In 1800, Korea was a tributary state of Ching China but a self-governing independent kingdom in all practical respects. Its tributary status enabled it to avoid contact with Western powers and to maintain a form of national seclusion similar to Japan’s. Nevertheless, whereas Japan’s enforced opening in the mid-19th century unleashed social forces that led to … (click below to continue reading Cribb and Li’s Prelude)
11 August. An amphibious force of naval infantry storms ashore at Yuki (Korean: Unggi) near the Soviet–Korean border. The port falls on the next day after Soviet land forces arrive. Two days later, an amphibious assault on the major port of Seisin (Ch’ŏngjin) meets fierce Japanese resistance. The eventual fall of Seisin on the 16th totally disrupts Japanese sea and ground communications with the Kwantung army in Manchuria.
15 August. Japanese authorities, concerned to safeguard Japanese lives and property until Allied forces arrive, seek to form an interim administration in Korea controlled by Koreans. There are few suitable candidates. Concerned to safeguard the position of the exiled Korean Provisional Government in Chungking, the approach is rejected by the rightist, Song Chinu. However, their proposal is hesitantly accepted by the prominent nationalist and moderate leftist, Yŏ Unhyŏng, on the condition that political prisoners are released and there is no further Japanese interference in Korean affairs.
12 August. While drafting General Order No. 1, U.S. officials propose the 38th Parallel as the line to divide future U.S. and Soviet occupation zones in Korea. The Soviets agree. Their attempt to obtain a corresponding northern occupation zone for Japan on the island of Hokkaido is rejected by Washington.
15 August. Just four hours after Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast ending the war, Japanese Ambassador Yamamoto Kuma’ichi explains and reassures Thai Prime Minister Khuang Aphaiwong about the surrender. He also raises no objections to news that Thailand’s Regent is planning to renounce the Thai–Japanese alliance.
16 August. Immediately following Yŏ Unhyŏng’s agreement with the Japanese, a Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CPKI) is established under his leadership. With CPKI encouragement, local people’s committees are formed that gradually replace the old Japanese administration and, together with associated volunteer police forces, maintain law and order throughout the country.
17 August. General Order No. 1, prescribing when, where and to whom Japanese forces may surrender, is approved by President Truman after having been hastily negotiated between the Allies. The formal surrender of Japan to the Americans takes priority, even though elsewhere this will leave a power vacuum until local surrenders can be accepted.
17 August. In a disturbing reminder of events leading up to the mass famine earlier in the year, flood waters breach dikes on the Red River upstream from Hanoi. Within days, 150 breaches are reported around the delta, about one third of Tonkin’s summer rice crop being inundated as a result. Its inability to deal with the situation dispels any remaining credibility that the royal government may have had. The floods also inhibit vehicle movement by both Japanese and Chinese troops, offering a temporary benefit to local insurgents.
10 August. Uncertainty about who will do what, and when, characterizes the entire region in mid-August. While the Philippines, for example, is beginning to rebuild after years of war and Japanese occupation, the country seethes with preparations for the invasion of Japan. U.S. military supplies pour in. Hospitals and other facilities are established in anticipation of the invasion efforts. Elements of the Philippine Army are also involved. Early but unconfirmed news of Japan’s surrender on the 10th results in premature celebrations in Manila, including the firing of weapons. Similar early celebrations erupt four days later when the U.S. Office of War Information newspaper Free Philippines prematurely announces the end of the war.
15 August. Long before Shanghai is liberated, thousands of British, Dutch and American internees are freed in the city. Next day, an OSS operation begins to liberate Allied POWs in northern China. This succeeds within a few days but a similar operation in Korea ends in failure.
16 August. Upon hearing of the Japanese surrender, forced labourers in North Borneo begin slowly working their way back home to Java. Elsewhere across the vast extent of Japanese-occupied Asia, tens of thousands of people drafted into supporting Japan’s war effort take their futures into their own hands and slip away from their masters. Many more must await repatriation after Allied troops arrive; they are stranded too far away from home. The fate of the many ‘comfort women’ forced into military brothels is also uncertain.