A Commemoration of V-J Day, 14 August 1945,
and Japan's Formal Surrender, 2 September 1945

V-J DAY (25 K)

   V-J Day (with V-J denoting "Victory over Japan" or "Victory in Japan") is the day that the Empire of Japan surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II. The informal surrender occurred on August 14, 1945, followed by the formal surrender on September 2, 1945. V-J Day can be considered any one of three days: August 14 or 15, or September 2, but most observances occur on August 14. Sadly, V-J Day doesn't appear on most calendars today and it is either ignored or given light coverage by news media. (The news media was there, however, when history happened ... in the photo above, two servicemen show a headline that says it all in downtown San Diego; photo via War Comes to San Diego.)

   The final timetable for the end of World War II began with the atomic bombs dropped on Japan on August 6 and 9. On the morning of August 10, news swept the Allied nations of Japan's acceptance of the surrender terms. This prompted impromptu celebrations throughout the Allied countries. The news though was premature and a few tense days ensued until the surrender was confirmed on the 14th. (V-J Day was actually declared the next day, three years, eight months and seven days after that fateful Sunday morning in 1941 at Pearl Harbor.) The U.S. fleet at anchor in Leyte Gulf celebrated the news by firing off pyrotechnic flares illuminating the night in a victory fireworks show. The scene was repeated at various other U.S. naval bases all over the Pacific.

   Cease-fire orders were issued on August 15 and 16, but the Allied forces were skeptical that the Japanese would stop fighting so abruptly after nearly four years of brutal combat. Therefore, the combined U.S. and British fleets remained at a high degree of vigilance. However, the following days passed without serious incident. U.S. carrier-based planes actively patrolled the skies over Japan to monitor the situation and to seek out prisoner of war facilities. On August 27, units of the fleet entered Japanese waters for the first time. Guided by local pilots, the ships anchored in Sagami Wan, just outside of Tokyo Bay and within view of Mount Fuji. A day later, some of the fleet went into Tokyo Bay itself, though almost all of the aircraft carriers remained at sea, ready to provide air cover "just in case." Fleet Admiral Nimitz, who had directed much of the Pacific War, arrived on August 29 and made USS South Dakota his flagship. Aboard USS Missouri, which flew Admiral Halsey's flag, preparations were underway to host the formal surrender ceremonies on September 2. Missouri had been selected since she was named after President Truman's home state.

The USS Missouri in Toyko Bay, September 2, 1945.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo via U.S. National Archives.)

   The USS Missouri entered Tokyo Bay early on August 29 to prepare for the normal surrender ceremony. High-ranking military officials of all the Allied Powers were received on board 2 September. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz boarded shortly after 0800, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander for the Allies) came on board at 0843. The Japanese representatives, headed by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, arrived at 0856. At 0902 General MacArthur stepped before a battery of microphones and the 23-minute surrender ceremony was broadcast to the waiting world from the 01 deck level of the "Mighty Mo." By 0930 the Japanese emissaries had departed. World War II was officially over.

The Missouri's bow frames Mt. Fuji, 1945.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo via U.S. National Archives.)

[ sound file & description courtesy Old Time Radio ]

[ click radio above to play ]

HIROSHIMA BOMB (27 K)   Clicking on the old-time bakelite radio above will enable you to listen to a RealAudio montage of actual 1945 radio programs being interrupted with the preliminary news of the Japanese surrender. If your browser is configured correctly, clicking on the radio will launch your RealPlayer in a separate window and you can listen to the montage while browsing the rest of this page.

   On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. This would be the first of only two times the bomb was ever used against another country. Earlier, the Truman administration found that the Japanese were not accepting of the Potsdam Declaration which demanded an unconditional surrender by Japan. The Japanese had asked Russia to act as intermediary for them at the Potsdam Conference. However, unbeknownst to the Japanese, the Soviet Union was about to enter the war against them. Consequently, Stalin did not convey all of the questions and concerns the Japanese had. One major question was the preservation of their Emperor as head if they surrendered. But this was never made clear to Churchill and Truman and the harsh statement coming from the conference is what resulted. Because Japan was not forthcoming, Truman decided to drop the bomb (Japan was unaware of this power).

