Today marks the 60th anniversary of the last day of WWII, otherwise known as V-J Day.
This is controversial, like just about anything connected with that terrible war. Some people insist that the war didn’t end until October 15, when the bulk of the Japanese armed forces surrendered in China. Some historians point to the political and ideological problems that came from WWII, problems that still plague us today, and they make the case that the war is still lurching along at a greatly reduced intensity.
Whatever. There has to be a demarcation line somewhere, a place where the old world order ends and a new begins, and this day is as good as any and better than some.
A friend of mine was invited to a party on July 4th, and she was kind enough to take me along. It was held at the home of Thomas Ratcliff, a West Point graduate who is now confined to a wheelchair. Instead of allowing himself to dwell on his condition, he’s devoted himself to public service and veteran affairs. He’s an incredible individual by any standards.
It would have been a memorable day if I had only met Mr. Ratcliff, but there were some other guests who stood out. They were veterans who had served the United States honorably and admirably. Four of them were from the original Tuskegee Airmen, which was an incredible thrill for me.
But there was another WWII veteran that I met that day. Len D’Ooge was with the 10th Mountain Division in 1945, and he took part in some of the fiercest battles on the Western front as Hitler tried to hold on to his empire. After Germany surrendered he thought that would be it for him. He’d done his part, after all.
That wasn’t what the generals had in mind, though. The 10th Mountain was shipped to Virginia for further training in preparation of the invasion of the Japanese home islands. Their training had barely begun when the news announced that Japan had surrendered, the war was over, and Len found out that he didn’t have to go to Japan after all. So far as he’s concerned, this is the date when the war ended.
That’s good enough for me.