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"A single word that may have made all the difference"

By July 1945, the war-weary Japanese government was ready to surrender. When the cabinet first received unofficial word of the surrender terms laid out by Allied leaders meeting in Potsdam, they considered the terms lenient and were inclined to accept. But they decided to withhold comment until they received the Allied ultimatums through official channels.

With that in mind, ederly premier Kantaro Suzuki tried to tread a careful path when questioned about the Potsdam Declaration. Unfortunately, he used a word that has two meanings. He told a press conference that the cabinet was adopting a position of "mokusatsu."

The word "mokusatsu can mean "withhold comment for the moment." It can also mean "ignore." The Japanese News Agency mistakenly translated it the second way. Radio Tokyo flashed the mistake to the world. Headlines in the United States blared that Japan was ignoring the declaration, rejecting the surrender terms.

The results were nothing short of tragic. President Truman decided that he had no choice but to go ahead and drop the atomic bomb. More than a hundred thousand people were killed and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki virtually destroyed-in part because one old man chose the wrong word.


The early Romans used the moon as a meassure of the months. That led to a twelve-month year that came up short, with 355 days.

To keep the seasons straight, the custom of occasionally adding extra weeks and months began. But the potential for mischief was too great a temptation.

Corrupt public officials began to manipulate the calendar to prolong their terms in office and shorten the terms of hated rivals. In essence they were stealing time to further their own political purposes.

By 46 B.C., the Roman year was more than two months off. That's when Julius Caesar took charge. He mandated a new solar calendar, making the year 365 days long. He changed New Years Day from March 1 to January 1, and added an extra day every four years. Opponents grumbled that Caesar, not content with ruling the earth, was now trying to command the heavens above.

To bring the calendar back on track, Caesar added two extra months to year 46 B.C.-sticking them in between November and December. He also squeezed in an extra three weeks between February and March. The result was a year such as no one had ever seen before-445 days long. In Rome this forever became known as the "year of confusion," even though, as Caesar himself was quick to point out, it was actually the year the confusion came to an end.

Source: The History Channel