Downfall: Endgame Against Japan

Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries

The final months of the war saw unprecedented destruction, with the ferocious fire-bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities. American planes first dropped leaflets over Japanese towns, warning that they would be bombed unless their leaders surrendered; then came the bombs, bringing utter destruction with a rain of fire. Japan still refused to surrender. Meanwhile US leaders studied actuary tables that forecast thousands more bombs, thousands more planes, and the loss of untold American lives should the fire-bombing campaign continue. Instead, the decision was made to deploy atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, putting an end to the war in two devastating strikes.

This haunting gallery surrounds the visitor with scenes from these ravaged sites, presented on oversize screens and accompanied by a musical soundtrack that is both somber and contemplative—a departure from the realistic environmental sounds of prior galleries, and an invitation to reflect on a moment that has spurred debate ever since, one when Japan at last saw the hopelessness of its cause. Visitors pass through to a final room in the gallery to witness the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri, which marked an end to the war that changed the world.

Additional support provided by In Honor of Lt. William Mosey, Naval Aviator, USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24), and Ashner Family Evergreen Foundation In Honor of John “Slew” McCain Sr., Admiral US Navy John “Jack” McCain Jr., Admiral US Navy.