August 15, 2018 marked the 73rd anniversary of VJ, Victory in Japan, the official end of the Second World War.
Japan surrendering was preceded by Hiroshima being met a horrific surprise when an American B-29 bomber dropped the first-ever atomic bomb over the city on August 6, 1945. The Soviet Union would then declare war on Japan and invaded Manchuria.
Later, the City of Nagasaki was met with the same ill-fate when a second atomic bomb dropped over their city on August 9, 1945. Together, the two bombings claimed the lives of at least 129,000 people.
Five days after the second atomic bombing, on August 14, 1945, the US presented their demands for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese, known as the Potsdam Declaration. Emperor Hirohito accepted the terms and surrendered.
Due to the time difference, news of the Japanese surrendering didn’t hit Canadian and other Allied nations’ airwaves until August 15, 1945. For that reasoning, both August 14 and 15 are recognized as VJ Day. The official signing of Japan’s surrender didn’t occur until September 2, 1945. On that day, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the papers were officially signed.
In London, England, upon hearing the news of the surrender, King George VI celebrated with a speech to Canada and the Commonwealth: “The war is over. You know, I think, that those four words have for the Queen and myself the same significance, simple yet immense, that they have for you. Our hearts are full to overflowing, as are your own. There is not one of us who has experienced this terrible war who does not realize that we shall feel it’s inevitable consequences long after we have all forgotten our rejoicings of today.”
A wave of relief swept over Canadians and Allied nations over the surrendering of Japan. Much like Victory in Europe Day, thousands of Canadians took to the streets to celebrate the long-awaited defeat. Pretty soon soldiers, sailors, and airmen would begin to make their way back home.
It was during these VJ Day celebrations the iconic ‘Kissing the War Good-Bye’ photo was snapped by photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt in New York City’s Times Square. Funny enough, neither person knew each other. Overcome with joy over the end of the war, George Mendonsa grabbed Greta Zimmerman, believing she was a nurse and kissed her.
During the celebrations, cities with a larger population of Chinese descent celebrated extra fierce as this meant China would no longer be under Japanese occupation.
Through the celebrations, riots began to pop up all over Canada. In Sudbury, Ont., angry mobs caused $40,000 worth of damage to the downtown core, according to the Sudbury Star. In Victoria, BC, police were dispatched to try and calm the angry mobs of people.
The persecution faced by Japanese-Canadians during the war began to lift. However, they would only become fully liberated when they would finally be allowed to vote in 1949.