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VJ Day

VJ Day

V-J Day, celebrated every September 2 in the U.S., stands for Victory over Japan Day, commemorating a shift in the Second World War in favor of the Allies (the U.S., Great Britain, France, and other nations) that spelled the end of the massive conflict. It is commonly accepted knowledge that what precipitated the Japanese Empire’s ultimate surrender was the U.S. had bombed two major Japanese cities (Nagasaki and Hiroshima) with atomic warheads, causing such a concentrated and gigantic loss of Japanese lives that there really was no hope of a victory for the island nation thereafter.


In much the same way as a statement like, “I’m not a hero, I just did what anyone would have done,” has come to sound trite, we’re sure that in the mid-20th century, the phrase “ultimate sacrifice” held a power that was more raw and personal than it may hold now. Americans had seen nothing like it. The First World War was, until that point, considered “the war to end all wars,” but in terms of death tolls, WWII saw the demise of around three times more than its predecessor (50-80 million souls lost in WWII, around three percent of the world population).

This is to say that the average Joe or Jane back then was indeed spontaneously overcome with joy and emotion on the day of declared victory, even to the point where some of the V-J Day celebrations around the world resembled riots, and cost lives in their own right. However, the nation and the Western world were united. Good had triumphed over evil.

Today, the History Channel and other popular TV broadcasting, plus many Hollywood films, and a ton of printed fiction and nonfiction popular literature, all still frequently feature the events of the European and Pacific Theaters of WWII as story material. We think it’s a safe assumption that our readers have a basic working knowledge of the United States’ entry into the war following the kamikaze Japanese (conventional explosive) bombing of Pearl Harbor, forward in time through the American landing on the beaches of Europe, sacrificing life and limb to fetter the Nazi animal and gradually gaining more ground, on through to the bitter end.

The iconic images, too, are unforgettable. The famous scene of a sailor sweeping a Navy nurse into his arms and kissing her during the Times Square public celebration of V-J Day, as it happens, is actually two very similar photographs taken of the same couple by two different photographers who had their work published in two different national periodicals. More on that shortly. For now, though, let us all agree that the celebration of V-J Day every September 2 is not a thing to be taken lightly, considering the true costs of war, and yet it should be a source of positive pride and relief brought by the end of trying labor, passed down through generations.


1.Visit the graves of the fallen

Many communities have cemeteries with designated areas for military veterans. Many of these men and women fought in World War II, so you can pay your respects with a visit and a moment of prayer, reflection or silence. You may even look up how to volunteer to place flags on military graves in honor of service done to our country.

2.Learn what led up to the war

In “The Tempest,” Shakespeare wrote that “what’s past is prologue.” Another way of saying, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.” So we think it’s a good idea to carry national and worldwide memories in our hearts as individuals, so that no matter how complicated politics becomes, we know where our hearts lie, and how to further the best agenda moving forward.

3.Talk to a veteran

Many members of “The Greatest Generation” who fought in World War II are still living, though their numbers are dwindling rather rapidly. Ask around, and see if you can schedule a visit, perhaps to a home-care facility or VFW lodge. Chances are, a WWII veteran will be as glad to tell his or her story as you are to listen!


A. It marked the end of years of nearly incomprehensible losses of life and property.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, involving over two dozen countries, and the casualty totals remain mind-boggling: upwards of 80 million people were killed in violent action. The end of hostilities meant that war-torn peoples and nations could exhale a collective sigh of relief.

B. It led to the rebuilding of Europe and Japan.

In 1948, partially to pre-empt the spread of Communism in Europe but mainly to aid the reconstruction of European and Pacific-region infrastructure and economies, the U.S. enacted the Marshall Plan, which infused friendly nations overseas with about 12 billion dollars in aid (128 billion in today’s dollars).

C. It inspires us to seek peace

As we mentioned, the First World War was called “the war to end all wars,” but in the century since then of near-continuous fighting, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East operations, has unfortunately turned that phrase on its head. If anything though, the pervasiveness of armed conflict itself can help us appreciate the moments when our world is at relative calm and peace.


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