Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day)

On June 22, 1945, Okinawa fell to U.S. forces. Following this, an invasion of the Japanese home islands was in the works; however, before the invasion could take place, the war came to a shattering and rapid end.

The Events Leading Up to the End of the War

The United States dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, ultimately killing as many as 140,000 people. Two days later, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. Additionally, on August 9, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki, ultimately killing approximately 70,000 people.

The devastated downtown of Hiroshima with the dome of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall visible in the distance. National Archives photo.

The Japanese government recognized that victory was impossible and  accepted Allied surrender terms without qualifications on August 14, 1945. That same day, President Harry Truman announced from the White House that the Japanese acceptance met the terms laid down at the Potsdam Conference for unconditional surrender. As soon as the news of Japan’s surrender was announced on August 14, celebrations erupted across the United States.

End of War Celebrations

In New York City, ticker tape rained down on the crowds gathered in Times Square while sailors climbed lampposts to unfurl American flags to celebrate the war’s end. In thousands of small towns across the country, similar scenes included fireworks, confetti, and impromptu parades.

A photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt which shows a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a nurse on Victory over Japan Day in New York City’s Times Square

Despite these initial celebrations, Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day) would officially be celebrated in the United States on the day formal surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay: September 2, 1945.

The Aftermath

The victory over Japan was bittersweet in light of the destructiveness of the war. More than 400,000 Americans from all branches of the military—and an estimated 65 million people worldwide—died during World War II. As historian Donald L. Miller, PhD, wrote in his book The Story of World War II, “It was too much death to contemplate, too much savagery and suffering; and in August 1945 no one was counting. For those who had seen the face of battle and been in the camps and under the bombs—and had lived—there was a sense of immense relief.”

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