“END OF WAR!” the headlines screamed on September 2, 1945. Many decades later, we continue to recognize the significance of the end of World War II. The Allied victories over Germany (in May 1945) and over Japan (in August 1945) brought forth worldwide jubilation: after years of deprivation, hardship, and separation, peace was finally at hand. Recovery would pose new challenges, however. By 1945, the world had utterly, and irrevocably, changed. Here, the Veterans History Project presents collections that explore what the war’s end meant to some of the over 16 million Americans who served, and the costs of war that they confronted once the fighting was over.
War’s End: VE- and VJ-Days
VE-Day Eleven months after Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, the German Army, pushed back to the streets of Berlin, surrendered. The relief that all American soldiers felt was tempered by the realization that the war wasn’t yet won. Some would ship out to the Pacific Theater; others stayed behind as occupiers or participants in war crimes trials.
VJ-Day In the summer of 1945, the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki canceled planned invasion operations as the Japanese quickly surrendered. When American occupiers saw the devastation that bombing had caused and were greeted by deferential Japanese civilians, the knowledge that the war was finally over could sink in.