Catalog Archive
Auction 192, Lot 739

Scarce Document of Japan's Surrender Thus Ending World War II

"[World War II - Japanese Surrender] Japanese Instrument of Surrender - September 2, 1945",

Subject: Document - Japanese Surrender, World War II

Period: 1945 (published)


Color: Black & White

13.9 x 19.9 inches
35.3 x 50.5 cm
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This is a scarce period copy of one of the most famous documents in U.S. military history. The Instrument of Surrender served as the official written agreement that formalized Japan’s surrender during World War II. The document is dated September 2nd, though Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender on August 15th. While Japan declared their intention to fight to the bitter end, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima (August 6th) and Nagasaki (August 9th) compelled Hirohito to yield.

The document consists of eight leaves, printed on one side only with both English and Japanese text. The first page in English spells out Japan’s surrender: “We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated.” The second sheet displays the signatures of the various stakeholders including: Japanese General Yoshijiro Umezu, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (both in Japanese), Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur and U.S. representative Admiral Chester Nimitz, and eight other signatures including representatives from China, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. The third sheet is a proclamation from Emperor Hirohito (translated into English) ordering his government to agree to the terms of the Potsdam Agreement and sign the Instrument of Surrender. The fourth sheet is the same proclamation in Japanese, while the remaining 4 sheets comprise various authorizations from Hirohito that enabled Shigemitsu and Umezu to sign the surrender.

There are two originals of this document printed on parchment – one is housed at the U.S. National Archives in Washington DC, and the other is at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. According to Heritage Auctions, in addition to the originals, there were approximately 60 copies printed for high-level officials and dignitaries attending the ceremony. Eleven of these were bound in red presentation leather, while the remaining 50 or so examples were left unbound. Each sheet features the watermark of an Army Eagle with two stars. Given the limited printing quantities, very few examples have made it to auction.

This example was presented to Mose Duberstein, President of Duberstein Iron & Metal Company of Dayton, Ohio by Brigadier General Harold A. Barnes. Duberstein’s company provided materials for the War Department during the war. The piece has been held by the Duberstein’s family prior to auction.

Each document sheet originally measured 15 x 22" and was trimmed down to approximately 13.9 x 19.9" in order to fit into a leather portfolio. The documents have since been professionally conserved, encased in Mylar, and housed in an attractive modern cloth portfolio. A complete restoration report is available upon request.


Condition: B+

The documents have been professionally cleaned, flattened and deacidified. A number of small cracks, edge tears, and a few small holes mostly confined to blank areas of the sheets have been expertly repaired. A few of the repaired tears extend into the text/illustrations including a 4.5" tear on sheet 3, a 5" tear on sheet 6, and a 2.5" tear on sheet 8 (see images). All sheets have been encapsulated in Mylar. Modern portfolio is fine. A complete restoration report is available upon request.

Estimate: $7,000 - $9,000


Closed on 4/26/2023