Victory Day

The state of Rhode Island celebrates Victory Day, or V Day, on August’s second Monday every year. This day celebrates the World War II victory over Japan, marked with ceremonies for veterans and other activities. It is also called the Victory over Japan Day or Victory in the Pacific Day.

Victory Day followed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during the early August of 1945, which resulted in a Japanese surrender and the ending of World War II. Although the day is an official holiday in Rhode Island, Americans all over the country celebrate with veteran memorial services. These are celebrated through parades and ceremonies at historic sites or military cemeteries. Some organizations may hold luncheons, barbeques, or dinners.

The nature of the celebration has garnered some debate. Some feel it is offensive to celebrate an event that included the devastation of the atomic bomb. But defenders of the holiday say that it honors American soldiers, not the bombings. This was clarified by the Rhode Island General Assembly through a resolution in 1990.

Historical Background

In response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Japan’s alliance with Germany, the United States used atomic bombs against the city of Hiroshima on August 6th and Nagasaki on August 9th, which was also the day that Russia declared war on Japan. On August 10th, Japan agreed to surrender under the Potsdam Declaration, which resulted in celebration throughout the world despite the fact that the Allies did not accept the offer due to too many changes to the agreement by the Japanese. Famous immediate celebrations include the conga line dancing on the streets of London and a parade by both the American and French in Paris.

American soldiers in Berlin allegedly began to shout of the Japanese surrender and cheer since they would not have to deploy to Japan. Many citizens of other Asian countries, who feared a wartime Japan, celebrated with firecrackers and singing of “God Bless America.”

Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration with fewer conditions on August 15, 1945, making the surrender official. The announcement was made over radio to Japanese citizens by Emperor Hirohito. This was considered the end of World War II since Japan’s allies in Europe had already surrendered.

Victory Day was celebrated from the moment the war ended, at least unofficially at first. Crowds filled the streets with cheering and celebration. The famous photograph, “Kissing the War Goodbye,” was taken in Times Square during these celebrations. Rhode Island has celebrated the holiday in an official capacity since 1948.

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