Surrender of Japan
- 1 Unconditional surrender
- 2 Invasion and alternatives
- 3 Chronology
- 3.1 January 1944
- 3.2 February 1944
- 3.3 July 1944
- 3.4 August 1944
- 3.5 September 1944
- 3.6 February 1945
- 3.7 March 1945
- 3.8 April 1945
- 3.9 May 1945
- 3.10 June 1945
- 3.11 July 1945
- 3.12 August 1945
- 4 Primary surrender
- 5 Additional surrenders
- 6 Occupation of Japan
- 7 References
The surrender of Japan ended World War Two in the Pacific, but getting to that endpoint was no simple process. There were Japanese factions quite prepared to fight to national death, until the unprecedented direct intervention of Emperor Hirohito in the decision process.
This article does not purport to determine if President Harry S. Truman made the best decision, with the information available at the time, to use nuclear weapons. It also does not make value judgments on broader political considerations, both U.S. domestic and in dealing with the Soviet Union.
An utterly critical point, although for different reasons to the different sides, was the demand for "unconditional surrender". Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested he had used it informally, but it had been discussed before it became public, if not fully staffed. Roosevelt may well not have considered the military implications of the phrase to the Japanese, and to a lesser extent, the Germans. 
The potential of the unconditional surrender demand would delay ending the war had begun to be addressed, below the Presidential level, in 1944. Three groups were independently looking at the issue:
- A State Department group, led by Joseph Grew, now Under Secretary of State; assisted by Eugene Dooman, and Japan specialists Joseph Ballantine, George Blakeslee and Hugh Borton
- Ellis Zacharias and associates in the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Office of War Information
- The Joint Intelligence Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The three Japanese specialists maintained that the Emperor system went back to antiquity in Japanese culture, and had little to do with the much more recent militarist model of kokutai. President Roosevelt, however, wanted a punitive peace, and a soft peace went against American public opinion. They argued for a "soft peace", analogous to the "soft" martial arts such as judo and aikido, moving with the opponent's strength rather than trying to overpower it.
Nevertheless, they produced a policy document, "CAC 93, the Emperor System", which presented three alternatives:
- "Total suspension", with the Emperor and Imperial house still maintaining their identity, but in protective custody. This, they felt, would make the occupation extremely difficult.
- "Total continuation", where the Emperor would maintain his powers but the government would be dismissed. They considered this unacceptable to the American public.
- "Partial continuation", with a limited number of functions given the Throne. He would lose control of the military and the authority to veto legislation.
It has been a continuing American doctrine that democracy is the ultimate political good, and, if necessary, is to be imposed, a cornerstone of current neoconservatism. It has been argued, however, that democracy did not easily translate into the culture. In the context of postmodernist theory, one author considers that the existence of the emperor represented a non-Western discourse. Within U.S. politics of the time, the solution had to respect the concept of democratizing Japan.
Invasion and alternatives
Had Japan not surrendered, the U.S. was preparing the Operation DOWNFALL invasions, the Japanese response to which were in the Operation KETSU-GO plans. It remains controversial if Hirohito would have intervened without the surprises of the nuclear attacks against Japan or the Soviet attack on Japan, or both. Alternatively, others believe Japan would have surrendered had strategic bombing and naval blockade had continued.
It was the opinion of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey that "certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. " This is a reflective analysis, however, that uses Japanese materials not available to the Truman Administration, and which was done after some significant linguistic problems in diplomatic communications were resolved. The Survey's findings are by no means universally accepted by Western analysts.
As an attempt to reduce the need for troops in China, a new policy was announced on 9 January, in which Japan relinquished extraterritoriality, and agreed to treat the Wang Jingwei government in Nanking as an equal. Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong remained enemies of Japan.
Hajime Sugiyama was forced to resign by Emperor Hirohito as Chief of Staff (Imperial Japanese Army), so Hideki Tojo could have the triple authority of Prime Minister, Army Minister, and Army Chief of Staff. 
