

The election's campaigning was focused on leadership of the country and its future. Churchill sought to use his wartime popularity as part of his campaign to keep the Conservatives in power after a wartime coalition had been in place since 1940 with the other political parties, but he faced questions from public opinion surrounding the Conservatives' actions in the 1930s and his ability to handle domestic issues unrelated to warfare. Clement Attlee, who led the Labour Party, was seen as a more competent leader by voters, particularly those who feared a return to the levels of unemployment in the 1930s and sought a strong figurehead in British politics to lead the postwar rebuilding of the country. Opinion polls when the election was called showed strong approval ratings for Churchill, but Labour had gradually gained support for months prior to the war's conclusion.

The final result of the election showed Labour to have won a landslide victory, [2] making a net gain of 239 seats and winning 47.7%, thus allowing Attlee to be appointed prime minister. This election marked the first time that the Labour Party had won an outright majority in parliament, and allowed Attlee to begin implementing the party's post-war reforms for the country. [3] For the Conservatives, the Labour victory was a shock, [4] as they suffered a net loss of 189 seats although they won 36.2% of the vote and had campaigned on the mistaken belief that Churchill would win as people praised his progression of the war. Of the other two major parties, the Liberal Party faced a serious blow after taking a net loss of nine seats with a vote share of 9.0%, many within urban areas and including the seat held by its leader, Sir Archibald Sinclair. The National Liberal Party fared significantly worse, enduring a net loss of 22 seats with a vote share of 2.9%, with its leader Ernest Brown losing his seat.

The 10.7% swing from the Conservatives to an opposition party is the largest since the Acts of Union 1800 the Conservative loss of the vote exceeded that of the 1906 Liberal landslide ousting of a Conservative administration. Churchill remained actively involved in politics and returned as prime minister after leading his party into the 1951 general election. For the National Liberals, the election was their last as a distinct party, as they merged with the Conservatives in 1947 while Ernest Brown resigned from politics in the aftermath of the election.


Today in World War II History—July 5, 1940 & 1945

80 Years Ago—July 5, 1940: Vichy France breaks relations with the United Kingdom.

In occupied France, Germans ban signs of national identity: the Tricolor flag, the “Marseillaise,” and berets.

Due to Japanese pressure on French Indochina, US President Franklin Roosevelt bans export to Japan of strategic minerals and chemicals, aircraft engines and parts, and machine tools.

Labour Party election poster, 1945

75 Years Ago—July 5, 1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur proclaims the end of the campaign in the Philippines.


The SWP and the New York Elections

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No.㺤, 3 September 1945,p.ل.
The letter is also quoted in full in Party Policy in the New York Election Campaign, SWP Internal Bulletin, Vol. VII No.ه, p.ف.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The New York Local of the Workers Party has just made public the text of a letter which it sent more than a month ago to the corresponding branch of the Socialist Workers Party in an effort to arrive at an agreement which would avoid the presentation of two conflicting candidates for the office of Mayor of New York in the present municipal election.

The Socialist Workers Party, while it never acknowledged receipt of this letter or sent a reply to the proposal, has, however, decided to reject the offer to arrive at an agreement or even to discuss the possibility of joint action.

As readers of Labor Action know, Local New York of the Workers Party announced some time ago its decision to nominate Max Shachtman, national secretary of the party, for the office of Mayor. It was only after this announcement was made public that the Socialist Workers Party decided to enter a candidate of its own for the same office.

In spite of this fact, the Workers Party felt it its duty to the cause of revolutionary socialist unity to address a letter to the Socialist Workers Party in the hope of averting the confusion that might well be created among many militant, radical and socialist workers who would be confronted with a choice between two candidates whose election platforms do not have any fundamental differences between them.

As is to be seen from the letter, the terms of the agreement were left entirely open so that they might be arrived at in the course of discussion between the two organizations. The letter also points out that regardless of the terms of the agreement, it would not be necessary for either party to give up its own platform, its own views, or its own campaign, all of which could be put forward in complete political independence.

It is well known that such practical agreements are not only permissible from the standpoint of socialist principle, but have been made time and again between working class parties and organizations, even though there have been political differences between them on numerous questions.

The Socialist Workers Party, however, or rather the Cannonite group in the leadership of it, voted to reject the Workers Party proposal out of hand. The rejection was voted against the protest of a minority group, led by Albert Goldman, Felix Morrow and Oscar Williams, prominent party leaders, who pointed out the need and value of accepting the proposal of the Workers Party and appointing a sub-committee of the SWP to discuss the question with the WP.

