This Saturday, Aug. 15 marks the 70th anniversary of the announcement that the Japanese Empire was going to surrender to the United States and end the war in the Pacific. The formal surrender ceremony would take place aboard “The Mighty Mo” on Sept. 2, 1945.
Aug. 15 and Sept. 2 of 1945 can both be celebrated as V-J Day. In the months following, the Japanese people would see the forgiving and generous nature of the American people as we would help rebuild their nation and help them get back on track. The Americans would bring in money, medical supplies, equipment, technology, and trade agreements. Japan would rise like the Phoenix from the ashes to become one of the great trading partners of the United States but also a valuable and trusted ally.
The Americans went into Japan not as conquerors but as new friends. History had taught us that crushing terms of surrender lead to future conflicts. The Treaty of Versailles had so crushed the Germans after WWI that it helped Adolph Hitler play the “blame game” and the rest is history.
In my living room is a set of figurines that resemble a colonial couple at a table. Both of the figurines are clearly stamped on the bottom “Made in Occupied Japan.” This means they were manufactured between 1945 and 1952. Carol and I also have a set of dishes marked in a similar fashion. This was the way Americans were able to get trade flowing in and out of Japan and letting the world know that these items were from Japan. After 1952 the phrase was changed to “Made in Japan” and now that phrase represents a certain level of high quality in many lines of products.
The victory won over Japan was one that was hard fought by the brave veterans of our military. Island-by-island they shed blood and set up the needed assets to allow the invasion of Japan to occur. Meanwhile in Alamogordo, New Mexico our scientists were creating the first atomic bomb. Once readied, it was shipped aboard the USS Indianapolis to Tinian and the Enola Gay, flown by a crew led by Col. Paul Tibbets, delivered the payload on Hiroshima on Aug. 6. Nagasaki was bombed three days later and the emperor tossed in the towel.
The casualties had been high. The dollars spent were in the billions. The sacrifices at the home front were many. The spirit of the American people remembering the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 stayed strong and this country stayed the course to what FDR stated as, “With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.”
Chances are that little will be done this weekend to celebrate the victory won by our veterans through their sacrifice of sweat and blood. Many died in the conflict, many came home wounded and scarred for life. Many of the wounded were able to heal, and many came home emotionally scarred. One cannot live through that kind of experience and not be changed. They had grown up during the Depression and they saw friends go to Europe to defeat the Fascists and Nazis, and the veterans of the War in the Pacific went off to defeat the Japanese Empire as liberators, not as conquerors. There won’t be parades in many cities because these special days get forgotten by too many.
I won’t forget and I hope you don’t. If you know a WWII Veteran, especially of the Pacific Theater, be sure to thank them for their noble service. We owe them a great deal more than we can tell them.
Most of them are gone, but those veterans must be remembered for the sacrifice that helped keep us free.
Thanks to them, we are speaking to the warriors amongst us in English, not Japanese.