Japan and the United States have maintained tight-knit relations for the last seven decades, despite having an ugly past less than a century ago. How could these two nations form such a strong alliance after such a horrifying history as adversaries?

Hiroshima Nagasaki Bombing
Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right) in August 1945. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

When Japan bombarded Pearl Harbor in 1941, it did not foresee how big of a giant it would have awakened. After nearly four years of intense warfare and thousands of lives lost from both sides, the former militarist country finally conceded following the epoch-defining American atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The blast was literally so powerful that it not only brought the Japanese aggressors down to their knees but also had a long-term impact on its history and growth as a country.

Toward the end of World War II, both countries struggled with how to end the war, having to recognize that neither side had a chance of totally and utterly invading the other. When Japan surrendered, however, the reconciliation process began and progressed so quickly that one might not believe both nations were once archenemies.

During Japan’s independence between 1945-1952, the US occupied and helped rebuild the country from the ashes of war with a strong emphasis on economic growth and stability that would eventually boost the former into becoming among the world’s largest economies. The former’s recovery became one of the biggest economic comebacks in recent history, ranking third place as of 2021 with over $4.9 million in the gross domestic product (GDP).