Mary's Library

Monday, August 14, 2006

VJ Day

In the United States, August 14th is recognized as VJ Day (Victory over Japan). Courtesy of the International Dateline, VJ Day is observed on August 15th in some other parts of the world. Of course, the formal surrender of Japan to the allied powers occurred on September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. On August 14th, however, the announcement was made that Japan had accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and was surrendering to the allies.

When I lived in the Washington, DC, area, I enjoyed listening to an old-time radio program on Sundays that was broadcast by the American University public radio station. Every year at this time, that program would play excerpts from the CBS radio coverage of VJ Day. I never tired of listening to those broadcasts. I have not heard the broadcasts in several years, but will try to summarize them as best I can from my somewhat dim memories.

The coverage starts with CBS news breaking in on a broadcast of a daytime drama (soap opera) with news of a development in the war with Japan. Rumors about a surrender had been going about for a few days at that time, following the atomic bombing raids and the Soviet entry into the war.

As I recall, the announcer indicated that the U.S. State Department in Washington had received a lengthy message from the Imperial Japanese government in Tokyo. The Japanese government had sent the message to the Japanese embassy in Switzerland. The embassy delivered the message to the Swiss government. Thereafter, the message was delivered to the U.S. embassy and then sent to the State Department.

The radio announcer stated that President Truman would be holding a press conference later in the day. Apparently, the press conference itself was not broadcast. Rather, the reporters had to rush from the White House with the news of the President's announcement. In brief, the Japanese, subject to reservations about retaining the Emperor, had accepted the allies' terms. The war was over. Even after all this time, the drama of this broadcast is still gripping.

Over the years, I have read many books about the Second World War in general, and about the Pacific War in particular. A few of my favorites about the Pacific War are Eagle Against the Sun - The American War With Japan, Ronald Spector (1984); With the Old Breed - At Peleliu and Okinawa, Eugene B. Sledge (1981); and The American Magic - Codes, Ciphers, and the Defeat of Japan, Ronald Lewin (1981).

Eagle Against the Sun is considered by many to be the best single volume history of the American-Japanese War in the Pacific. It is a scholarly, yet highly readable, book. Mary and I were acquainted with Ron Spector while we lived in the Washington, DC, area. In fact, Mary helped edit his first book, a biography of Admiral Dewey. I believe that Eagle Against the Sun is still available in paperback.

With the Old Breed is a memoir of the author's experiences as a young Marine in the Pacific during the war. The author, Eugene B. Sledge, earned a Ph.D. in zoology after the war and became a university professor. He is an intelligent and articulate memoirist. The book has been republished by the Naval Institute Press as part of its Classics of Naval Literature series.

The American Magic tells the fascinating story of U.S. Navy codebreakers during World War II. I believe that this book is no longer in print, but could be obtained through used-book sellers. This eccentric group of cryptographers played an important (and very underappreciated at the time) role in the Pacific War. They played a critical role in discovering the planned attack on Midway, thus making possible the U.S. Navy's decisive victory in that battle. They also learned of Admiral Yamamoto's inspection trip to the Southwest Pacific, enabling U.S. Army aviators to intercept and shoot down the admiral's plane.

Although these books emphasize the American war effort, on this day we remember and give thanks for the sacrifices of the individuals in the military and naval forces of all the nations who participated in the defeat of Japan in the Pacific in that terrible war.


At 10:03 AM PDT , Blogger dovegreyreader said...

Welcome to blogging Wilhelm and thanks for this fascinating post.I'm just about to post a note on mine about it and something my Dad told me today.

At 12:19 PM PDT , Blogger Lisa Guidarini said...

Ah, now, there he is with a very nicely informative post. See how fun this is?!


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