Tag Archive | "VJ Day"

V-J Day Plus 69: Reflections on the Decline of America

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August 14th, 2014, marks the 69th anniversary of V-J Day.  The date follows by eight days the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and by five days that of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, bringing World War II to an abrupt end.  With the second “war to end all wars” successfully concluded, America displayed its generosity of spirit by rebuilding the homelands of our enemies.

 

69 years later, our enemies have assumed positions of power and influence in the global economy.  Japan, once considered a closed society driven by feudal warlords, has become an economic powerhouse.  In little more than half a century, its once ancient villages have become bustling metropolises.  Similarly, a reunited, resurgent Germany has become the economic linchpin and political leader of Western Europe and the European Union.  It makes one wonder who actually won World War II.

 

As cities and countries that our former enemies called home have flourished in the new global economy, American cities like Detroit have fallen into decay (the picture at the top of this article is not of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but a real picture of Detroit in 2014).  The industrial might of America, once the prime driver of a prosperous middle class, has been strangled by government intervention – killing the proverbial “golden goose” of the free market economy upon which our nation’s former prosperity was built.  Our two-party system has failed America miserably as personal greed and ideological obstinance on the part of both Democrats and Republicans has reduced our once proud republican form of government into just another spectator sport.  Statesmen have been replaced by buffoons at the expense of the American taxpayer.

 

Our Founding Fathers created three separate but equal branches of government so that any abuse of power by one would held in check by the others.  And, should the legislative and executive branches be monopolized by one political party, an independent judiciary could and would protect the freedoms on which our nation was founded.  Yet, as nominees for positions in the federal judiciary and on the U.S. Supreme Court have increasingly been selected more on the basis of political leanings than legal acumen, the independence of the American judiciary is also called into question.

 

In foreign affairs, America, considered by some as the world’s only military superpower, has become a shrinking violet and is in the process of unilaterally disarming despite increasing global threats posed by radical Islamic fundamentalists, totalitarian governments in China and South Korea, and a Russian leadership seemingly bent on the restoration of the old Soviet Union.  As the sun is setting on the generation responsible for America’s prominence in the aftermath of World War II, our society has largely forgotten their sacrifices, as commemorations of these historical events are replaced by trips to shopping malls to take advantage of deep discounts on retail merchandise.  Worship of the almighty dollar has displaced worship of the Almighty Himself!

 

In a radio broadcast following the Japanese surrender that ended World War II, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Pacific Forces stated, “Today the guns are silent.  A great tragedy has ended.  A great victory has been won.  The skies no longer rain death – the seas bear only commerce.  Men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight.  The entire world is quietly at peace.  The holy mission has been completed.  And in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way.  I speak for the unnamed brave millions homeward bound to take up the challenge of that future which they did so much to salvage from the brink of disaster.”  During that war, more than 400,000 Americans gave their lives in preserving the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as enumerated in our Declaration of Independence.

 

Reflecting on V-J Day, I cannot help but think of all the Americans who, from the inception of our nation, have laid down their lives for the preservation of freedom from Bunker Hill to Afghanistan.  And, as I ponder the current path of our nation in this new global society, all I can say is “what a waste of national wealth and human endeavor.”

VJ Day, 1945

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August 6, 1945 was no ordinary day.  Although the Allied Forces had achieved victory in Europe, World War II still raged on in the Pacific Theater.  The Japanese were, and remain to this day, an extremely proud race.  Demonstrating their resolve at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, they preferred to fight to the death rather than face dishonor by surrendering.  Many Japanese pilots became kamikazes: the equivalent of human bombs.  The devastation they left behind made the war more costly to the Allies, and the Japanese had hoped that we would cave in by suing for peace.   Even Japanese civilians were trained to counterattack their enemies with anything that could kill or main.  This included hastily fashioned weapons such as sharpened bamboo stalks.


The war had begun during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.  FDR had vowed that we would achieve unconditional surrender from our enemies.  When Harry S. Truman assumed the Presidency after FDR’s death, he was honor-bound to fulfill the wishes of his former Commander-in-Chief. And fulfill them, he did.


The atom bomb, or A-bomb, was classified as Top Secret.  Testing at Alamogordo, New Mexico revealed that this weapon represented an incredible, unprecedented level of destruction.   So secret was it that those on the “Need to Know” list were a relative handful.


With the A-bomb, the planned invasion of Japan was on the drawing board, along with the date, the time, and calculated cost of life.  President Truman agonized over whether to drop the bomb on a city, rather than a military target, or follow the original invasion plan and pay the price in American casualties.  In the end, he ordered that the city of Hiroshima be bombed on August 6, 1945.  On that day, accompanied by two other B-29 bombers, the Enola Gay unleashed the power of the atom and initiated the Atomic Age, devastating the city of Hiroshima.  After bombing another city, Nagasaki, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.


