Steve Woods

V-J (Victory over Japan) Day

In What Day is it? on September 2, 2009 at 11:49 am

signingAlso known as V-P (Victory in the Pacific) Day, this day was officially declared by President Harry S. Truman, in commemoration of the signing of the Potsdam Surrender Declaration by Japan in 1945, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. A little known fact is that the U.S.S. Missouri was chosen as the signatory ship simply because President Truman was from Missouri.

To be sure, the end to the conflict with Japan came as welcome news to many nations worldwide. Although many today tend to see Nazi Germany as being the most destructive military force in their treatment of civilians and prisoners during World War II, in what has been called the Asian Holocaust, it is estimated that from 1933 – 1945, Japanese forces killed as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, with 23 million of them being ethnic Chinese. Of national treasures, it is estimated that Japanese forces took more valuables from its victims than even the Nazis. Millions were enslaved into labor camps or forced prostitution. In Nazi Germany, POWs faced a 4% death rate. In Japanese camps, the death rate was 27%; if you were ethnically Chinese, let’s just say that only 56 Chinese POWs survived the experience. The torture, experimentation upon and even cannibalization of POWs by Japanese forces is also well-documented.

The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 was, in part, an all-out effort to stop the war. Whether or not the bombings were necessary has been a cause of great consternation, and will likely remain a moral question for centuries to come. It was, however, a powerful leveraging tool in ending the war. Alluding to the terrible destruction leveled by the atomic bombings, the Potsdam Declaration offered one of two choices to Emperor Hirohito – surrender or continued and total annihilation of Japan’s infrastructure through continued bombings.

Since 1982, in Japan this day is known as Shusen-Kinenbi, which translates to “Memorial Day for the End of the War.” In Korea this day is called Liberation Day, and V-J or V-P Day is celebrated in one form or another in many nations.

The actual surrender announcement by Emperor Hirohito was on August 14 of the same year. News of the surrender was taken poorly by the Japanese troops; some committed suicide upon learning of it, and many American, Australian and British prisoners of war were executed out of anger.

thekissThe very famous photo accompanying this post is of nurse Edith Cullen Shain receiving a celebratory kiss in Times Square following news of Japan’s surrender. The photo was taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. The man in the photo to this day is unknown, although more than 20 men have claimed to be the sailor providing the lip-lock.

Wars ending are a wonderful thing. Wars never starting are even better.

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