The Battle of Saipan ended on 7 July, bringing the Home Islands into B-29, Hirohito first told the military to recapture it, having said to the Prime Minister of Japan, Hideki Tojo on June 17, "If we ever lose Saipan, repeated air attacks on Tokyo will follow. No matter what it takes, we have to hold there.
The Koiso government, on 5 August, formed the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, also known as the "Big Six" or Inner Cabinet. Its "announced purpose of the Council was "to formulate a fundamental policy for directing the war and to adjust the harmonization of the combined strategy for politics and war". It comprised six regular members--the Premier, Foreign Minister, Army Minister, Navy Minister, Army Chief of Staff, and Navy Chief of Staff--who could, however, bring in any other Cabinet minister as a regular member when necessary. In addition, the two deputy chiefs of staff attended meetings but did not vote, and the Council had a secretariat."
February 1945Konoe, while the Yalta Conference was underway, sent a memorandum to the Emperor, which reinforced the fear of Communism among some of the leadership.
I regret to say Japan's defeat is inevitable. Defeat will damage the kokutai, but public opinion in American and England has not gone far enough to destroy the kokutai...Therefore, we should not be afraid of defeat itself What we must worry about is a Communist revolution that might accompany defeat.
The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey said that the Emperor had a series of interviews with the senior statesmen whose consensus was that Japan faced certain defeat and should seek peace at once. Forrest Morgan wrote that he could find no historian that confirmed this and it did not match the Chamberlain's notes. This conflicts with Hasegawa's observation above.
Just before the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima and six weeks before the Battle of Okinawa, Hirohito met with former Lord Privy Seal Nobuaki Makino, and six former prime ministers — Kiichi Hiranuma, Koki Hirota, Reijiro Wakatsuki, Keisuke Okada and Fumimaro Konoe. They recommended continuing the war; Hiranuma and Hirota specifically mentioned fighting to the end while others suggesting finding an opportune moment. 
On February 14, Konoe urged the Emperor to sue for peace quickly, before what he regarded as the greatest threat, the Soviet Union and Communism. He saw that the Emperor and Kid were indirectly encouraging the communization of Japan, by supporting the generals of the Control Faction.
At the Yalta Conference, Joseph Stalin presented his demands, accepted by Franklin D. Roosevelt on 8 February, for committing troops to the war with Japan, sovereignty over the Kurile Islands and southern Sakhalin. Roosevelt also agreed, without consulting China, to China leasing Port Arthur to the Soviet Union, granting access to Dalian, control of the Southern Manchurian Railway, and recognition of de facto Soviet sovereignty over Outer Mongolia.
Rear Admiral Sokichi Takagi would warn, just before the fall of Iwo Jima in March 1945, that Tokyo would become "a battleground in a month." Indeed, the first major night incendiary raid hit Tokyo on the 9th and 10th, destroying approximately 40 percent of the city and killing 80 to 100,000 people.
Hirohito stopped supporting Koiso, blaming him for military defeats, and called for Suzuki to lead a new government. One of the Emperor's concerns with Koiso is that he had been trying to negotiate peace in China through an intermediary not in the government. 
The Imperial Japanese Navy made its final surface sortie on April 7, sending a surface action group centered on IJN Yamato. The ships were sunk long before they reached Okinawa, which they were, in theory, to support. The one-way force actually had no chance of affecting the battle, and, at best, was a last honor gesture by the IJN.Entitled "Defeat of Japan by Blockade and Bombardment", a paper from the Joint Intelligence Staff (JIS) would render the Imperial Japanese Navy "impotent", "virtually neutralize" Japanese air forces, reduce Imperial Japanese Army combat endurance to "only a few months", but, even though
Probably all will agree that such operations if kept up long enough will inevitably produce, at some future data, unconditional surrender of whatever might remain of Japan's economy and the Japanese people, but estimates with respect to the time element vary from a few months to a great many years.
The JIS reemphasized that an essential to Japanese capitulation before the end of 1945 required clarification of the doctrine of unconditional surrender.