The action of the Socialist Workers Party, which is animated by a narrow-minded and bureaucratic sectarianism, as well as by a violent factional antagonism toward the Workers Party, is only the latest of a series of such actions which have brought discredit to the SWP. Among the most discrediting of these actions in recent times, which aroused bitter criticism even in its own ranks, was its refusal in Los Angeles and Akron to join with the Workers Party and other groups in united picketing demonstrations against notorious fascists like Gerald L.K. Smith and Gerald Winrod.

The full text of the letter sent to the Socialist Workers Party by Local New York of the Workers Party over the signature of its organizer, Reva Craine, is as follows:

Local New York City Committee
Socialist Workers Party
116 University Place
New York, N.Y.

As you know, the Workers Party has nominated Comrade Max Shachtman for the office of Mayor in the coming New York municipal campaign. We note that the Socialist Workers Party has nominated Comrade Farrell Dobbs for the same office, and Louise Simpson for the office of Councilman. The campaign platforms present by the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party in the New York election will, in all likelihood, reveal no fundamental or radical differences. Under these circumstances, much confusion can be created among workers, especially those who are more advanced politically, and the common cause to which we adhere can be harmed.

We believe it is possible to arrive at an agreement between the two parties which, while assuring the political integrity of both, would eliminate the confusion and avert the harm. While confident of the possibility of joint action in the election campaign, we do not wish, to anticipate its exact terms.

Therefore, we have selected a sub-committee to meet with a similar committee representing your organization for the purpose of exploring the possibilities of joint action in the New York election. Our sub-committee is prepared to meet with you at the earliest possible moment

Fraternally yours,
Local New York, Workers Party
Reva Craine, Organizer


Today in World War II History—July 5, 1940 & 1945

80 Years Ago—July 5, 1940: Vichy France breaks relations with the United Kingdom.

In occupied France, Germans ban signs of national identity: the Tricolor flag, the “Marseillaise,” and berets.

Due to Japanese pressure on French Indochina, US President Franklin Roosevelt bans export to Japan of strategic minerals and chemicals, aircraft engines and parts, and machine tools.

Labour Party election poster, 1945

75 Years Ago—July 5, 1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur proclaims the end of the campaign in the Philippines.


5 July 1945 - History

The attempts by the Japanese government to surrender, July 1945

These extracts from British and American archives may contain phonetic or transcription errors. We invite comments, corrections and expansions. Please give details of item referred to. [comment]

July 7, 1945: George McWilliams of International News Service (INS) had questioned three Japanese newspaper publishers on Okinawa, who testified authoritatively that Japan would surrender at once if the American occupation forces would be of only token character. Joseph Grew, the Under-Secretary of State, stopped publication of the lengthy dispatch, lest it weaken America's determination to carry out the complete defeat of Japan. (Text of the despatch dated July 7, 1945, and Grew's reaction, are in Forrestal diary, July 7, 1945)

On July 8, 1945 , Joseph Grew, the Acting Secretary of State, reported to the Secretary a message from the American envoy in Stockholm: Major-General Onodera, the Japanese military attaché there, had just invited to dinner Prince Carl Bernadotte. Over dinner, the attaché had told the Swede that Japan knew that the war was lost, and that the Emperor and government had authorised him to make direct contact with King Gustav when the right time comes with a view to contacting the Allies. Apart from stating that the Emperor must be maintained in his position after the Japanese capitulation, no condition was specified. Onodera did however stress that the right time had not yet come -- so the Americans were not to be informed of this approach yet. But meanwhile he asked Bernadotte to arrange a meeting with his father Carl Sr., who was brother of King Gustaf and President of the Swedish Red Cross.

(Grew to Sec St., Jul 8, 1945: in RG-59, Matthews papers, box 12.)

FO sent to Eden July 18 the text of Tel 1121 from Stockholm, dated July 17: "I feel that you should know that the Assistant head of Political Division, of Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed me today that a telegram had been received from Swedish Legation in Washington this morning to the effect that Stalin was bringing Japanese peace proposals to the Potsdam meeting and that his late arrival there was due to last minute discussions with the Japanese." Source: Mallet to FO, No. 1121, Jul 17, in FO to Eden, ONWARD 60, Jul 18, 1945 (PRO file CAB.120/191). And see similar story in Moscow Tel. 3295 to FO, Jul 26, 1945, in ONWARD 235, Jul 26, 1945 (PRO file CAB.120/192) Adml Nomura and other Japanese representatives were said to be in Moscow asking for Soviet mediation to end war in Far East US embassy thinks the story is not unfounded. But Moscow ambassador in Tel. 3295, Jul 30, in ONWARD 286, Jul 30, 1945 (PRO file CAB.120/192) considered it improbable: 'If Admiral Nomura had visited or was in Moscow we should almost certainly have heard of it.'

