On the 14th August 1945, as Emperor Hirohito recorded a message of surrender for the Japanese people, rebel troops commanded by high-ranking officers from War Minister Anami's staff burst into the Imperial palace. Their intention was to stage a coup, destroy the recording and issue forged orders for Japan to continue the war. Had they succeeded, there would have been massive kamikaze attacks on allied forces, causing carnage and possibly provoking America to drop a third atomic bomb on an already devastated Japan. But on that fateful night a stream of B-29B "Superfortress" bombers were heading towards Tokyo and Japan's last functioning oil refinery. Fearing that the approaching planes could be carrying another atom bomb, Japanese air defences ordered a total black out of the city and the Imperial palace and in so doing completely disrupted the rebels' plans, enabling soldiers loyal to the Emperor to seize back control. At midday on 15 August 1945, the Imperial message of surrender was broadcast throughout Japan. World War II was finally over.
Jim Smith served with the 315th Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force, during the Second World War, when he was a radio operator of a B-29B bomber named The Boomerang. He has researched The Last Mission for more than twenty years. Malcolm McConnell is the author or co-author of twenty-three books, many of them on military subjects. He most recently co-wrote Born to Fly with navy pilot Shane Osborn. He lives near Washington D.C.