What is VJ Day?
VJ Day, or Victory over Japan Day, marks the allied victory over Japan in World War II.
When is VJ Day?
VJ day is celebrated on different dates in different nations. For example, V-J Day is August 15 in the United Kingdom; that’s the date of the initial announcement of Japanese surrender. In the United States, however, V-J Day refers to September 2 — the day in 1945 on which the surrender of the Empire of Japan was actually formalized, marking the end of World War II.
This is one of the most important commemorations in U.S. and world history. Let’s look deeper.
VJ Day timeline
- September 2, 1945
Japan formalized its surrender
On what is now called V-J Day in the United States, Gen. Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s surrender, thus ending World War II.
- August 1945
The U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan
When Japanese generals refused to surrender, U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered soon after.
- June 1942
U.S. and Japanese navies battled at Midway
The United States Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy, leading to what historian John Keegan called "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."
- December 7, 1941
Japan bombed Pearl Harbor
On "a day that will live in infamy," the Japanese military attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leading directly to U.S. entry into World War II.
The Tripartite Pact was signed
Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, a military alliance, along with Germany and Italy.
How to Observe VJ Day
Visit the graves of the fallen
Many communities have cemeteries with sections for military veterans. Many of those vets fought in World War II, so you can pay your respects with a visit.
Learn what led up to the war
In "The Tempest," Shakespeare wrote that "what's past is prologue." History and politics are complicated, intertwined things with many moving parts. It's easy to forget what led nations to go to war against each other, so a little education can go a long way toward learning how we might avoid future conflicts.
Talk to a veteran
Many members of "The Greatest Generation" who fought in World War II are still alive. Ask around, and you'll be sure to locate some within your neighborhood. Set aside some time to listen to their stories.
4 Amazing Facts About V-J Day
The Allies' arsenal was massive
The Allies bombarded Japanese cities with 100,000 tons of explosives between March and July 1945.
Atomic bombs lead to Japanese causalities
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to about more than 200,000 casualties.
Rhode Island alone has a V-J holiday
Rhode Island marks V-J Day as a legal state holiday — the only state to do so. Rhode Islanders observe it on the second Monday in August.
World War II casualties are mind-boggling
The United States had more than 400,000 casualties in World War II. The Soviet Union, however, had upwards of 26 million casualties. Overall, 60 million people were killed in the war — about 3 percent of the world's population at the time.
Why VJ Day is Important
It marked the end of World War II
World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history. It involved 32 countries, and the casualty totals remain mind-boggling: upwards of 80 million people. The end of hostilities meant that war-weary people across the globe could exhale a collective sigh of relief.
It led to the rebuilding of Europe and Japan.
Although post-belligerent animosity, distrust and doubts about the victors' intentions were prevalent after V-J Day, the American Marshall Plan helped rebuild both Western Europe and Japan.
It inspires us to seek peace
World War I was called "the war to end all wars." However, a century of near-continuous fighting, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East, has unfortunately turned that phrase on its head. And yet the lessons of WWII can still remind us to seek peaceful resolutions, even if we often fail to abide by those lessons.