There were security problems for Truman in receiving the ULTRA signals.

His ship Augusta had been identified, and the Map Room traffic over Ensign Detwiler's circuit had been identified by press stories. Future top secret messages would have to be sent on FOX [communications system?]

(Signal Cdr Tyree, White House Map Room, Jul 13, 1945, 12:44Z, to Map Room at White House: in Naval Aide box 5, folder 1. Truman library).

On July 12, 1945 , the Map Room rushed to Truman an item numbered OUT-105, an unnumbered ULTRA message. Evidently in reply to an inquiry as to whether the Navy or Army codebreakers had decoded this message, the Map room followed at 20:46Z on July 12: "Navy scored scoop. Believe General Marshall will have this to show to President."

(H S Truman Library, Naval aide file Box 6, Unnumbered communications, Map Room, Jul-Aug 1945): MR-OUT-106, Major Putnam to Cdr Tyree, July 12.)

July 12, 1945 : Major Putnam in Washington jotted down a message over the high speed teletype machine to Colonel Bowen in Berlin: "When party arrives be sure to see Map Room Out-105."

He added, "Check of their IN and OUT file will brief you on such news as we have sent prior to duplicating to you as well as other items. Both army and navy news has been light since you left with no major developments except carrier strike on Japan on which there is little official info due to lack of radio intercepts."

(H S Truman Library, Naval aide file Box 6, Unnumbered communications, Map Room, Jul-Aug 1945)

At 8 am Washington time July 13, 1945 , 3 pm Berlin time, Berlin telexed ('conference') this message for Major Putnam in the White House: 'Colonel Bowen would like to know what is the contents [sic] of the letter that Colonel McCarthy sent to him and if there is anything of importance in same please forward to him here.' And Berlin added, 'I have a message from him (Bowen) for you: do you have a "105" message. He seems to think you have, and desires a copy of same.' Washington replied, 'Please tell the Colonel that "105" is one of the messages that we get by locked pouch and cannot be transmitted from here.'

(H S Truman Library, Naval aide file Box 6, Unnumbered communications, Map Room, Jul-Aug 1945)

Extracts from the folder Magic Diplomatic Extracts July 1945, NARS number SRH 040:

[Selected items prepared by MIS War Department for the Attention of General George C Marshall.]

They are summarised too in Forrestal diary, July 13, 15, and 24, 1945.

We leave these for the moment and go back to the original reports:-

Top Secret-Ultra reports (NARS number: SRH 084, headed Russo-Japanese Relations)

[ My summary :] Early in June 1945 the Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenoria Togo advised Ambassador Sato in Moscow that it was a matter of 'the utmost urgency' to prevent Russia from entering the Pacific War. In the first two weeks of June, former prime minister Hirota conducted at Togo's request four conversations with Soviet ambassador Malik in Moscow (TOKYO?). This became plain from a June 28 message from Togo, from Tokyo to Moscow (See diplomatic summary 61195, dated July 3).

Ambassador Malik did not however hold out much hope of providing the kind of friendly assistance that the Japanese were asking for.

Two days later, on June 30, after a 7,000 ton TNT bombing raid, Foreign Minister Togo sent an extremely urgent despatch to Sato. However neither message attracted the urgent attention of Sato in Moscow. Sato made little or no attempt to secure the interview with Molotov that Tokyo had demanded.

He informed Tokyo on July 6, 'I believe that Molotov will leave for Berlin around the 10th and that it will be difficult for me to obtain an interview with him before that time.'

On July 9, Foreign Minister Togo sent an extremely urgent and peremptory message to Sato. 'Your opinions notwithstanding,' it read, 'please carry out my orders.' Later that day, July 9, Togo added a further message to Sato urging him to discuss all problems and 'other matters as well if the Russians wish it.'

On July 11 however Foreign Minister Togo further impressed by two days of US air raids mounted by B-29s and from aircraft carrier sent the following unprecedented message to Sato in Moscow, marked Extremely Urgent and Strictly Secret.

After listing far-reaching concessions which Japan was willing to make to Russia, the telegram continued:

In the same message, Togo urged Sato to be careful not to give the impression that 'our plan is to make use of the Russians in ending the war.' (This was Magic Intercept #H-1961505, 11 July, Tokyo-Moscow.) On the following day, July 12, Togo sent a further dispatch to Sato, marked Very Urgent, again urging Sato to inform the Russians before the Potsdam conference opened, of 'the Imperial will concerning the end of the war.' The precise terms of the message to be presented to Molotov were:

The Emperor accordingly proposed to send Prince Fumimaro Konoye &endash who had been the country's prime minister from June 1937 to January 1939, and again from July 1930 to October 1941 to Moscow as his special envoy, bearing a letter from him confirming the concessions stated above.

