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It's Over

We asked readers to tell us where they were and how they reacted to the news that World War II had ended. And what a response we got!

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On V-J day, I was only 7 years old, but the memory is crystal clear. We were living in a government housing project in Michigan, and there were virtually no men between ages 18 and 40 in that community of several hundred women and children. After V-E Day, some dads had come home for extended leaves, and the project was a happy place. Those with people fighting in the Pacific knew that we'd win over there, too, and when it finally happened, the place went nuts: uncontained joy reigned, and when my friend Bobby Phillips came running down the street, he hollered "Come with me!" I followed him to the project office, where Bobby grabbed a lawn mower. He went out to the schoolyard and began cutting a huge V in the middle of the field. Some friends saw us, and they ran to get more mowers. By the time we were finished, the V we mowed in that field was almost 200 feet long and 150 feet wide. We pledged that the V would be kept mowed until our heroes came home and saw it, and through the winter of 1945, it was clearly visible, even when the snow fell.

In 1957 I took my fiancée to show her where I'd spent an important decade of my life. As we walked across the schoolyard, I saw the V as clearly as if I'd just mowed it; she didn't see it at all.

Richard F. McHugh
Gatlinburg, Tennessee

 


 

 On the day World War II ended, I had but recently returned from serving with the 877th Signal Service Company, 9th Air Force Support Command, in Europe. Now on furlough, I was lunching with Mrs. Rhoda Chase, an old family friend, at a Chinese restaurant on Broadway, in Times Square, in New York City. As we ate, we casually watched the electric "moving" sign on the Times News Building, when we read: "PRESIDENT TRUMAN HAS ANNOUNCED JAPAN HAS SURRENDERED UNCONDITIONALLY. THE WAR IS OVER."

People in the restaurant were screaming with joy, hugging each other, and crowds were gathering in Times Square. Mrs. Chase, who also had a son in the Army, got up, ran to the bar, and bought me a fifth of Southern Comfort.

"Get out of here, Howard," she said. "This is no time for a soldier to be sitting around chatting with an old lady. The war is over. Go celebrate, have fun."

I took her advice. I celebrated, and here I am 60 years later, a husband, father and grandfather whose family includes my German-born wife, whom I met while serving in Berlin during my second enlistment (1949-50), and a Japanese daughter-in-law, married to one of our sons, a Navy SEAL.

My war is over. Life is good.

Howard Ellis
Moreno Valley, California

 

 


 

 

For me, the end of World War II did not mean rejoicing and dancing in the street. I was a young mother living in the town of Laurel, Mississippi, with two small children and very little food and money. My husband, Aubry, a fighter pilot, was missing in action somewhere near Rome, Italy. It would be a whole year before he was officially declared "killed in action." The only news I ever finally received about his death was that he had been firing on German vehicles when he radioed that his plane had been hit.

Aubry had left to go overseas without knowing for certain that I was pregnant. I received many letters from him, but wished he knew that we had a second daughter, whom I named after him. Sadly, all my letters came back after his death in one package, unopened. During the anxious months of not knowing what had happened to Aubry, I focused on our two little girls, Mary and Aubrey. To help with our food problem, I planted a vegetable garden. To make us smile, I planted lots of bright flowers.

Each night I would go to bed exhausted from all the work, but knowing I had done the best I could do. Before falling asleep, I would thank God for helping us get through another day. Then I would look at my two daughters, peacefully sleeping beside me, and know that no matter what happened, Aubry's brave and gentle spirit was with us.

Odean Fondren
Hendersonville, North Carolina

 

 


 

 

During the war, gasoline-rationing stamps were guarded as carefully as cash. One warm summer day, the few cars that traveled our country road were incessantly honking. Dare we hope? We turned on the radio and learned that it was true. The war was over. My father asked if I wanted to go for a ride with him, a rare treat. Of course I wanted to go. He drove a few miles to a country store and gas station. My father snapped his suspenders for emphasis when he told the owner to "fill 'er up. And spill a little." When our prized possession, a 13-year-old car, was full, he spilled a few ounces on the drive. For both my father and the owner, the most extravagant expression of celebration imaginable was to waste gasoline. The look between them and their silent handshake burned into my 8-year-old brain.

Fred McKee
Bettendorf, Iowa

 

 


 

 

In 1945, I was working in a textile factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The factory had previously manufactured curtains but now was making U.S. Army coats and jackets. The bulk materials were cut into patterns; the seamstresses stitched the coats and jackets, and others folded them and prepared them for shipping.

All of the women worked together, but I was specifically involved with the team folding and preparing the jackets for shipping. One of the things we always took it upon ourselves to do was to put cheery notes in the jacket pockets like "You are in our prayers," "We are thinking of you and your safe return," "We have not forgotten you," and "A big thank you from all of us." We knew a soldier would find the note and perhaps it would brighten his day. After all, everyone knew someone in the Army.

I remember August 15 very clearly. It was announced over the loudspeaker that the war was over. The hum from the sewing machines stopped, and everyone stood in shock. For a moment, there was complete silence. Then women started crying, screaming and hugging each other. Most of us went to the Boston docks to join other workers from around the city to rejoice. It's a day I will always remember!

Ann Ferrara Januario
Lynn, Massachusetts

 

 


 

 

I was 11 years old when I learned that World War II was over. My family lived on a small poultry farm on the outskirts of town, in Santa Ana, California, the county seat of Orange County. At least four miles separated us from the center of town, those miles covered in lima bean fields, orange groves and berry farms.

I remember that it was the Feast of Assumption and we had been to Mass that morning. Then the quiet of a warm summer afternoon was broken by the distant sounds of church bells, car horns, sirens, the startling whistle at the packing house; my first reaction to this strange combination of sounds was confusion. Neighbors were few and far between on Edinger Road, where we lived, and my parents and I couldn't imagine what on earth was happening to cause all the noise. Instinctively, we walked toward the road, where I had spent so much time the past few years waving to the soldiers who were part of the daily traffic of Army convoys that made their way to and from the Santa Ana Army Air Base. But today it was a different type of convoy. We could hear the approach of cars with horns honking, and then we saw people hanging out the windows of the cars shouting, "The war is over, the war is over!" We waved, jumped up and down, and shouted back at the people in the cars. What wonderful news! What a great day!

Ysabel Costanza
Renton, Washington

 

 


 

 

I heard the news of Japan's surrender on my car radio. I was on assignment as a Lockheed Aircraft resident inspector in downtown Los Angeles. Of course, there was a lot of celebrating going on in the streets and a great feeling of relief. The other emotion was "now what"? I called my manager at Lockheed and was told that the plant would be shut down immediately to regroup and decide on what course to take. Aircraft production was immediately stopped and layoffs began. Planes were taken off the assembly line and taken outside to be scrapped. The story was that they were cut up with radio, instruments, etc., still intact. Those days were a mixture of joy, relief that the war was over, and some apprehension.

Carl Wilkins
Sunnyvale, California

 

 


 

 

I was 11 years old. I had three brothers serving in World War II, three brothers-in-law, other relatives and friends. During those years my mother and older sisters sent dozens of boxes of cookies and other foods to them. I remember one brother saying, "I knew that as soon as those Army boys saw my box, I would get only one cookie, if lucky, maybe two." I had an uncle and a cousin killed in World War II, and my sister's brother-in-law was killed as a fighter pilot.

Including my parents, we were a struggling farm family of 12 living in the far southeast corner of Nebraska along the Missouri River bluffs. Little did we know about soda pop and junk food. But every year, only on the Fourth of July, my father would bring home a wooden case of pop. Those wooden cases came in handy! On a typical summer day, after we heard by radio that the war had ended, my father surprised us with a case of pop. Cream, strawberry, root beer and orange. There were six of us at home, so that meant that each of us got four bottles of pop. I chose one of each kind, and what a great and never-to-be-forgotten celebration we had!

Lila Meyerkorth
Shubert, Nebraska

 

 


 

 

On July 16, 1945, at 8:45 p.m., I received a telegram that my husband, Staff Sgt. Harry R. Hill, a radio operator on a B-29, had been missing in action following an air raid over Shikoku, Japan, on July 3, 1945.

I was employed as the chief clerk at one of the Selective Service Boards in Peoria, Illinois. My husband's mother and our 6-year-old son resided with me. Peoria erupted in celebration at the news the war was over, but my cousin, whose husband was stationed in Europe, her 2-year-old son, my husband's mother, my son and I attended services at the Episcopal Church across the street from the federal building where the Selective Service offices were located.

Our prayers for my husband's safe return were not realized. His body and those of the members of his crew were found in December 1945.

Mary E. Hill Duncan
Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

 


 

 

My parents had taken us from Queens, New York, for the second consecutive year, to Bain's, a small boardinghouse in the Middletown area of the Catskills. We spent my father's vacation there relaxing, reading, swimming and eating country cooking. I would be 10 in two months. I remember Mr. Bain decapitating the chickens we would eat for supper and singing the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway hit "If I Loved You" in a pleasant, unassuming baritone.

It was a quiet time, when I learned you could drink goat's milk right out of the goat. But one afternoon, as I was swinging in the old tire hung from the very tall tree on the sloped front lawn, some cars, maybe four or five in ten minutes, went by blowing their horns on the state highway before us. A couple of the drivers waved flags. And the afternoon quietly sank toward dinnertime.

Later, I told my parents about the cars and the flag-waving. They told me the war was over. At dinner, some of the guests mentioned it to each other, but there were no conversations about it. I think the adults I was with had been expecting the war to end soon. There was no celebration, only, it seems, quiet relief, and a willingness to put those fears into the past.

Francis Henninger
Chesapeake, Virginia

 

 


 

 

One day in August, 1945, when I was 12 years old, my mother, younger sister and brother, an aunt and uncle were on Sunrise Highway, on Long Island, New York, heading back to my uncle and aunt's home in Manhasset. It had been a very hot day and the sun was a bright red, and the sky around it was various shades of red. The sun was about to set when we heard that the war in the Pacific was over! We all cheered very loudly. You see, my mother, father, sister, brother and I had all been Japanese Prisoners of War, for three years, one month less one day, in Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila, the Philippine Islands.

As life turned out, I married a man who lived in Providence, RI, and Rhode Island is the only state that still celebrates V-J Day! Although the name of the holiday has been changed, the WWII veterans have kept the meaning of that day alive.

Ann Hamilton Lewis Conroy
Warwick, Rhode Island

 

 


 

 

I was an 18-year-old "kid" at Officers Candidate School, Fort Benning, Georgia on August 15, 1945. We didn't get a lot of news, but we knew the end of the war was imminent. We had heard about the giant bombs; we knew the invasion of Okinawa was rugged and bloody. We absorbed all of this in the final weeks of officer training knowing that if there was not an unconditional surrender, we would soon be crossing the Pacific to fight. We had been led to believe that the Japanese would fight to the death of every last man and that this war could easily go on for another year or more and the U.S. Army needed young and daring 2nd Lieutenants. We were in top physical condition and trained to fire every infantry weapon. We were ready. And then it happened. Surrender! Fort Benning and Columbus, Georgia went wild! There was dancing in the streets, singing, partying and joy everywhere. We were told that no one was home, they were all out on the streets celebrating. But now, the U.S. Army did not need any new 2nd Lieutenants. It also meant that I would soon be out of the army and back home with my parents and my beautiful high school girlfriend. Yes, we soldiers celebrated too, but the next day we were right back in the intense training of Infantry OCS.

William R. Sewell
Danville, California

 

 


 

 

My Dad worked at the Boston Navy Shipyard repairing ships during the war. On one of his rare weekends off, he took our family to an island on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire to visit family friends. Part of the island was a camp used to rehabilitate servicemen who had been wounded and were confined to wheelchairs. This camp was next door to the home we were visiting.

I remember my parents and their friends listening to a radio and becoming very excited. At the same time, I heard people yelling, the sound of firecrackers, and what sounded like pots and pans banging. We ran to the camp and I saw men pushing themselves in wheel chairs, yelling that the war was over, crying, banging on pots and pans, and one of the men was firing a rifle in the air. My parents and their friends joined the men and soon more neighbors came to the camp yelling with joy, hugging the men, and, like some of the men, they too were crying. As an eight year old I had never seen anything like this. I still remember the joy and excitement of that day. This was an event in my life I will never forget.

Richard A. Cyr
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

 

 


 

 

I was a First Lieutenant and was one of 100 flight instructors at Goodfellow Field, San Angelos, Texas, about 220 miles southwest of Dallas. I was up solo in an AT6 (AT stands for Advanced Trainers) when they announced over the radio that the war was over. I let out a "big yell" and did a few slow rolls and then flew back in and went back to the base. An AT6 was an all-metal, low-wing two place airplane with retractable landing gear. It had a 650 horsepower engine and a sliding-glass canopy. We didn't have to open the canopy to land. We were required to have a parachute strapped on and the chute was our seat-it wasn't the most comfortable seat. From ATs, pilots moved on to fighters-P51, P38, P39-these had armor, weapons and were three times faster than trainers. My fondest memory of flying the P51 was that it was fun to fly. It had a 1750 horsepower engine and was such a well-known plane. My term of leave was up in December 1946 but I got out about a month before that.

Mr. William E. Fleury
Knoxville, Tennessee

 

 


 

 

"Be quiet . . . it's coming . . . " my mother said it so softly that I couldn't hear her voice.

She spoke the words aloud, but she appeared only to mouth them. I couldn't hear her above the radio. It had been on continuously for days. The announcer kept breaking in to say that it was almost over, that any minute now an announcement was expected from Supreme Allied Headquarters that World War II was over.

It was summer and hot. Usually I and my West Second Street Irregulars would be out playing. We usually played war. It was all we had played for the last four or five years. But now, at nine or 10 years of age, I, like the rest of the world, was weary of war. Besides, I had gone to the door several times, and catlike, stepped out to see if anything was going on, to see if any of the kids were out playing.

They weren't. The street was quiet. It had been quiet for days. No one moved. Nothing stirred. No cars went by. None of my friends lurked behind my hedge waiting to take me prisoner of war. For the first time that I could remember, the battlefield upon which I had repelled the enemy time after time was empty . . . silent, except for a lawn sprinkler hissing into the hot afternoon.

I stood, listening. It was as though the world held its breath, and so did I. I was glad no one had broken the afternoon silence with "READY FOR WAR!!!," the battle cry of the West Second Street Irregulars. It was a challenge that could be delivered at any time by any one of us. It could not be ignored under pain of excommunication from the war games we played during those years.

Any one of us could step out his door, screaming at the top of his lungs—"READY FOR WAR!!!"—and the rest of us were duty and honor bound to respond. We poured out into the yard and streets which, in our eyes, became battlefields. Hedges became hedgerows concealing German tanks with their dreaded 88 mm guns. In my backyard, the concrete lily pond my parents installed when they built their house and my mother's flower beds and my father's garden, both brimming with bounty, became our Sumatran jungles, our Pacific islands. Behind each well-staked tomato plant lay a Japanese machine gun nest. The back fence, laden with Concord grapes, concealed Japanese invasion forces who, due to their numbers, were always difficult to defeat. We fought like animals, but once they breached the grape-lined barrier, our casualty rate soared. Over the years, I must have died a thousand times defending my home as division after division of Japanese soldiers poured through the gap and took up machine gun and mortar positions amid the strawberries and behind the tomatoes and corn stalks.

In my mind, I could see my cousin, Donny Schaaf, dying again and again as enemy bullets tore and jerked his body in several directions at once. Donny got medals for dying. He was the best dyer on West Second Street—no—in McCook, Nebraska. Maybe the whole state. No one could die like Donny.

Donny could throw his body in at least two directions at one time. His feet would fly, his head would spin almost 360 degrees, neck twisted like a wrung out dishrag, his torso and arms going the opposite direction, his gun arcing out across the back yard like a missile. And he had another gift that was the envy of us all. He could levitate. At the apex of his death-leap, he seemed to hang motionless, face contorted, eyes bulging, sinews taut, body stretched in opposite directions and on special occasions, one or both shoes flying randomly through the summer afternoon. It was great.

And it wasn't over when he hit the ground. Most of us just screamed and fell. Not Donny. He looked like six cats in a gunny sack, all fighting to get out. His death throes were legendary. He lurched, wretched, stretched, gurgled and sputtered. Arms and legs jerked involuntarily, drool dribbled into the grass, eyes glazed over. But it was his final lurch that usually got him the medal. He could bend his skinny little body into the most incredible shapes. Legs somehow twisted around his waist, an arm protruded out the center of his back, his head appeared attached to his hip. We often called time-out from the war to inspect his corpse.

But today, as it had been for the last few days, no one wanted to play. No one wanted to do anything. Adults put off going places. Across the land, houses stood silent, doors open, windows agape like giant beings staring out at empty streets shimmering expectantly in the heat, seemingly empty except for the sound of radios turned up an extra notch.

I went out on the porch for awhile. Nothing stirred. Even the wind had stopped. It was so quiet I thought I could hear the earth trundling through space. I sat next to one of the flower boxes that flanked the steps leading up to the porch. Throughout the war, these flower boxes had been gun positions, lookout posts from which we spied on the enemy, and occasionally, the podium from which the Imperial Japanese Commander delivered ultimatums to those of us unfortunate enough to be captured.

From inside my house, the man on the radio talked on about the coming end of the war and about a bomb we had dropped on the Japanese. It was a big bomb, he said again and again. It was big enough to destroy a whole city. We did it twice, in fact. Two cities. Wiped out. I looked around me, up and down my street. Somehow, I could imagine it. I could imagine me suddenly disappearing into a puff of mist. I could imagine my not being here anymore. I could see the rubble, hear the cries, sense the despair.

And then it happened. I knew the war had ended because suddenly the steam whistle atop the Burlington Railroad roundhouse way downtown began screaming. It was a high pitched shriek that spread over the rooftops. The man on the radio screamed. I couldn't understand a word he said.

And then, like a fog rising around me, the noise began. Car horns, distant at first, but growing louder and louder. Anything in McCook, Nebraska, that could make noise was put to use. Every church bell, door knocker, and now and then a shotgun blast, anything that could make noise pealed the news.

"Come on," my mother yelled. "We're going to grandma's." Throughout the war, grandma's house had been a place of refuge, where kids could dunk homemade cookies in sweet, cold milk and listen to adults talk about the war and censored letters from relatives, and who was and wasn't coming home anymore. My mother fairly danced out to the car, and away we went, across town as best we could. Suddenly, every car that could run was on the street, horns honking, arms waving, faces smiling. Mom honked, too. And waved. And when we got to grandma's house, everyone got hugged twice or more. Neighbors drifted in and out. Every house in town was open to anyone. Women wept and held hands. It's over, they kept saying. It's over. Everything is okay, now . . . .

My mother and father smiled a lot that evening. They cried, too. There were friends and relatives who wouldn't be coming home. They would always be in our prayers. They were our heroes. They had made it safe for us.

The church bells, car horns and occasional shotgun blasts continued into the evening and on into the night. They were still blaring when I went to bed. I lay there for a long time, listening. We were safe. Safe at last. Mom and dad said so.

But as sleep began to claim me, I saw again my cousin's crumpled form lying in the grass, his body fluids seeping into the earth, and I wondered just how safe we really were. Hiroshima . . . Nagasaki . . . they didn't seem that far away anymore. When it started, which I still remember with great clarity, I couldn't get a fix on exactly how far away was Germany or Japan.

But that had been ages ago—like four or five years—when I was five years old. I was older now. I had seen the pictures . . . pictures of a hole in the ground that was once a city. Somewhere deep inside me, I felt that a great wheel was turning and that like summer passing and winter coming, and then passing and coming again, I and the war and the Americans, the Germans and the Japanese, or something very much like them, would all come around again someday.

I slept lightly that night, as I have ever since.

Richard J. Budig
McCook, Nebraska

 

 


 

 

My mother, grandmother, sister and I were on a Greyhound Bus. We had been visiting my aunt who lived in Atlanta, Georgia and were on our way home to Mobile, Alabama. As we passed through the small towns and took on riders, the news traveled quickly. I remember going through the small towns with colorful names—Greenville, Evergreen—and as we came farther south the excitement grew. By the time we reached our destination, the bus station in Mobile, we had trouble getting through the traffic. Driving home all the horns were honking. It was the end of an era for us. Those were the years of extended families living together. My uncle had been on a battleship in the Pacific Ocean, and my aunt and cousin had moved in for "the duration" with my mother, father, brother, sister, my grandparents and me. My uncle came home and that family moved to California. My grandparents died several years later and my brother went to college. The family that had numbered nine was quickly downsized to four. As my father-in-law used to say, "Time sure changes things."

Carol Sumrall
Mobile, Alabama

 

 


 

 

I was only 10 years old at the time, but remember how different things affected my family. Food stamps and one pair of sneakers to last all summer, IF you could get them. And my father's car up on blocks in the garage, running it every couple of weeks or so to keep the battery charged. Living as we did on Long Island Sound, lots of fishing and clamming to supplement our diet.

A fine summer evening when we heard the news and all the kids and adults parading in the streets, banging pots and pans—like New Year's Eve, only better!

C. Cranna
Bronx, New York

 

 


 

 

My sister and I were playing in a stream in a field near our house when we heard several fire sirens sounding. There was more than one so we knew something big was up. We ran as fast as we could to our house. Our mother met us at the door in tears saying, "The war is over!" After dinner the whole family went to our church for a service of thanksgiving. Afterwards, my father and mother went back to Philadelphia to celebrate. Mother always wondered why Dad wanted to go back into the city until she found out that when WWI ended, Dad was on duty at Ft. Monroe, VA and couldn't celebrate.

Craig TenBroeck

 

 


 

 

I was five years old and I remember my Mother coming in to the front room where I was playing. She picked me up and tossed me into the air repeatedly, excitedly shouting, "The war is over! The war is over!"

Constance Bailey Zweifel
North Scituate, Massachusetts

 

 


 

 

In spite of the long, strange, bloody years of war, the announced end hit us startlingly fast.

Fate had me in Washington then, a worn combat infantry Captain assigned to the U.S. Army War College 55 months after the draft had redirected, endangered and, yes, enriched my life with nearly five years in the varied, strange phases of war-life. It had taken me from upstate New York to Alabama to California and, with Pearl Harbor's shock, across the Pacific to Maui, back stateside to Georgia then South Carolina. Then it was overseas again in the other direction, into the war in Europe, through North Africa into mountain fighting in Italy, on through Anzio, ultimately Rome, and, finally, Southern France. It was there I took my third wound leading to "home" again and eventually limited duty. That classification landed me the rear echelon assignment in the shadow of the Capitol.

Steamy August Washington was the ideal place to be—it was there the course of war had been set, where the fueling of America's military determination and capabilities originated, and where the gutsy order to drop bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was sounded.

With another officer, equally high off the ground, and equally skeptical, we hitchhiked to the White House area to breathe the intoxicating drafts of peace that had floated from there earlier in the day. The moments are vivid yet as first dozens and later hundreds of people walked by and aimlessly back and forth, just smiling and dreaming, not really celebrating, not kissing strangers. There was none of that there to see. Crying? Yes. Some. Most of us visibly moved. Ecstatic. Sober. Suspicious. Dazed. Was another shoe going to drop? There was a lot of visible head-shaking.

So much had happened so fast: FDR's death, the war's end in Europe, Hitler's bizarre end. And then that tortuous speculation about the human cost of invading Japan, the obvious next step to really conclude the war—obvious to those who could visualize no other ending possible. So few knew of a secret bomb.

I had been at the center of such concern, in the atmosphere of the War College (then under command of noted General Vinegar Joe Stillwell) AND because I had a wife in active service. She was still stationed in France as an Army Nurse Lieutenant after two years of combat-zone time in Africa and Italy before she, too, had landed in Southern France. In recent weeks her General Hospital unit had been preparing to move to the Far East, towards Japan. Now, on this great surprise day, a new and unplanned future life could be considered. What would postwar life be? How to adjust?

Lights were on in the White House. Hopes for real peace, for normalcy, were being broadcast. Central to the universal prayer was admission that nothing was likely to be like anything had ever been before.

In my War College assignment I was privileged to serve under adventurer and writer James Warner Bellah. His tales of flying in World War I fascinated me as had his novels like She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, which still entertains on TV. That day, the day Japan capitulated, Colonel Bellah had smilingly forecast, "We shall now go forth to prove peace is more horrible than war." Many times the prescience of that wisecrack has amused me.

After somber observance of the news of peace, I went back to the War College BOQ and wrote a letter to my wife. In it I kiddingly pointed out it had taken me only three months in Washington to conclude the war, but seriously begged her to cash in her accumulated service points and hurry home; we had a life to build.

She did and was back within a month. Our 62nd wedding anniversary is this August 11.

Doug Johnson
Mesa, Arizona

 

 


 

 

I was 13 years old and living in New York State. I remember the joy and delight my parents and family had when listening to Walter Winchell and Gabriel Heater's newscasts and special bulletins describing the surrender of the Japanese. What pleased us all most was there was an end to the loss of American lives and no more horror of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. My parents were so excited they hugged us all in sheer delight.

Gloria Hudson
Houston, TX

 

 


 

 

My husband, Willard Henry Lavoy, was a 10-year-old paperboy for the Aera local paper here in Glen Falls, NY at the time of WWII. He was telling me that when the end of the war hit the headlines, he was selling the paper all up and down Main Street and a few side streets yelling, "Extra, extra, read all about it, WWII ends!" He said there was such a commotion, people yelling, screaming, crying and embracing, even strangers giving him hugs and kisses and buying out all of his papers so he would have to restock them to accommodate the hundreds of people waiting for one! Car horns were blaring along with area mill whistles blowing. He said it was a great feeling deep down inside and to see the reactions of so many people just overwhelmed him.