Informing Ambassador Sato on the 13th, the Soviet Union denounced the nonaggression pact as of April 29, but did not declare war.  The pact specified that it would be in force for a year after renunciation, but Time Magazine reported that Foreign Minister Molotov's tone was that point was a technicality. 
War Minister Korechika Anami had suggested exchanging some Japanese cruisers for Soviet oil and aircraft, and encouraging the Soviets to maintain neutrality. It is unclear which cruisers, in reasonable conditions, he had in mind.
Stalin told Harry Hopkins, in Moscow on the 29th, that the Soviets would be ready to invade Manchuria on or about 8 August, depending on weather conditions.
Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov received Ambassador Sato on 29 May, and told him that nothing had happened at Yalta that should alarm Japan, and said that the Soviet abrogation of the 1941 nonaggression pact was a formality. Sato appeared to believe him, although the U.S. MAGIC commentary on Sato's report to Tokyo was "[T]he meeting leaves a mental picture of a mastiff who also knows where the bone is buried."
Damage to Imperial buildings
Previously, the U.S. had avoided bombing the palace, seeing the added hostility not worth the gains. Nevertheless, a number of Palace areas were hit on the 29th; it is not clear if they were targeted or burned after flaming debris reached them. Hirohito described the loss of the Outer Palace, and the villas of Crown Prince Akihito, the Dowager Empress, and those of Princes Chichibu, [Prince Mikasa|Mikasa]] and Kanin as improving national solidarity. 
On May 8, shortly after President Harry Truman's announcement of the end of the war in Europe, Zacharias, identifying himself as the "official spokesman of the U.S. Government," delivered the first in a series of 18 radio broadcasts to the Japanese leadership explaining the concept of unconditional surrender. Zacharias emphasized that unconditional surrender was a military term signifying "the cessation of resistance and the yielding of arms."
Office of War Information personnel observed that "these messages produced much positive reaction in the general population of Japan and in several instances exhortations warning the Japanese people against the broadcasts have been intercepted by the Federal Communications Commission." A later report stated that Prince Takamatsu, brother of the emperor, and other top Japanese officials believed that the broadcasts "provided the ammunition needed by the peace party to win out against those who wanted to continue the war to the bitter end."
Hirohito held a June 22 meeting with Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki, War Minister Korechika Anami, the Foreign Minister, Navy Minister, and Chiefs of Staff of the Army and the Navy. He asked "Isn't it time for you to consider ways to bring this war to an end?" Prince Konoye, as a result, was sent as an emissary to Joseph Stalin, who, without telling the Japanese, sent the message to the Potsdam Conference, then in session.
The Potsdam Declaration of 26 July stated the Allied terms for Japanese surrender,  but the document was unclear on what would be the single most important issue to the Japanese: preservation of the Throne as the symbol of kokutai, the national identity.
First response to Potsdam Declaration
Linguistic ambiguity drastically confused the situation. In December 1941, the Japanese government misunderstood a memorandum from U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull to be requiring Japanese withdrawal from China and Manchuria, when China alone was meant, and the war was a result. In this case, the Japanese used the word mokusatsu in their broadcast response to the Declaration. This word means "to kill with silence", but an alternate translation is to give deep study to the matter. Tokyo radio used the word, saying the government would mokusatsu the declaration and fight on. According to an authorized biography of Harry S. Truman, "The English translation became "reject," and the president took it as a rebuff. Years later he remembered, 'When we asked them to surrender at Potsdam, they gave us a very snotty answer. That is what I got. . . . They told me to go to hell, words to that effect.'"
