Today 75 years ago: end of WW II

Or, at least, according to the standard reckoning. Japanese emperor Hirohito’s acceptance of Allied terms (as spelled out in the Potsdam Declaration) marked VJ-Day, Victory over Japan Day.

Jeff Duntemann publishes a letter from his grandmother in Chicago to his father (then serving at a radio station in North Africa).

 That letter is a marvelous little glimpse of how ordinary people responded to the end of the biggest and most calamitous war in human history. Follow the links to the letter. It’s worth your time. Really.

Indeed it is. Go read the whole thing.

This date, August 15, 1945, is commonly regarded as the end of World War Two. Technically, Aug.15 only marks its de facto end: the de jure end would follow on September 2, with the official signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

The Japanese delegation aboard USS Missouri
Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs on behalf of the Japanese (9:04 am). At 9:06 AM, General Yohijiro Umezu, Chief of the General Staff, adds his signature.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers [in the Pacific theatre] countersigns at 9:08am on behalf of the victorious US

After MacArthur, further signatures were affixed by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (9:12am), and by representatives of all the Allied combatants in the theatre [list taken from t:

This is the US copy of the Instrument:

Japanese Instrument of Surrender, original held at the National Archives Museum, Washington, DC. (Image in the public domain.)

And thus the bloodiest war in history (in absolute numbers) finally came to an end. Japan and Germany, in due course, would take their place as peaceful, respected members of the family of nations, becoming economic powers nearly as strong as they were once militarily. [*]

Some Japanese holdouts on formerly occupied islands, unaware that the war had ended, kept up guerilla activities. Lt. HIROO ONODA, in the Philippines, only surrendered on March 9, 1974 (!) after his former commanding officer personally flew out (at the behest of Emperor Hirohito) to formally relieve him from his orders. (Lt. Onoda survived until 2014: his story inspired the concept album “Nude” by progressive rock band CAMEL, which I happen to be a big fan of.) The following is a taste from the album.

Happy VJ-Day.

[*] Germany made, and continues to make, a serious effort — with fits and starts as they may have been at times — toward Vergangenheitsbewaltigung (coming to terms with the past). Would that I could say the same about Japan…

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