'The bearer has ceased resistance...'

Message in English on a propaganda leaflet from Allied forces to Japanese forces, 1945
Message in English – propaganda leaflet, 1945 (NAA: A471, 71862)

The World War II instrument of surrender of Japan to the Allies in New Guinea was signed at Rabaul on 6 September 1945 – four days after the official end of the war.

The Allied forces in New Guinea and Bougainville had used all available means to try to persuade Japanese troops to surrender in the months prior to September.

This 1945 World War II surrender leaflet is one of many that were loaded into 25-pounder shells and fired by the Allies towards Japanese positions to persuade them that is was safe for the soldiers to give themselves up.

On one side, the message in English reads:

The bearer has ceased resistance. Treat him well in accordance with international law. Take him to the nearest commanding officer. C-in-C Allied Forces.

Message in Japanese on a propaganda leaflet from Allied forces to Japanese forces, 1945
Message in Japanese – propaganda leaflet, 1945 (NAA: A471, 71862)

On the other side of the leaflet is a message in Japanese, aimed at reassuring soldiers that they would be treated with respect and would receive medical treatment under the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

This leaflet survived due to the actions of an Australian soldier who collected souvenirs of the war in New Guinea. Unwittingly, he broke wartime censorship laws by posting them home, wrapped up in brown paper, to his fiancée’s address in Victoria. His intention had been to lighten his load before going on leave.

At his court martial in August 1945, he was described by his defence lawyer as a 'bowerbird' type of soldier who liked to collect mementos.

The soldier was fined five pounds after his original sentence – detention and a larger fine – was commuted.

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Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017