August 14, 1945 was declared VJ day.  All across America and the rest of the free world, crowds gathered and cheered to commemorate the peace for which we had prayed for four long years.  The famous photograph of a sailor spontaneously and joyously kissing a girl in New York City’s Times Square echoed the world’s elation.  The photo was widely circulated and reproduced.  Today a statue of this couple still stands in Sarasota, Florida; no doubt, other likenesses stand elsewhere in our nation.


On August 14, 2010, a reenactment of that scene will be held in Times Square to commemorate the surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces in the Pacific.


It was 65 years ago when that sailor kissed that girl.  As he was planting that kiss, I was sailing on a troopship in the Pacific Ocean, heading — literally — for a baptism by fire.  I was part of a massive armada sent to invade Japan.  But when the Captain of our ship announced Japan’s surrender, the invasion was no longer necessary.  Thus, I served my country in another capacity, by occupying Japan for a full year.  From October 1945 through September 1946, my fellow soldiers and I — Americans and European Allies — ensured the stabilization of Japan subsequent to its surrender.


I was recently interviewed by a reporter from The Courier Post, for an article that the newspaper is running with respect to VJ Day.  After she finished the formal interview, the reporter asked me, “As a veteran of that war, how do you feel about us no longer celebrating the days that finalized World War II — VE Day and VJ Day?”


I answered, “August 6th was not the official end of the war.  That took place in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.  That is another day that is not celebrated; another day that gets lost in the Labor Day weekend, like other holidays set aside to honor God and country.”


Maybe something that occurred 65 years ago has no meaning to those who weren’t there.  But it still means something to me.  Those who sacrificed themselves for that war did so to protect the lives and fundamental freedoms of Americans as well as all who were oppressed, tortured, and murdered by the Axis Forces.


It has been rightly said that “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  For that reason, the study of World War II is immensely important and the reason why Americans and, for that matter, all inhabitants of this planet should both remember and commemorate events like VJ Day.


Related Post:  VJ Day: August 14th

VJ Day: August 14th

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VJ Day

Although August 14th is not a date that pops out on the calendar as a major holiday or anniversary, it marks a key turning point in our nation’s history: the anniversary of the unofficial surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces in 1945, the end of the long, bloody conflict known as World War II, and National Navajo Code Talkers Day.   Navajo soldiers used their native tongue to communicate strategic military information during this global conflict; thereby, thwarting our enemies’ efforts to decipher critical transmissions.  In a rather ironic twist of fate (if you know the slightest bit about American history), our government honors the efforts and achievements of these brave Native Americans who helped to defend us against the Japanese.

 

September 2, 1945 commemorates the official denouement of the Second World War.  On that day, aboard the Battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese Foreign Minister and General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, signed the official Surrender in accordance with the terms of the Potsdam Agreement.

 

Between those two historic dates — on August 10, 1945, to be exact — I boarded a troopship in San Francisco harbor and sailed with my comrades for the South Pacific.  We were appointed as one segment of a gigantic task force committed, if things had gone the other way, to the invasion of Japan.   Six days later, our ship’s captain announced the Japanese surrender; a month later, I landed with my fellows on Leyte, in the Philippine Islands.  There, I was assigned to the 24th Signal Company on the island of Mindinao.  In late September, we were ordered to secure the Islands of Japan. What began as an invasion ended up an occupation under the terms agreed to by Japan’s Prime Minister.

 

As part of the occupying forces, my mates and I then boarded the U.S.S. George S. Clymer: the lead ship of a giant convoy.  Arriving on the island of Shikoko in early October, we anchored off the town of Matsuyama, which would become our home for the next few months.  After our stay in Matsuyama, we then replaced His Majesty’s Royal Cameron Highlanders at Okayama on the island of Honshu.  Our final move was to Kokura on the island of Kyushu, where we were relieved by other troops and finally sent home to the good old U.S.A.

 

To most Americans, VJ Day is just another day on the calendar. But for this old soldier, that date brings back so many vivid moments that will live in my mind and heart forever.  My journey as an infantryman began with my initial training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, followed by reassignment to the Pacific theater after VE Day at Fort Mead, Maryland, and six subsequent weeks of jungle survival and combat training in Texas, which was followed by preparation, on the West Coast, for the invasion of Japan.

 

Sharp in my memory remain the images and emotions surrounding shipping out as part of that gigantic task force, hearing the ship’s Captain announce the Japanese surrender, and later, occupying Japan for a full year.  These memories make me proud, grateful, and humble.  I am proud to have been among those troops that facilitated the safe closure of World War II, and I am grateful and humbled that the Lord, in answer to my mother’s fervent prayers, spared me to enjoy a good, long life and to share my memories with the readers of this Site. 

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