70 Years On

This last weekend marked the 70th anniversary of VJ-Day; the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces. This marked a day of wild rejoicing in New York, Honolulu, London and in practically every town and city across the Western world which had sent armies and navies into a bitter fight against Imperial Japan – a fight which had been up and running in China long before Japan chose to take the fight to America by launching an attack on Pearl Harbor.

Time has had its’ usual way with those who fought in it, and survived. The generals and admirals who stood at the top of the military chain of command are long gone, being middle and late-middle aged in the 1940s. The colonels and naval commanders are pretty much gone from the scene, the captains and ensigns vanishing likewise; most of the veteran survivors still with us were very young men and women, little more than teenagers at the time of the war; young and happy to be reprieved from fighting in a war which looked to drag on for another five or six bloody years. By the next significant anniversaries – the 75th and the 80th, there will be even fewer remaining.

Skimming through my guilty pleasure – the UK’s Daily Mail – I noted the lavishly illustrated stories posted there regarding observances in London for VJ Day; a parade, and a fly-by, a wreath-laying, a special memorial service at Westminster Abbey, the Royals and senior members of the government all out in splendor, the Duchess of Cornwall dancing at a garden reception for veterans, all kinds of splendid pageantry, reported in detail. Our British cousins do that kind of thing so very well; the WWI display of millions of red ceramic poppies spilling into the moat of the Tower of London, and the Queen’s Jubilee are just two of the most recent to come to mind.

And … what did we have on this side of the pond, aside from the obligatory mea culpa about dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not so much. I did a compare and contrast search – 70th anniversary VJ Day, both US and UK. On the US search, I turned up news of a mass reenactment of the famous sailor-kissing-a-nurse, and a great many local small-town and city observances of the date, an observance at the US Navy Memorial and at the National WWII Memorial (on September 2, according to the Friends Of website), a picture feature on USA Today’s website … and that’s just about it. A good third of the results on the US search mentioned the London observances anyway. There was nothing particularly splashy on the US national scene for VJ-Day, no big events, nothing requiring the attention of this current administration, or the President. I understand he is on vacation, anyway.

Discuss, as you will.

6 thoughts on “70 Years On”

  1. “Our British cousins do that kind of thing so very well”

    Several years ago, I was invited to sit with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Westminster Abbey in front of their memorial window, with retired members. After the ceremony, at which the Queen laid a wreath at The Cenotaph outside the Abbey, we went to dinner with some retired RAMC docs.

    That same week, my daughter and I attended The Lord Mayor’s Show, which is held outside The Guildhall. After the Show, we attended the RAMC annual dinner where we sat with the commanding general, a nice woman who is a GP, and her date who was a delightful retired RA colonel who was just back from his last overseas assignment and who was fixing up his ancestral home. He had inherited it but had not had time to do anything with it until then.

    The friends who invited us are the same ones who are meeting us in London next month and taking us to Waterloo. I took them on a tour of California a few years ago and have made a number of trips with them over the years.

    On VJ Day, President Truman had declared that all taverns were to close at noon in honor of the day and the war dead. Since my father was in the juke box business, he had many friends who were tavern owners and we had many friends and relatives who had relatives in the services. By early afternoon, they began to arrive at our house, many with cases of whiskey and other consumables.

    The party lasted three days. My cousin Ruth went to work each day and returned to the party after work. She laughed about the fact that she hadn’t bathed and had a ring around her neck where she had washed her face but had not taken off her clothes. I was seven and my sister four. We had bunk beds in my room, which was at the top of the stars in our house. I still remember drunks coming up the stairs and falling into the bottom bunk to sleep a few hours.

    I recounted a little of this my post about the 1940s.

    It was a very happy time and I remember it well. My parents had parties for all the guys who came back as they arrived. I guess I was too little to be aware of the things described in the movie The Best Years of Our Lives.

    They are all dead now.

  2. Sgt. Mom,

    Author Stephen Harding has a very good remembrance of VJ-Day in the form of a book.

    I just posted a review.

  3. Lovely, Trent — thank you. I guess, that reading about all the observances in London marking VJ Day, especially those which honored their veterans, I am … embarrassed at how little notice our own federal government took of the occasion. Another reason to think foul scorn upon the fed-gov establishment, I suppose.

  4. Sgt. Mom,

    I understand the Dallas Frontiers of Flight Museum had a very good presentation by Professor Henderson of SMU on 15 August 2015.

    Henderson’s father was one of the top three officers of the 509th Bombardment Group and flew B-29’s during the two A-bomb missions.

    Sadly, I heard about it after the fact.

  5. Sgt Mom,

    This -> “…Professor Henderson of SMU on 15 August 2015.”

    Should have read -> “…SMU Professor Emeritus Jim Hopkins.”

    His father Maj James Hopkins was on one of the three Nagasaki B-29’s.

    Each A-bomb attack had a weather plane, the A-bomb plane and a post-strike recon plane.

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