The few Americans privileged to read these intercepts were deeply impressed, although they did not yet reveal whether the Japanese chiefs of staff anticipated that the Foreign office was aware of these considerations, the fact that the move was stated to be an expression of 'the Emperor's will' was not without significance.

Meanwhile Sato had reluctantly arranged a discussion with Vice-Commissar Lozovsky on July 10, and then on the following day with Molotov himself.

[ Website note : It is reasonable to assume that the above summary, or its contents, were what was transmitted by secure teleprinter to Potsdam on about July 13.]

From Report NARS number: SRH 085, Russo-Japanese Relations, 13 to 20 July 1945:-

[ My summary :] On July 12, Foreign Minister Togo had sent a despatch to Moscow, telling Sato to negotiate with Molotov. Molotov however 'simply could not manage it' . Vice Commissar Lozovsky instead. He did so at 5 pm on July 13, handed him the Imperial instructions, which he had translated into Russian, and asked that the Russians consent to the arrival of Prince Konoye, emphasising 'I should like the Soviet government to bear particularly in mind the fact that the present special envoy will be of an entirely different character from the special envoy I have discuss with Molotov three times in the past.' (These had been attempts made in the fall of 1943 and in April and September 1944 to improve German-Russian relations.)

As Lozovsky replied that some members of the Soviet government were leaving that very night, Sato informed him: 'If we are too late, I should like you, if possible, to get in touch with Berlin by telephone or the like, and then give us an answer.' Sato's despatch that day, July 13, was intercepted by the Americans, and formed Diplomatic Summary No.1207, dated July 15.

On July 13, Togo had informed Sato that he had sent a Japanese diplomat to inform Soviet ambassador Malik, who was sick in bed, of the Emperor's views.

On July 14, however, Sato informed Tokyo that during the night he had been verbally advised that 'because of the departure of Stalin and Molotov a reply will be delayed.' This was not honest.

On July 15, Sato informed Tokyo that Molotov and Stalin had in fact not left Moscow for Berlin until the evening of the 14th. Evidently Moscow was playing for time.

On July 25, Admiral Leahy read the Top Secret MAGIC summary dated July 23, presumably the above summary.

[George M. Elsey, the naval aide, reminded him that Secretary Forrestal had instructed Admiral King to make sure that the President saw this material but Leahy was the only member of the White House party to see MAGIC . Leahy replied that he alone could properly discuss MAGIC with Truman, and accordingly he would talk with him at length as soon as he returned from London.]

(H S Truman LIbrary, Elsey to Tyree, Jul 25, 1945: box 55, speech file, Berlin conf and George M. Elsey papers.)

July 24, 1945 : "Japan seeking Soviet good offices to surrender." Ultra intercept, in PRO file HW.1/3784.

July 25, 1945: "Japan seeking Soviet good offices to surrender." Ultra intercept, in PRO file HW.1/3785.

Website note : neither British file includes the above July 13, 1945 etc messages relating to this.

On July 28 , the Map Room in Washington notified its Potsdam terminal: 'We are preparing for off-line transmission a dispatch for Admiral Leahy's eyes only.'

But they would not send it unless Elsey or Graham alone were in the receiving room to decipher it.

[ Website note: We don't know what it was, but an educated guess is that it was the following MAGIC summary. Leahy alone was authorised to receive MAGICS .]

(H S Truman Library, Naval aide file Box 6, Unnumbered communications, Map Room, Jul-Aug 1945)

From Report NARS number: SRH 086, Russo-Japanese Relations, 21 to 27 July 1945 :-

[REST LOST IN A DISC ERROR]

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."


1945-51: Labour and the creation of the welfare state

The outcome of the 1945 election was more than a sensation. It was a political earthquake.

Less than 12 weeks earlier, Winston Churchill had announced the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Churchill wanted his wartime coalition to continue until Japan too had been defeated, but was not unduly dismayed when his Labour ministers insisted that the country be offered a choice. The prime minister called the election for early July, confident that the British people would back the greatest hero of the hour. Of all Churchill's colossal misjudgments, that was probably the most egregious.

The voters wanted an end to wartime austerity, and no return to prewar economic depression. They wanted change. Three years earlier, in the darkest days of the war, they had been offered a tantalising glimpse of how things could be in the bright dawn of victory. The economist William Beveridge had synthesised the bravest visions of all important government departments into a single breathtaking view of the future.