Zacharias wrote that his 21 July broadcast had used the words, "Shokun ga go-zonji no tori, Taiseiyo Seiyaku oyobi Cairo Fukoku wa Bei seisaku no kongen to natte orimas.", or, in the official translation, "As you know, the Atlantic Charter and the Cairo Declaration are the sources of American policy." In the article, he said that these eighteen words "now conceded by the Nipponese to have had a vital perhaps decisive role in ending the war." He explained that he had been influencing a peace faction of "Admiral Suzuki, a confidant of the Emperor; Navy Minister Yonai, representing the whole Navy clique; General Umezu, chief of the Imperial General Staff and leader of the dissidents within the Army; Shigenori Togo, Japan's Foreign Minister at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack; Baron Kiichi Hiranuma, president of the Privy Council, and General Shigeru Hasunuma, chief aide-de-camp to the Emperor. The composition of this group was significant. These men had the support of the throne and also certain foreign contacts which enabled them to put out a series of peace feelers in Bern, Switzerland, and in Rome, Italy." His claims, in hindsight, were somewhat suspect. Umezu was not part of the peace faction, only agreeing to it after the Emperor's intervention.
"By suggesting that the Japanese could obtain surrender terms according to the Atlantic Charter, he had ignored the President's order not to state that the emperor would be retained....Almost immediately, the Navy forbade Zacharias from making any further broadcasts to Japan unless he was detailed to the Office of War Information (OWI), which was done", on the grounds that his mission had become diplomatic rather than military. By July 26, he had been stripped of his "official spokesman" status and reassigned to OWI.
Preparations for nuclear attackNuclear weapons were ready on Tinian by mid-July. The decision on where and when to use the weapons had been delegated to the field commander. Given the need for the military to prepare the operation, the effective order was issued by President Truman on 25 July, before the Potsdam Declaration.
In orders issued on 25 July and approved by Stimson and Marshall, Spaatz was ordered to drop the "first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki." He was instructed also to deliver a copy of this order personally to MacArthur and Nimitz. Weather was the critical factor because the bomb had to be dropped by visual means, and Spaatz delegated to his chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, the job of deciding when the weather was right for this most important mission. 
While Truman wrote he ordered the attack in August, the process was well underway beforehand. Hastings suggests that only a complete Japanese surrender in June could have stopped the process, and that would have taken strong action by Truman. He observes that Truman operated by approving concepts and letting the military execute them, , a very different process than today's rigorous civilian control by the National Command Authority. It was not until late in the Eisenhower Administration, in the process leading to the first Single Integrated Operational Plan issued in 1962, before the U.S. Air Force, specifically the Strategic Air Command of LeMay and his successors, would make the de facto decision to use nuclear weapons.
During this period, the nuclear attacks should not be taken in isolation. Bombing by carrier and long-range aircraft continued. Naval warfare continued to destroy shipping among the home islands.
Bombing of Hiroshima
The Potsdam Declaration had included a warning that must surrender unconditionally or face "prompt and utter destruction." No other more specific warning was given of the nuclear attacks. Hiroshima was bombed on 6 August, and Truman's announcement.
A discussion between Navy Minister Mitsumasu Yonai and Deputy Chief of Staff Sokichi Takagi, two days after Hiroshima, indicates that Yonai, a member of the inner cabinet and peace faction, was more concerned with the threat of a domestic uprising than the impact of the nuclear attack. Yonai mentioned Hiroshima in the context of aggravating the domestic situation, not as a primary event. 
8 May 1945, a very bad day for Japan
On the 8th, the Soviets began ground and air attacks on Manchuria and other Japanese areas of strength, on the same day that Nagasaki suffered a nuclear attack. Many historians argue that the Soviet invasion was as or more of a psychological shock than the bombings, or that the combination was more significant than either action.
Russia had attacked after it repudiated the extant nonaggression pact, the language of which called for it to be in effect for a year after a party denounced it. A few Japanese diplomats hoped this would be the case, but few really expected it to restrain the Soviet Union.
Since the agreement for the Soviets to enter combat had been made at Yalta, before it was positively known that U.S. nuclear weapons would work, numerous U.S. officials saw a serious concern that a last minute Soviet attack could greatly increase Soviet claims to Japanese resources, yet be of no advantage to the United States and of limited impact in bringing surrender. The Soviet attack, late on the 8th and early on the 9th, struck with 1.5 million troops over a front of 2,730 miles. 