   When the Japanese were still debating what to do, the United States, hearing nothing from Japan, dropped a second atom bomb on August 9 over the city of Nagasaki. Still the world heard nothing, though the Japanese began talks directly with the United States. After suffering so serious a blow, the public could not understand why the Japanese did not immediately surrender. Apparently, there was much consternation among Japanese leaders as to what to do. Some wanted immediate surrender, others wanted to continue fighting, still others feared for their Emperor. Finally, realizing they had no other choice but to hope for the best, the Japanese accepted the terms of Potsdam.

   Initially, a report on a signing of surrender was released by the United Press International prematurely. Word was apparently in, but it was not yet indicated as official. The clip here is the announcement, and then the rescinding of the announcement.

   The sound montage included here begins with an interruption of a big band remote — Cab Calloway and his Orchestra appearing at the New Zanzibar in New York City. It is approximately 1:50 in the morning of August 14, 1945 Eastern War Time. The previous day had brought a lot of false V-J Day reports prompted partly by the hesitation of the Japanese. The Mutual Network which was carrying the band remote interrupts with news wire reports that the Japanese had accepted the unconditional surrender. But nothing official is yet forthcoming. This report gives a nice historical view of just how tentative the radio news services relied on the wire services. You can even hear a man in the background getting increasingly excited as more information is forthcoming. But because it was so tentative, there is some dead air as the network struggles with incoming information, finally returning to the big band remote.

   From this point the montage moves to approximately 9:30 a.m. EWT in Chicago via the NBC news affiliate with reporter Don Eldridge reporting live from Chicago's loop. We can hear the moving traffic as reporter Eldridge tells of the current calm after some early morning activity. But he also describes the early gathering of some citizens and the news of surrender is being anticipated.

The war is over! The vintage cartoon above shows a jubilant GI
doing a victory jig while adding a defeated Tojo (left) to his collection
of deposed Axis dictators (Hitler and Mussolini have already
been collected and dangle at the end of a rope in his right hand).

   As NBC begins to move to live reports around the country, the montage switches to early evening via CBS as the news services along with the world awaits official word of acceptance from the Allied leaders. The CBS reporter like the earlier Mutual reporter is tentative, not sure whether to return to regular broadcast, or to hang on. An announcement is imminent. Suddenly, we are switched to Robert Trout in London for the announcement has arrived. The joy in the newsroom gives us a picture of how much the world waited for the announcement. Immediately the report is cut in by the local stations, in this case WKRC in Cincinnati, to bring a local picture to start of celebrations.

   Reporter Tom McCarthy of WKRC, Cincinnati, in a commentary reminiscent of Gabriel Heatter, provides eloquent words reflecting what the world felt. We hear the start of the celebrations that took place in virtually every city in the United States as well as many world capitals. The montage focuses on Cincinnati. Finally, we switch to another eloquent announcer, NBC's Ben Grauer, as he reports from Times Square inside a remote vehicle. He is right in the thick of it and radio is there to catch it all.


A jubilant crowd holds up newspapers proclaiming Japan's surrender
on Chicago's State St. on August 14, 1945.


At the White House, President Harry S. Truman announces the Japanese
surrender, August 14, 1945. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Archives.)


The Extra Edition of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph for Tuesday, August 14, 1945 says it all, procaiming victory over Japan.


General Douglas MacArthur signs the official instrument of surrender on September 2, 1945 as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Behind MacArthur are Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright and Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival.
(Photo courtesy U.S. National Archives.)


A closeup of the plaque commemorating the surrender set into the deck of the USS Missouri. The inscription reads: "Over this spot on 2 September 1945 the instrument of formal surrender of Japan to the Allied powers was signed, thus bringing to a close the Second World War. The ship at that time was at anchor in Tokyo Bay.
Latitude 35 21' 17" North. Longitude 139 45' 36" East."


The first American veterans return home from the
China-Burma-India Theater of Operations after V-J Day.


JAPS ASK PEACE! shout the headlines! It came like a bolt of lightning on August 14, 1945. The war had not officially ended, but the first news of the imminent Japanese surrender was enough to touch off impromptu celebrations at the U.S. Naval Hospital at St. Albans, Long Island, NY. These sailors and Marines, some wounded in action against the Japanese, were wildly happy and gathered at the bedside of a recuperating Marine buddy to celebrate. A Navy Cadet nurse got right into the middle of it too.

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