The 1942 Beveridge Report spelled out a system of social insurance, covering every citizen regardless of income. It offered nothing less than a cradle-to-grave welfare state.

That was the great promise dangled before the British electorate in 1945. Though Churchill had presided over the planning for radical social reform, though he was a genuine hero of the masses - and though, ironically enough, the Tory manifesto pledges were not all that different from Labour's - the people did not trust him to deliver the brave new world of Beveridge.

There were other factors too. The Labour party had held office only twice before, in 1924 and in 1929-31, but during the war years its leadership had acquired both experience and trust. It now looked like a party of government.

Labour's promise to take over the commanding heights of the economy via nationalisation were anathema to committed Tories, but after nearly six years of wartime state direction of the economy it did not seem nearly so radical as it had before the war - or indeed as it seems now.

Then there was the military vote. Britain had millions of men and women in uniform in 1945, scattered over Europe, the far east, and elsewhere. They, more than any other section of the electorate, yearned for change and for a better civilian life. The military vote was overwhelmingly pro-Labour.

Many students of the 1945 election believe that a key role was played by the Daily Mirror, then the biggest selling paper in Britain, and easily the most popular among the armed forces. On VE (Victory in Europe) Day, the Mirror published an immensely powerful cartoon by the brilliant Philip Zec. It showed a battered, bandaged Allied soldier holding out to the reader a slip of paper marked Victory and Peace in Europe. Under the drawing was the caption "Here you are! Don't lose it again."

The same cartoon was published on the Mirror's front page on the morning of the most remarkable general election of the 20th century. But when the result was announced on July 26 - three weeks after polling day to allow military postal votes to be counted - it was clear that postwar politics had changed utterly.

With 47.7% of the vote, Labour secured a staggering 393 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives, with 39.7%, won just 210 seats. The Liberal party, which had governed the country less than quarter of a century earlier, was reduced to 9% of the vote, and just 12 seats. The new prime minister was Churchill's deputy in the war time coalition, Clement Attlee.

On the first day of the new parliament, the massed ranks of Labour members bawled out the socialist anthem, the Red Flag. Tories everywhere were scandalised. (There is a splendid apocryphal story of a lady in a grand London hotel who was overheard exclaiming "Labour in power? The country will never stand for it!")

But stand for it they did, over the next six momentous years.

Clement Attlee

The new prime minister was not obviously cut out for the job. Painfully shy and reserved to the point of coldness, he had the appearance - and often the style - of a bank clerk. Churchill described him, cruelly, as "a sheep in sheep's clothing".

The son of a City solicitor, he was educated at Haileybury College - which specialised in turning out administrators for the British Raj - and at University College, Oxford. Attlee was so far from being a passionate ideologue that his wife Violet once casually observed: "Clem was never really a socialist, were you, darling? Well, not a rabid one."

Yet this essentially herbivorous exterior cloaked a steely determination, and a deepseated devotion to social justice first developed during his voluntary work in London's East End before the first world war. After distinguished service in that war, Attlee entered parliament in 1922, and served in the first two Labour governments. In 1931, he declined to join Ramsey Macdonald's national coalition, preferring to stay with the rump opposition. He became Labour leader in 1935.

Though many on the left opposed Labour participation in Churchill's wartime coalition (at least during the early years when Hitler was allied with the Soviet Union under Stalin), Attlee responded to the national crisis by guiding his party into the national government. He became Lord Privy Seal and, from 1942, deputy prime minister. He was 62 when he entered Downing Street.

Attlee's team

The great tide of new Labour MPs who entered the Commons in 1945 included some eager youngsters who were to make their mark on the party, and indeed the country. They included Denis Healey (who made an impassioned maiden speech urging world socialist revolution), Harold Wilson, Michael Foot, and James Callaghan. But the men Attlee leaned on were of course of Labour's old guard. His principal props were Ernest Bevin, a pragmatic trade unionist who had made his mark during the war as an energetic labour minister, Labour stalwart Hugh Dalton, and Stafford Cripps, an aloof intellectual (Churchilll once remarked of him: "There but for the grace of God, goes God.").

The Attlee-Bevin alliance was particularly important in protecting the administration from some of its own hotter blooded members, who shared the young Healey's enthusiasm for revolution. Their most potent figurehead was Aneurin Bevan, a fiery orator from the Welsh valleys, who constantly urged the government to embrace radical reforms, and bitterly resisted any suggestion of pragmatic trimming of policy. Bevan eventually was to deal the Attlee administration a hammer blow, when he resigned over the reintroduction of NHS prescription charges. For six years, though, his was the voice of radical Labour.

