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V-J Day: Commemorating the End of World War II

V-J Day is the affectionate term for what Americans know as the Victory over Japan that officially ended World War II.

It is celebrated in Europe on August 15th, the day that Japan radioed their surrender. The United States commemorates it on September 2nd, when the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was formally signed by representatives from Japan and the Allied Forces in 1945.

The United States’ part in the second world war began and ended with Japan. When the naval base of Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7th, 1941 by Japanese aerial forces, the U.S. was finally pushed to enter the already years-long conflict.

The rapid evolution of technology allowed the U.S. and Allies to gain the upper hand at the tail end of the war. Having already won on the frontlines across Europe, it was left to the aerial war in the East. Between March and July of 1945 they had dropped around 100,000 tons of explosives on cities across Japan. The Potsdam Declaration was issued on July 26th; it demanded Japanese surrender, and if it was refused, it promised “prompt and utter destruction.” The Japanese government in Tokyo would not accept the agreement.

After almost four years of fighting, American forces dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The first, on the island of Hiroshima, killed more than 70,000 people. The bomb on Nagasaki killed 40,000. Though it was a high price to pay, the U.S. was desperate to end a war that had claimed over 80 million lives. After the massacre, Emperor Hirohito urged his people to accept surrender and avoid further needless death.

Former President Harry S. Truman announced the news of the surrender at the White House on August 14th, 1945.

“This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.”

V-J Day has sparked controversy in recent years as reparations have been made to America’s relationship with Japan. Celebrations of it fell out of favor due to worries of it being offensive to Japan and Japanese Americans, especially in the memory of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1995, the administration of former President Bill Clinton commemorated the day’s 50th anniversary as the “End of the Pacific War.” Rhode Island is the sole state with a holiday that represents V-J Day (Victory Day for them), but it is celebrated in places like Seymour, Indiana; Moosup, Connecticut; and Arma, Kansas.

Today, Americans can remember September 2nd, 1945 as the end of an era of destruction; World War II was started to put a stop to evil acts committed by fascist dictators. The defeat of these forces began a new era that emphasizes the freedoms of the democracy that the U.S. was founded upon.

Resource Staff. “V-J Day.”, A&E Television Networks, 2009,

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