Today, August 15, is the anniversary of V-J Day, or Victory over Japan Day. It is the date on which Japan surrendered in 1945, effectively ending World War II.
Victory came just three months after the Nazis surrendered. It was and is a mark of the awesome power and moral righteousness of the United States. It was the achievement of a generation of heroes. And it was the end of the horror of the age, perhaps of all of history.
Like many of you, I had family deeply involved in the war. For example, my grandfather was shot down and interred in Nazi prison camps in the war. We have his diary from tht time, a catalog of many terrible things. And many courageous ones.
As the days and years creep on, the memory of the time fades and becomes distant. For people my age and older, the stories of World War II were relatively recent history. We had grandparents or parents who fought, who died, who sacrificed abroad or at home. Who fled the Nazis, or were murdered by them. Who went down with the ships at Pearl Harbor. Today those are mere history lessons, not the personal storytelling of those who were there.
We do have the archives, though, and Britain’s Imperial War Museum has released some rare footage from it. Color video of V-J day celebrations around the world. It is gripping to see it and to again be a part of it.
That is the unbridled joy of a fight well fought, hard won, and definitively and permanently over. A rare and incredible shared joy that we can only experience vicariously today.
Fox News notes the sentiment expressed by World War II war correspondent Theodore H. White in his memoir on the impact of the day. “None of us knew then,” he wrote, “that this was the last war America would cleanly, conclusively win. We thought it was the last war ever.”
That no war since has been so definitely decided, so absolutely won, is true and sobering. Perhaps it was the strength of our leaders in doing the now unthinkable and dropping the bomb, a terrible force that cost countless lives and saved many countless more by avoiding a prolonged and bloody invasion. Perhaps it is because of the nature of modern warfare. Perhaps it is because of the nature of our enemies. Or all of these things. But it is true. And sobering.
Still, today is a reminder of what America can do. We fought a massive war on two fronts against great evil and we prevailed. All the world has our power to thank for it. We can only hope that the threats we face today will be likewise utterly destroyed. There are enemies to be defeated and sacrifices to be made.
When the time comes, Americans will be Americans, no matter the fools in Washington. We will fight. We will, to borrow Gen. Patton’s words, accept the challenges so that we can feel the exhilaration of victory. And yes we may and must believe, we will again prevail.