Nationalisation

"The Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it." The stark sentence is buried in the party's 1945 election manifesto, which promised that Labour would take control of the economy and in particular of the manufacturing industry. The manifesto pledged nationalisation of the Bank of England, the fuel and power industries, inland transport, and iron and steel. And with a majority of more than 150, the party could not be denied.

One by one the key industries of the postwar economy tumbled into the public sector, where they were subject to elaborate planning controls. For the most part the takeovers were highly popular none more so than the nationalisation of the coalmines. Pit owners still employed a million men, many of them in dire and dangerous conditions. The new national coal board was seen as much as a humanitarian institution as an economic one.

Other nationalisation operations were regarded more cynically. No sooner had British Railways taken over the old regional semi-private networks than jokes began to circulate about unreliable, crowded trains, crumbling stations and that old standby of British comedy, the buffet sandwich.

After the initial euphoria of nationalisation, it wasn't long before doubts began to emerge. The state industries were smothered by bureaucracy and the demands of Labour's economic gurus, both amateur and professional. Their bolder ideas were often subsumed in the delicate balance between principle and pragmatism.

It became clear that the lumbering machinery of economic planning could not deliver what the voters had demanded and Labour had promised: full employment, secure jobs with fair wages, an end to wartime rationing and - above all perhaps - decent homes for all.

It has sometimes been argued that the Attlee government's main disadvantage was that Britain had been on the winning side in the war. British cities and industries had been bashed around by German air raids, but had not suffered the wholesale destruction which allowed the renascent German economy to start from a clean sheet. More importantly, British economic class structures - and bitter enmities - survived the war unscathed, in contrast to those countries which had been traumatised by invasion and occupation (none more so than Germany) into rethinking their economic cultures.

But there were other obstacles in the path of Labour's would-be revolutionaries. The country, to put it brutally, was broke. It had poured its wealth into the war effort and in 1945 was groaning under a mountain of debt. It had pawned many of its most valuable assets, including a huge slice of overseas investments, to service that debt.

And even when the war was finally over, the victorious, impoverished British maintained vast numbers of men and resources tied up in an empire on which the sun was about to set. In Europe, Britain paid for a huge army of occupation in Germany. The dawn of the nuclear age, and British pride, demanded handsome investment in the new terrible weapons which would keep us allegedly a first class power. The disarmament, which some in the Labour party craved, proved illusory as - in Churchill's words again - an iron curtain descended across Europe, and the cold war began.

Speaking of cold, even the weather seemed at times to conspire against Labour. The winter of 1946-47 was one of the most severe ever recorded, causing widespread misery and disruption. One of the few truly cheering aspects of life was the imminent arrival of the Beveridge reforms.

The welfare state

The Attlee government is rightly seen as one of the great reformist administrations of the 20th century. It is a pleasant irony that the impetus for the more durable reforms came from outside the party.

The 1944 Education Act, which had introduced the concept of selection at 11 and compulsory free secondary education for all, was based on the work of a Tory, Richard Austin 'Rab' Butler, who went on to conquer all but the tallest peak of British politics.

The introduction of the welfare state rested very largely on the work of two Liberal economists: John Maynard Keynes, who argued the virtues of full employment and state stimulation of the economy, and William Beveridge.

Beveridge's ideas were culled from every nook and cranny of Whitehall. His formidable task was to put together a coherent plan for postwar social reconstruction. What he came up with extended hugely the framework of national insurance first put in place before the first world war by David Lloyd George. Every British citizen would be covered, regardless of income or lack of it. Those who lacked jobs and homes would be helped. Those who were sick, would be cured.

The birth of the National Health Service in July 1948 remains Labour's greatest monument. It was achieved only after two years of bitter resistance by the medical establishment, with consultants threatening strike action and the British Medical Association pouring out gloomy warnings about bureaucracy and expense.

Alas, those warnings proved to have more than a grain of truth, and the government was forced to retreat from its first grand vision of free, comprehensive health care for all. In the beginning, everything was provided: hospital accommodation, GP cover, medicine, dental care, and even spectacles. But with Britain showing few signs of economic take off, the budgetary burden was enormous. In 1951, chancellor of the exchequer Hugh Gaitskell was obliged to reintroduce charges for NHS false teeth and glasses. Aneurin Bevan, Harold Wilson and junior minister John Freeman stormed out of government, and Attlee's goose was cooked.

Foreign policy

Attlee's government took office in a world changing at bewildering speed. The war had forged new alliances, the greatest and most nebulous of all the United Nations. The USA and the USSR were undisputed superpowers Britain and France deluded themselves that they were too.

