Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

8-15 V-J Day

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Emperor Hirohito's surrender recording was played in Japan on radio stations at noon on August 15. It was the first time most Japanese ever heard his voice.
The reaction was agonized disbelief. This was the first military defeat for the country in over 2,500 years. The belief that Japan had an unbeatable spirit, not possessed by any other nation, had kept it in the war much longer than it should have remained. A total of 526 suicides were reported in Tokyo that day.
The mood in America and Allied nations was far different. Wild celebrations broke out everywhere. It was 5 p.m. in Las Cruces, New Mexico, when my grandmother heard the news. Soon after, sirens began wailing and gunshots rang out. We went outside and sat on the front step to listen to the celebration.
In cities, such as San Francisco, New York and Chicago, celebrations continued throughout the night, the following day and that night. Police were under strict orders not to intervene in the revelry unless absolutely necessary.
It was the biggest national celebration ever. After all, it was the end of the worst war in history. In San Francisco, the partying was especially enthusiastic. Many servicemen there had orders to ship out for the invasion of Japan.
But it was hard to beat the celebration on Times Square in New York, where a magazine photographer snapped a sailor kissing a nurse who had just walked by. Over the years, dozens of Americans have claimed to be one of the pair. It was their place in history.
History has been fickle, however, with preserving any memory of those celebrations. Look at your calendar. Do you see V-J Day anywhere? If you do, please let me know. I want to buy one and I want to give the printing company some publicity.
In fact, 99 percent of Americans don't even know where to look on their calendar for V-J Day. That confusion may lend slightly to the anonymity of this great day in American history.
You see, noon on August 15 in Tokyo is late afternoon, the previous day, in the United States. So those celebrations began on August 14.
The other confusion is that President Harry Truman declared September 2, the date the surrender was formally signed, as V-J Day. And since that usually falls during the Labor Day weekend, it would get lost anyway. I'll rant more about that in a few weeks.
The reason for not celebrating the end of the most destructive war in history has very little to do with confusion over dates, however. It has everything to do with confusion about what is important in our great American society.
Much more important to us now is not making anyone feel badly about losing that war. Political correctness demands that we suppress acknowledgement of our victories and apologize for shortcomings or atrocities of other nations, because we might possibly, in some way, have caused them.
So, we don't teach about our World War II victory in schools. And we've taken it off our calendar. So, shouldn't a civilized society refrain from rubbing it in, you ask? Possibly, but there were V-J Day celebrations throughout Britain last weekend.
We don't celebrate Armistice Day much anymore, although it still is a national holiday, albeit renamed. Our European Allies still celebrate Armistice Day in a big way. I was in Belgium on November 11, 2003 and witnessed parades, speeches and a great many American flags, flown in gratitude for our World War I help.
Or is it best to put the past behind us and look only toward the future? If so, why do we still remember Pearl Harbor Day? That's on my calendar. Evidently, it's OK to remember out defeats. That won't hurt anyone's feelings but our own. And we don't seem to worry about doing a whole lot of that.

MON, 8-15-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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