The nuclear attack order had specified two cities were to be hit, in quick succession for maximum psychological and political impact. Field commanders were delegated the authority to pick the targets from a list of four target areas.
Kokura was actually the primary target for the second attack on the 8th, but weather conditions prevented a bomb delivery there. Nagasaki was the secondary target, and was still largely covered by clouds. The drop was aimed by radar, rather than visual sighting.
The Nagasaki area has more hills than Hiroshima, which channeled the bomb effects. Even though the weapon used was higher in yield (20-22 kilotons) than that used at Hiroshima (12.5 KT), casualties were fewer although the local damage was more intense. Besides the topography, casualties were lower because the bomb was not dropped in the central part of a city, but in a distinctly industrial area. It detonated 1,840 feet above and approximately 500 feet south of the Mitsubishi Steel and Armament Works.
Acceptance of the Potsdam terms
At the conclusive Imperial conference, on the night of 9-10 August, the Supreme War Direction Council still split three-to-three. The Emperor repeated his desire for acceptance of the Potsdam terms, but did not make it an order. He called a conference, on the 12th, of all the Imperial princes, to enlist their support.
A response was sent to the Allies, accepting the Potsdam terms with the caveat that the Throne would be preserved. The Allies sent their acceptance on August 12, signed by the new U.S. Secretary of State, James Byrnes.
Last objections by Army command
Army Minister Anami continued, on August 13, to fight acceptance of the Byrnes note. He continued to insist it would destroy the kokutai at a 9 AM Supreme War Council. Only three of the fifteen attendees supported the position of Foreign Minister Togo that any alteration of the Byrnes communication would continue the war, but Prime Minister Suzuki agreed and said he would tell the emperor his views of and that of the minister. A naval doctor attending Suzuki observed Anami would commit suicide if Japan surrendered, and Suzuki responded "Yes, I know, and I am sorry."
Some senior military officers agreed, and worked, regretfully, to implement the imperial will. Army Deputy Chief of Staff Torashiro Kawabe, however, wrote "Alas, we are defeated. The imperial state we have believed in has been ruined. Kawanabe obtained the signature of many Tokyo-based officers, including Anami, to honor the Imperial decision.
Others, however, argued against it. Gen. Yasuji Okamura, commanding the forces in China, wrote "I am firmly convinced that it is time to exert all our efforts to fight to the end, determined that the whole army shall die an honourable death without being distracted by the enemy's peace offensive. Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi said "Under no circumstances can the Southern Army accept the enemy's reply."
Also on the 13th, 5 million leaflets containing the Potsdam Declaration and the acceptance statement were airdropped over Japanese cities.
A more serious coup attempt, however, was to come from junior officers, principally Maj. Kenji Hatanaka and Lt. Col. Jiro Shiizaki. They, along with other plotters, had gone into Anami's office but been told "those who disobey will do so over my dead body," causing them to break into tears and leave.  Another plotter, Naj. Hidemasa Koga, was the son-in-law of Hideki Tojo.
In a meeting starting approximately 10:30 on the 14th, the Emperor told the council that he found the Allied reply acceptable.
It is my desire that you, my Ministers of State, accede to my wishes and forthwith accept the Allied reply. In order that the people know of my decision, I request that you produce an Imperial Rescript so that I can broadcast to the nation. Finally, I call on each and every one of you to exert yourself to the utmost so we can meet the trying days ahead.
At 16:00 on the 14th, Maj. Hatanaka and Lt. Col. Shiizaki entered the palace ground, and obtained the assent of Col. Toyojiro Haga, commanding the regiment immediately guarding the Emperor, to join the plot assuming the support of the Army -- which Anami and Umezu had refused.
Voice of the Crane
The "voice of the crane" is a traditional and respectful term for the actual words of the Emperor. Hirohito did not make radio broadcasts, so few had heard it. Even when he did, he spoke in a Court dialect intelligible to few. Hirohito recorded the Rescript at 23:00.