In the far east, the embers of nationalism had been stirred into flame by the brutal advance and subsequent stubborn retreat of Japan. Britain's ignominious surrender of Singapore in 1941 had sent a clear signal to Asia that the daysof European imperialism were numbered.

With hindsight it was a blessing for Britain, as well as for its vast numbers of subjects around the world, that Winston Churchill lost the 1945 election. The old warrior was, at heart, a Victorian romantic, hopelessly in thrall to the so called romance of empire. His antipathy to India's independence struggle, in particular, was well established.

Attlee, on the other hand, recognised that the British Raj was doomed. He had been to Haileybury College, after all, and had paid an official visit to India in 1929. Even if the prime minister had harboured any illusions about Britain's duty to its 300m Indian subjects, he was constantly reminded by Washington that the US would not tolerate the continuance of empire. Wisely, he bowed to the inevitable, and prepared for withdrawal.

But even as it bade farewell, Britain was to visit two disasters on the subcontinent. One was Attlee's appointment of Lord Mountbatten as the last Viceroy. Conceited, impatient, and breathtakingly arrogant, he took to the grandeur and the raw power of the job with unholy relish.

Mountbatten decided that independence would come on August 1947, on the second anniversary of the day he had accepted the surrender of the Japanese in south-east Asia. Nothing was to stand in the way of this vainglory - not even the unresolved issue of Muslim demands for a separate state, and the gathering storm clouds of communal violence.

In a few summer weeks, colonial servants scribbled lines across the map of the mighty subcontinent, carving East and West Pakistan out of Mother India, and sparking a bloodbath so frightful that no one to this day knows exactly how many millions died. The holocaust even consumed Mahatma Gandhi, the father of free India and of freedom movements everywhere, who was assassinated months after independence. Thus ended 300 years of history, and 90 years of Raj. King George VI would be the last British monarch to style himself emperor of India.

There was another colonial retreat, in a way just as disgraceful, on the extreme west of Asia. For just over a quarter of a century British administrators had tried, and on the whole failed, to make sense of their League of Nations (later United Nations) mandate to rule Palestine. They tried partition, appeasement, manipulation and bald coercion. Nothing helped assuage the bloody friction between the rising tide of Jewish immigrants and the native Palestinians.

The end of the second world war brought new waves of refugees from Nazi tyranny to the shores of the holy land, and the conflict became more unholy than ever. Washington was adamant that nothing should stand in the way of the establishment of Israel and when the mandate finally dribbled into the sands of history in May 1948, the new state was born, fighting for its life.

Elsewhere, of course, Britain's imperial might remained intact. The Union flag still flew over huge tracts of Africa, whole archipelagos in the Caribbean and Pacific, jewels of Asia like Singapore and Hong Kong. But there was another much greater reality: British adherence to, and even dependence on, the patronage of the United States. We tagged along with Washington in the occupation of Germany and the establishment of Nato we acquiesced in the new division of Europe between east and west we willingly did our bit in the great airlift which saved west Berlin from the Soviet blockade of the late 1940s, and we sent our troops to South Korea to fight for the United Nations - under US direction - against China and the North.

At the insistence of Attlee and the Labour right, we developed our very own nuclear weapons and insisted that they kept us independent. In reality, the north Atlantic connection was the only one which ultimately mattered.

It is tempting to think of the Attlee years as an anti-climax. After the clamour of victory, the peace was a drab disappointment. And after all the fervent promises of a new dawn, British life remained to a large extent grey and grim. At times, food restrictions were even tighter than during the war - bread was rationed for the first time. Class enmities flourished social and economic inequalities remained palpable. Here and there were little pockets of a new prosperity: television broadcasts were resumed, the first Morris Minors appeared, and British designers were working on the world's first commercial jet, the De Havilland Comet. But of that great universal prosperity which seemed to glow from the 1945 manifestos, there was little sign.

And yet, and yet. Britain in the Attlee years changed more than under any other government, before or since. The welfare reforms, and to a lesser extent the great experiment of state control of industry, had a profound effect on the way the people saw themselves and their country. And what they saw, on the whole, was pleasing.

In 1950, after five exhausting years, it was inevitable that the great electoral tide of 1945 would be turned. But in the general election of that year the Labour vote dipped less than 2%, and it was only the vagaries of the first past the post system that saw the Tories gain 88 seats.

Still, Attlee remained in power, at the head of an increasingly fractious government rent by ideological divisions, and fatally wounded by the illness and withdrawal from public life of men like Cripps and Bevin. When the NHS prescription charge issue finally ripped the party apart, the prime minister was obliged to go to the country again in 1951.

