71 years ago today America and the world learned that Japan agreed to unconditional surrender ending the bloodiest conflict in human history. If Joe Rosenthal’s photo depicting the flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi is arguably the best known combat photo of WWII, then the iconic picture of “The Kiss” is often the most recognized photograph for remembering the absolute joy felt by Americans and other allied nations on V-J Day.
You might say it was the largest street party ever held. The throngs were overjoyed at the prospect of peace. The role of the atomic bomb and the moral questions involved are for another time and discussion. Those pictured in the “Street Party” were celebrating the millions of service personnel around the world who finally felt like they would live to come home.
Many years later if you asked virtually any veteran their opinion about using the bomb, many agreed that they were alive today because the U.S. did not have to invade the Japanese home islands. That release from fear was expressed in countless cities across America and around the world. My father was recovering in an Army hospital in California when this wonderful news came over the radio. My mother was in the small town of Pilot Point, TX and she too heard the news by radio. For the people of Japan, August 15th was the first time the vast majority of the Japanese people heard the emperor, Hirohito, speak. The emperor retained his title but gave up his claim to divine status. Many Japanese bowed while listening and wept for Japan. The tears in America were ones of joy but also sadness for the many lives lost.
This day also marked a world that was forever changed. Atomic energy was now a force to alter life and the future. The global power structure was forever changed by the rise of the United States and the fall of the European colonial powers. Europe saw huge numbers of dislocated persons looking for shelter and help. The boundaries of many European countries changed and the proverbial “iron curtain” separated east from west. Within 30 years of the end of the war, the old colonial structure gave way to new countries on the African and Asian continents as well as Oceania. Unfortunately, that sought for peace was lost to the Cold War and regional conflicts that go on to this very day.
To learn more about the final days of WWII, please see below for a list of some of the sources available in the ASU Library. Also take a moment today to remember the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made during those momentous days of WWII.
Brooks, L. (1968). Behind Japan’s Surrender. McGraw-Hill Book Company. D821 J3 B75 1968
Butow, R. J. C. (1954). Japan’s Decision to Surrender. Standford University Press. D821 J3 B8 1954
Feis, H. (1961). Japan Subdued: The Atomic Bomb and the End of the War in the Pacific. Princeton University Press. D767.22 F4
Hastings, M. (2008). Retribution: the Battle for Japan, 1944-45. Alfred A. Knopf. D767 H353 2008.
Pacific War Research Society (1980). Japan’s Longest Day. Kodansha International. D821 J3 O913 1980.
Skates, J. R. (1994). The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. University of South Carolina Press. D767.2 S56 1994.
U.S. National Archives (1945). The End of the War in the Pacific, Surrender Documents in Facsimile. Government Printing Office. D814.3 U53 1945.
Wheeler, K. (1983). The Fall of Japan. Time Life Books. D767.2 W48 1983.