As he did so, Hatanaka and Shiizaki went to the headquarters of the Imperial Guard Division, near the palace, and tried to convince Lieutenant General Mori to join them. When he refused, Hatanaka killed him and forged an order to the Imperial Guard regiments, which initially was accepted. Returning to the palace, they began a search for the recording, before it could be broadcast.
At 01:30 on the 15th, another plotter, Anami's brother-in-law Lt. Col. Masahiko Takeshita, visited the War Minister and again tried to get him to join the coup. Anami told him that he intended, in the near future to commit seppuku; he did not want to hear the broadcast. When Takeshita offered to follow him in death, Anami demanded he live to build the new Japan.
Anami stabbed himself at 05:30. Hatanaka and Shiizaki shot themselves later in the day.The Crane spoke at 07:21.
After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered Our Government to communicate the to Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
With masterful understatement, Hirohito said the war situation had evolved "not necessarily to Japan's advantage." He spoke of Amerian's use of a "new most cruel bomb." .
Primary surrenderOn the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), selected because President Truman's home was the state of Missouri, the formal surrender documents were signed on 2 September. Douglas MacArthur presided for the Allies and Chester W. Nimitz for the U.S. He opened the proceeding with the words:
The issues, involving divergent ideals and ideologies, have been determined on the battlefields of the world and hence are not for our discussion or debate. Nor it is for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the people of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice or hatred. But rather it is for us, both victors and vanquished, to rise to the higher dignity which alone befits the sacred purposes we are to serve, committing all our people unreservedly to higher compliance.
- For the Emperor, Foreign Minister of Japan Mamoru Shigemitsu
- For Imperial General Headquarters, General Yoshijiro Umezu
The remaining Allied signatories were:
- Republic of China - General Hsu Yung-Chang.
- United Kingdom - Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, GCB, KBE.
- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - Lieutenant General Kuzma Nikolaevish Derevyanko.
- Australia - General Sir Thomas Blamey
- Canada - Colonel Lawrence Moore-Cosgrave.
- Provisional Government of the French Republic - Major General Jacques Leclerc (Count Philippe de Hauteclocque).
- Netherlands - Admiral C. E. L. Helfrich
- New Zealand - Air Vice Marshall L. M. Isitt, RNZAF.
Occupation of Japan
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- Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (2005), Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman and the Surrender of Japan, Harvard University Press, ISBN 9780674022416, pp. 51-54
- Hasegawa, pp. 22-23
- So Mizoguchi (May 2010), "Imaginary Democratization under Turmoil: Embracing the Real Politics and Broadcasting Idealized Democratic Images of the Japanese Emperor, 1945-1947", Master's Thesis, Ohio State University, p. 5
- Chairman's Office (1 July 1946), Japan's Struggle to End the War, United States Strategic Bombing Survey, p. 13
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- Hasegawa, p. 37
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- Skates, p. 54-55
- "Soviet Denunciation of the Pact with Japan", United States Department of State Bulletin XII (305), 29 April 1945
- "THE NATIONS: So Sorry, Mr. Sato", Time, 16 April 1945
- Hastings, p. 453
- Hastings, p. 454
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- Packard, p. 293
- President of the United States, Prime Minister of Great Britain, President of China, Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945
- Robert H. Ferrell, ed., Chapter 7: The Potsdam Declaration, July 26, Truman and the Bomb, a Documentary History, Harry S Truman Library
- Ellis M. Zacharias (17 November 1945), "Eighteen Words That Bagged Japan", The Saturday Evening Post
- U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, p. 8
- Louis Morton (January 1957), Chapter 23: The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, "Center for Military History, U.S. Army", Foreign Affairs, p. 514
- Hastings, pp. 456-457
- Ward Wilson (Spring 2007), "The Winning Weapon? Rethinking Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima", International Security 31 (4): 162–179
- Hastings, p. 482
- Hasegawa, pp. 235-236
- Hastings, p. 508
- Hastings, p. 511
- Bergamini, p. 98
- Butow, pp. 207-208
- Hastings, p. 539