You’ve probably seen this iconic photograph, made famous when it was published by Life magazine decades ago:
But do you know what special event this photo captured?
It wasn’t a Navy sailor reuniting with his love on his return to the homefront.
And it wasn’t a couple celebrating a marriage proposal.
Surprisingly, it was two random people in New York City’s Times Square, spontaneously reacting to the news of the end of a world war.
This photograph became the iconic symbol of V-J Day.
What is V-J Day?
For many people, hearing the term V-J day may jog a vague memory of something learned in school long ago. It’s definitely not as well-known as Memorial Day or Labor Day.
But it’s just as important!
V-J Day is short for “Victory in Japan Day.” On August 15, 1945, Imperial Japan surrendered to the Allied powers after two atomic bombs caused massive loss of life and resources to Japan, bringing about the long-awaited end of World War II. Japan signed the official surrender document on September 2, 1945. In the United States today, we celebrate the end of this historic war on the official day of surrender, September 2.
Without a doubt, September 2 became a consequential day in history.
This notable date gets lost in the shuffle of special holidays, though. Wedged between Independence Day (July 4th) and Labor Day (the first Monday of September each year), it hits the calendar at a time when many families are winding down with their final summer vacation plans or heading back to school.
Adding to the holiday’s obscurity are other related alphabet-soup days. For instance, V-J day is not to be confused with V-E day, which commemorated “Victory in Europe Day.” V-E Day marked the end of the war with Germany on Tuesday, May 8, 1945.
In fact, “Victory in Japan” Day has other names, which leads to even more confusion over its meaning. Australians have referred to this day as “Victory in the Pacific Day” or V-P Day, for example.
Regardless of what acronyms are used or the exact date chosen to commemorate it, V-J Day was an undeniably important historical landmark; it identified the end of a horrific global war: a worldwide conflict that left families and countries shattered. This day has also come to symbolize the beginning of a new era ushered in by modern weapon technologies like atomic bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.
How do we observe V-J Day?
According to Life magazine, as the news began circulating about Japan’s surrender, crazy celebrations burst out everywhere “as if joy had been rationed and saved up for the three years, eight months and seven days since Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.” Americans were exploding with excitement after all those years of fighting since the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s official involvement in WWII began. Strangers did kiss in the streets, as recorded in the now-famous photo. But others around the United States and the world had parades, sang songs and danced, or splurged on treats, while others (unbelievably) even rioted.
So what about now? How do we remember and honor this historic day in our time?
Nowadays, we have quieter ways of commemorating the end of WWII.
Here are some ways you can memorialize this special day:
Take a trip to your local cemetery.
Find the graves of fallen military and take a moment to give respect to those who served in this great war, this war of all wars.
Consider visiting a local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall (VFW) or a veterans’ home and spend time talking with those who lived through this brutal war.
Letting someone share his or her story is an important part of preserving history. As an alternative, commit to donating supplies or money to such facilities. These institutions care for people who sacrificed so much for so many years to preserve and protect freedom.
Educate yourself about this period of history and the toll that such a global war took.
You’ve probably heard the famous quote from philosophy professor George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are many lessons to be learned from the circumstances and realities of World War II and plenty of books, movies, and documentaries about World War II can be found.
Here is a small sampling of ideas to get you started:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Liberation Trilogy (3-book series) by Rick Atkinson
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson
Dunkirk directed by Christopher Nolan
The Thin Red Line directed by Terrence Malick.
Saving Private Ryan directed by Steven Spielberg
The War by Ken Burns (documentary series)
The World at War narrated by Laurence Olivier (documentary series)
Finally, present a gift to a friend or family member who lived or served in WWII, or memorialize a loved one with a special memento.
A thoughtful gift shows true appreciation and helps people to remember and honor family and friends. Such gifts can be passed down from generation to generation and help preserve the memory of those who lived and died during the World War II era.
Gifts to honor and remember
If you decide to commemorate V-J Day by giving a gift, let Hit Trophy help you find the perfect item. We have a variety of special pieces just right for commemorating a special WWII veteran or lost loved one or to show your thanks to someone who serves faithfully and sacrificially in the military today.
Our simple Fallen Soldier Statue says it all. This 9” statuette features the recognizable equipment of military service. A helmet, boots, rifle, and American flag stand as testaments to the sacrificial service of your friend or family member. An area at the base of the statue provides space to record a person’s name or a custom message. This makes it a truly special gift for a serviceman, servicewoman, or family member.
This elegant Military Star Trophy is a beautiful and honorable way to recognize someone for his or her military service. The distinguished black base of the trophy includes an engraving plate with plenty of room to personalize with the service person’s name. This piece would also make a classy, understated mantlepiece to honor a loved one who served in the military with sacrifice and distinction.
A military serviceperson must always be at the ready; his or her life is spent waiting and preparing to defend and protect others at any moment. If you’d like to recognize someone who is always standing by in expectation of deployment and service, Our Kneeling Soldier Statue beautifully depicts the attitude and posture of such a faithful soldier.
And finally, for those of you who prefer gifts that would honor the specific skills of your military family and friends, our Military Communications Statue or Recon Soldier Statue may be the distinctive items you’re looking for. These two detailed statues are designed to recognize men and women for highly specialized areas of service; you won’t find these mementos in any regular gift store. As with almost all of our items here at Hit Trophy, these handsome, high-quality statues can be laser-engraved and personalized to your exact specifications.
Let’s remember the impact of V-J Day on global history.
Whether you choose to read a book on World War II, speak to a veteran, or memorialize a friend or family member with a special gift, V-J Day is a date worth remembering. Stop for a moment to consider what the world might look like today had the war not ended on September 2, 1945. How many more lives would have been lost, and how many more livelihoods and economies further devastated? We have much to be grateful for.
Here at Hit Trophy, we will take a somber moment to remember the horrors of WWII and to celebrate with thankfulness and joy the victory that happened on V-J Day. We hope that you will do the same.