Victory over Japan Day (also known as Victory in the Pacific Day, V-J Day, or V-P Day) is a name chosen for the day on which the Surrender of Japan occurred, effectively ending World War II, and subsequent anniversaries of that event. The term has been applied to both the day on which the initial announcement of Japan's surrender was made in the afternoon of August 15, 1945, in Japan, and because of time zone differences, to August 14, 1945, (when it was announced in the United States, Western Europe, the Americas, the Pacific Islands, and Australia/New Zealand), as well as to September 2, 1945, when the signing of the surrender document occurred.
August 15 is the official V-J Day for the UK while the official US commemoration is September 2. The name, V-J Day, had been selected by the Allies after they named V-E Day for the victory in Europe.
On September 2, 1945, a formal surrender ceremony was performed in Tokyo Bay, Japan aboard the battleship USS Missouri. In Japan, the day usually is known as the "memorial day for the end of the war" (終戦記念日 Shūsen-kinenbi ); the official name for the day, however, is "the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace" (戦歿者を追悼し平和を祈念する日 Senbotsusha wo tsuitōshi heiwa wo kinennsuru hi ). This official name was adopted in 1982 by an ordinance issued by the Japanese government.
A little after noon, Japan standard time on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito's announcement of Japan's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast to the Japanese people over the radio. Earlier the same day, the Japanese government had broadcast an announcement over Radio Tokyo that "acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation [would be] coming soon," and had advised the Allies of the surrender by sending a cable to U.S. President Harry S Truman via the Swiss diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. A nation-wide broadcast by President Truman was aired at seven o'clock p.m. (daylight time in Washington, D.C.) on August 14 announcing the communication and that the formal event was scheduled for September 2. In his announcement of Japan's surrender on August 14, President Truman said that "the proclamation of V-J Day must wait upon the formal signing of the surrender terms by Japan". The formal Japanese signing of the surrender terms took place on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, and at that time Truman declared September 2 to be the official V-J Day.
Since the European Axis Powers had surrendered three months earlier (V-E Day), V-J Day would be the official end of World War II. In Australia and most other allied nations, the name V-P Day was used from the outset. The Canberra Times of August 14, 1945, refers to VP Day celebrations, and a public holiday for VP Day was gazetted by the government in that year according to the Australian War Memorial.
On August 15 and 16 some Japanese soldiers, devastated by the surrender, committed suicide. Well over 100 American prisoners of war also were executed. In addition, many Australian and British prisoners of war were executed in Borneo, at both Ranau and Sandakan, by the Imperial Japanese Army. At Batu Lintang camp, also in Borneo, death orders were found which proposed the execution of some 2,000 POWs and civilian internees on September 15, 1945.
V–J day in Times Square, one of the most famous photographs ever published by Life, was shot in Times Square on August 14, 1945, shortly after the announcement by President Truman occurred and people began to gather in celebration. News wire reports of the announcements in Japan had let the media know the likelihood of an imminent announcement. Alfred Eisenstaedt went to Times Square to take his specialty, candid photographs and he spotted a sailor "There were thousands of people milling around, in side streets and everywhere. Everybody was kissing each other . . . And there was also a Navy man running, grabbing anybody, you know, kissing, I ran ahead of him because I had Leica cameras around my neck, focused from 10 feet to infinity. You only had to shoot . . . I didn't even know what was going on, until he grabbed something in white. And I stood there, and they kissed. And I snapped five times." He took five exposures, but only published the one he selected as the best. Eisenstadt was very gratified and pleased with this enduring image, saying: "People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture."
The central figures in the photograph never were confirmed by Eisenstaedt although, as he would probably agree, the identities of his fellow subjects were not important - instead the representative nature of the many men and women rejoicing was the intention. Life, however, received nurse Edith Cullen Shain's claim as the woman to hold this honor in a handwritten letter to Eisenstaedt thirty-five years later. After that a call was made in the magazine for the identity of the man. Three women claimed to be the nurse. More than twenty men have claimed to be the sailor, but none has been identified positively as the man. Edith Shain considered the possibility of one man, Carl Muscarello, but finally stated that she could not tell whether he was or not. Shain died Sunday, June 20, 2010, in Los Angeles.
September 3 is recognized as V-J Day in the People's Republic of China. As the final official surrender of Japan was accepted aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, the Kuomintang (KMT) government, which represented China on the Missouri, announced the three-day holidays to celebrate V-J Day, starting September 3. There are still "September 3" streets (in ) and primary schools (in ) in almost every major city in China.
Gwangbokjeol, (literally "Restoration of Light Day",) celebrated annually on August 15, is one of the Public holidays in South Korea. It commemorates Victory over Japan Day, which liberated Korea from Japanese rule.
Although September 2 is the designated V-J Day in the entire United States, the event is recognized as an official holiday only in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, where the holiday's official name is "Victory Day", and it is observed on the second Monday of August. There have been several attempts in the 1980s and 1990s to eliminate or rename the holiday on the grounds that it is discriminatory. While those all failed, the state legislature did pass a resolution in 1990 "stating that Victory Day is not a day to express satisfaction in the destruction and death caused by nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
In Australia, the term "VP Day" is used in preference to "VJ Day".
Amateur radio operators in Australia hold the "Remembrance Day Contest" on the weekend nearest VP Day, August 15, remembering amateur radio operators who died during World War II and to encourage friendly participation and help improve the operating skills of participants. The contest runs for 24 hours, from 0800UTC on the Saturday, preceded by a broadcast including a speech by a dignitary or notable Australian (such as the Prime Minister of Australia, Governor-General of Australia, or a military leader) and the reading of the names of amateur radio operators who are known to have died. It is organized by the Wireless Institute of Australia, with operators in each Australian state contacting operators in other states, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. A trophy is awarded to the state that can boast the greatest rate of participation, based on a formula including: number of operators, number of contacts made, and radio frequency bands used.