Even then, Labour retained the faith of the people, gaining its highest ever share of the vote: 48.8%. Indeed, it was the closest any party came in the 20th century to achieving a popular majority mandate, but it was still not enough. The key turned out to be the Liberal vote, which suddenly evaporated, leaving the party with just 2.5% support and six MPs. The Conservatives ended up with fewer votes than Labour, but 26 more MPs. Winston Churchill was back in Downing Street.


Aftermath

J. Robert Oppenheimer cables General Leslie Groves with the following shipping schedule for more atomic bombs: 11 Aug. first quality HE unit 12 Aug. next plutonium core 14 Aug. another first quality HE unit.

The Imperial Army investigation team reports on the bombing of Hiroshima. Japanese civilian and military leaders are still unable to agree on accepting the Potsdam Declaration's surrender terms. Hirohito instead breaks the tradition of imperial non-intervention in government and makes his “sacred decision” to accept the Potsdam Declaration, but under the condition that the Emperor remain sovereign. The cabinet remains divided.

Defying the wishes of military officials, the Domei News Agency sends a message to the Allies using Morse code: “Japan Accepts Potsdam Proclamation.” The United States begins broadcasting information that Japan had surrendered.

U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes rejects Japan’s conditional surrender. His message states, “From the moment of surrender the authority of the emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers” while “the ultimate form of government of Japan shall be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.” Hirohito’s postwar position is left ambiguous.

General Groves decides to delay shipping the second plutonium core and contacts Robert Bacher just after he had signed receipt for shipping the core to Tinian Island. The core is retrieved from the car before it leaves Los Alamos, NM.

General Carl Spaatz orders a halt of area firebombing, but other attacks continue.

Hirohito decides to accept the Byrnes Note and unconditional surrender. He informs the Imperial family of his decision.

The Supreme War Council meets to discuss a response to the Byrnes Note.

Hirohito orders the suspension of all military activity.

A small group of Japanese military officials plot a coup against Hirohito.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson recommends shipping the second plutonium core to Tinian Island, but no decision is made.

President Truman orders area firebombing resumed. Gen. Henry Arnold, US Army Air Force, launches a raid with over 1000 B-29s and other aircraft, carrying 6000 tons of bombs. Thousands of Japanese are killed by August 14.

With rumors of a coup and his generals still divided, Hirohito calls together the Supreme War Council and his cabinet to announce his decision of unconditional surrender.

Major Kenji Hatanaka and Lieutenant Colonel Jiro Shiizaki lead a group of junior officers who try to seize the Imperial Palace and impose martial law, but they fail to gain the support of senior officials.

The coup fails. Hatanaka, Shiizaki, and others commit ritual suicide on the grounds of the Imperial Palace.

Hirohito announces the decision to surrender over the radio. For many Japanese, it is their first time hearing the Emperor's voice.

September 2:

Japanese officials sign the formal Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri.


Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945

In the German city of Potsdam, the leaders of the Allied powers President Truman, Prime Minister Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, met to decide the fate of the post-war world. This declaration (including China, but not the Soviet Union), was issued to call on Japan, the lone remaining Axis power, to surrender. At this point, the Soviet Union was not at war with Japan, but had pledged to enter the Japanese War three months after the fall of Germany (in other words, by early August, 1945). At the time of the Potsdam Declaration, Truman and Churchill knew that the atomic bomb project (the Manhattan Project), had produced working atomic bombs. Japan did not have this knowledge.

Below is the text of the Potsdam Declaration. Note that the last line promises that, if Japan does not surrender, then "The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." This is a clear allusion to the use the atomic bombs.

1. We-the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

2. The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

3. The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.

4. The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.

5. Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.

6. There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

7. Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan's war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.

8. The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.

9. The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

10. We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.

11. Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.

12. The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.

13. We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.


1. World War II (1939-1945)

Also known as the Second World War, fought between the vast majority of the world’s nations – including all the great powers – eventually forming two opposing military alliances like the First World War the Allies and the Axis. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare up to present, the war resulted in over 70 million fatalities and is believed to be the deadliest, bloodiest war ever in history which shook forever the foundations of our own existence.

Final Conclusion: Although these wars were fought on different territories by various groups and countries on different time periods in history the ones who always suffered and lost were the same innocent civilians. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few, like in these pointless wars for blinding power. Albert Einstein was once asked by a reporter after the World War II had ended, ‘’Sir what type of machinery and weapons do you think will be used in the World War III?’’ He answered with a smile, ‘’I don’t know about the World War III but if there is a World War IV, then it will surely be fought with sticks and stones.’’


Watch the video: Berlin in July 1945 HD 1080p color footage (January 2022).