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. having 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.
History of VJ Day
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 the relief brought by the end of a trying labor, passed down through generations.