SIXTY-FIVE years is a long time.
This Saturday will mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of one of the most significant days in this nation’s history. It will be V-J Day, which commemorates Japan’s unconditional surrender to the United States and its Allies. It marked the end of World War II, which lasted six years, 1939-1945.
Although the war began September 1, 1939, the United States didn’t enter the conflict until December 7, 1941.
When V-J Day arrived on Tuesday, August 14, 1945, Ye OLD Columnist (YOC) was within 15 days of completing U.S. Navy Boot Camp in San Diego, CA. My company, 294-45, had apparently been selected to take part in the upcoming invasion of the southern Japanese Islands in November, 1945.
Upon completion of Boot Camp and a seven-day leave, the company would probably ship out to the island of Okinawa in the western Pacific for more amphibious training. We assumed the training would be for the invasion of Japan. We did not know the proposed invasion date; however, rumors seemed to point toward the end of the year.
All of this changed in early August. The dropping of two atomic bombs brought the war to a sudden end. The first bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, while the second bomb fell on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9.
Shortly after these events occurred, the Japanese government agreed to an unconditional surrender. The peace terms were signed September 1, 1945, in Tokyo Bay aboard the Battleship Missouri. Gen. Douglas MacArthur handled the historic proceeding.
My first “inkling” of the Japanese surrender came about 4 p.m. (Pacific War Time) on August 14. Whistles on U.S. Navy ships, anchored in San Diego Bay, began to sound. YOC, along with other sailors were rowing whale boats in the Bay. That morning we had been aboard landing crafts, making repeated landings on the Pacific Ocean side of Coronado, a peninsula that forms San Diego Bay.
Upon returning to shore, we were advised the Japanese had agreed to an unconditional surrender.
Following the first three weeks in Boot Camp, companies were afforded a 12-hour liberty every eighth night. August 14 happened to be Company 294-45 liberty night.
V-J night in downtown San Diego was something to experience. YOC, who was 18, had never seen anything like it, nor have I ever seen anything of that magnitude since that memorable night.
Broadway, the main street, was roped-off to handle the pedestrian traffic. The sidewalks were not wide enough. “Out of the blue,” a woman would come up to you, hug you, kiss you and then disappear into the huge crowd. Happiness and joy were everywhere.
Confetti covered Broadway. It felt as if one were walking on a soft mattress. The celebration was a “Wooley Bugger.” The Shore Patrol was numerous; however, it appeared they had been given orders to go easy on arrests. About 2 a.m. two of my buddies and I boarded a city bus for the return to the U.S. Naval Training Station. We were tired and exhausted. It had been a memorable night.
’TIL NEXT TIME — “There must be positive endeavors to preserve peace.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), Thirty-Second President of the United States. (These words are taken from a speech delivered by President Roosevelt on October 5, 1937, in Chicago).
Dr. Stuart Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville.