Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s acceptance to the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered on 15th August 1945, effectively marking the end of World War II. However, the official surrender ceremony did not occur until over two weeks later, and thus President Truman marked 2nd September as the official V-J Day.
Learn about V-J Day
It is estimated that anywhere from 60 to 80 million people died during World War II, on all sides of the conflict. V-J Day should be seen as not only the celebration of the defeat of the tyrannical Japanese government of the time, but also the remembrance of those who lost their lives.
There are a number of different ways that people refer to V-J Day. This includes V-P Day, Victory in the Pacific Day, and Victory over Japan Day. No matter how people refer to this day, what matters is that it is the day on which Imperial Japan surrendered in the Second World War, marking the end of the war.
Interestingly, there are really three different dates that can be considered the date of surrender. The first is the 15th of August in 1945, which is when the announcement of Japan’s surrender was made. However, in some parts of the world, including the United States, this was actually the 14th of August in 1945 because of the time differences.
As mentioned, there is also the date that the official document of surrender was signed, which was the 2nd of September in 1945. This is when the Second World War was officially ended.
Because of this, V-J Day is celebrated on different dates throughout the world. While the official US commemoration occurs on the 2nd of September. In the United Kingdom, for example, they actually celebrate V-J Day on the 15th of August.
History of V-J Day
In order to understand the history of V-J Day, we need to delve deeper into the history of the war and the events that happened in the build-up to this date. On both the 6th and the 9th of August, in 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The Soviet Union also declared war on Japan on the 9th of August as well. A day later, on the 10th of August, the government in Japan communicated that it intended to surrender under the Potsdam Declaration terms.
Celebrations around the world started early when they heard that Japan intended to surrender. In Paris, Frenchmen and Americans paraded and sang “Don’t Fence Me In” on Champs-Élysées. On the streets of London, on Regent Street, allied soldiers danced in a conga line.
It was six days later, on the 15th of August, a little bit after noon Japan Standard Time, that it was announced that Japan had accepted the Potsdam Declaration. Emperor Hirohito made the announcement over the radio to the people of Japan. Once the declaration had been signed, the celebrations across the world really ramped up.
In fact, in Life Magazine, they reported the following about Americans celebrating:
It was “as if joy had been rationed and saved up for the three years, eight months and seven days since Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941”
There were a number of different terms that were included within the declaration. This included the following:
“We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners.”
“The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.”
“Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we determine.”
Why not take a look at the Potsdam Declaration in full to learn more about V-J Day?
How to celebrate V-J Day
There are a lot of different ways that you can celebrate V-J Day. A lot of people have street parties and celebrate with their neighbors and their friends and families. This is something that people enjoy all over the world. It is an opportunity to be patriotic and show your love for the country you were born in. People like to hang up posters and bunting with their national flags, as well as enjoying traditional food and alcohol. What better excuse to have a party?
Of course, we cannot mention V-J Day without paying tribute to all of the men and women who lost their lives during World War Two. There are many different memorials and marks of honor that go on around the world on this day. As individuals, it is important that we all take a moment to reflect on those brave people who went to war for their country, with some never returning. Every year, it helps to learn more about the war and about the people who lost their lives. Pay honor to them and their families by researching these people as individuals and sparing some time to think about them.
You can also spend V-J Day learning more about the war. After all, there were many battles that were fought, and there are many documents, textbooks, and research papers on the war and the build-up of it. After all, years and years were spent in battle, and so there is a lot to read about. Enrich your knowledge so that you can have a better understanding of what the men and the women of your country went through during this period.
You can also learn more about the Japanese surrender. The start of the surrender can probably be dated back to the Battle of Okinawa, which started on the 1st of April and ended on the 21st of June in 1945. During this battle, there were more than 117,000 Japanese casualties, and over 82,000 U.S. casualties. It is also estimated that approximately one-fourth of the civilian population of Okinawan died, with a lot of people dying in mass suicides that the Imperial Japanese Army had organized. A month later, on the 26th of July, the Potsdam Declaration was issued. Truman stated the following to Japan:
“Surrender or suffer prompt and utter destruction.”
At the time, the declaration was rejected, but as we all know today, it then came to be accepted a month later.
It is important to remember that V-J Day is about more than just victory, though. We should think about all of the men and women, on both sides of the battle, who lost their lives, as well as the innocent civilians who were caught up in the middle of a horrific war. On V-J Day, we salute you.