16. History’s Deadliest Translation Mistake
The Allies were not mistaken in dealing with Japan as a menace that needed putting down ASAP. However, a simple mistake in translation might have determined when and how the US went about putting Japan down. It led to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As such, it might have been the most momentous translation mistake in history.
It began with the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender, also known as the Potsdam Declaration, which was issued by the Allies on July 26th, 1945. America, which had successfully tested the atomic bomb ten days earlier, along with her allies, issued a blunt statement calling for the surrender of all Japanese armed forces. It was an ultimatum, warning Japan that if it did not surrender, it would face “prompt and utter destruction“.