Sharon Lavoy
Glen Falls, New York

 

 


 

 

This is from the first page of the Wednesday morning, August 15, 1945 Pittsburgh Post Gazette. As a young child I was one of the people in Oakland listening to the music and singing with the organ, and I still remember how happy everyone was and many had tears in their eyes as we sang the popular songs of that time.

Many, varied sidelights to jubilation.

Cheering throngs, soldiers mobbed by bobby-soxers kissed by soldiers, took the spotlight in Pittsburgh's mad-cap celebration of the war's end last night.

But the glad news swept off the crowd-jammed canyons of the city into every nook and cranny of the metropolis.

Here are some of the sidelights of the Pittsburgh district's reaction to the big event:

Confetti is confetti to a teenage boy, and one lad of 11 was seen capitalizing on the paper shortage. After he sold out of the chopped bits of paper he gathered a new supply from the littered sidewalks - then sold it again.

Whistles, sirens, horns, and anything else that would make a noise was used to express the crowd's joy. But in Oakland they said it with the soft music of an organ. About 100 persons from that community gathered about an organ set up on the sidewalk to sing patriotic and military songs.

In McKeesport, crowds generally appeared as joyous as elsewhere. But not all expressed their joy in smiles and shouts. Many women, particularly older women who may have had sons in the service, were observed walking in the parading crowds-quietly crying.

Dorothy S. Dym
Washington, D.C.

 

 


 

 

I lived with my parents and sister at State College, New Mexico, where my father was a professor. I was an 11-year-old seriously interested in the events of World War II, which I followed through radio reports and magazine accounts. Weeks before the Japanese capitulation, I witnessed the first atomic bomb test; the light of the blast, some 100 miles away, illuminated my bedroom. My family was excited with the news of the end of the war, but at the same time they were anxious for news of close friends captured in the fall of Bataan in 1942. Outcomes were both happy and sad.

James H. Haight
Rio Rancho, NM

 

 


 

 

I was seated at the dinner table with my dad, sister and two brothers having lunch when the news came over the radio. I happened to be on furlough at the time. I recall that I had a sense of relief rather than joy. I also realized for the first time that all of us had just spent three of the best years of our lives in the service. Years that we could never get back. Sixty years, and I still regret the loss of those years.

Frank Bocchino

 

 


 

 

I was almost 16 on August 15, 1945. My best friend Carole and I had summer jobs at a large insurance company in Newark, New Jersey. We had been sent home early from work when the announcement came that the war was over. Later talking over our joy together, we began wondering what we could do to make the day a forever memory. Throwing bits of paper out the fourth floor window at work, planning to attend church in the evening and then walking to our small hometown center afterwards didn't fit our memorable requirements.

I do not recall whose suggestion it was. But when we decided to smoke our first cigarette together, it was easy to find and borrow two and a book of matches from Carole's mother's supply. We knew we had to attempt this bit of wickedness in privacy behind their garage.

Innocents that we both were, it took us forever to discover how to light them, and then coughing along with each hesitant drag, we convinced ourselves this feat was quite exemplary.

That it certainly was not. However, even now at our senior age of 75, when visiting each other, Carole and I not only mention this goofy decision from 60 years ago, but have a great laugh at the forever-to-be-shared memory!

Daisy A. Horn
Niceville, Florida

 

 


 

 

We were in junior high school when news of the end of WWII and the atomic bomb attacks on Japan which prompted the Japanese surrender was broadcast. After four years of depression induced by the seemingly endless slaughter of American servicemen and the other intense stresses associated with the war, the public announcement of the use of the bomb and the end of the war lifted the spirits as nothing else we can remember happening during that time.

John Love
Haines City, Florida

 

 


 

 

August 15,1945. The camp was named Wannalancet, and the site was Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. It was the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at a Catholic girl's camp. We were celebrating with a candlelight procession. This was followed by taps and the lowering of the flag.

Many of the children at the camp were there because their parents were in the service or were occupied with wartime jobs. Some had lost fathers and/or other family members in the war. I was a first-time camp counselor.

At the end of the religious service, the camp director stood up and made the announcement that the Japanese had surrendered and that the war was over. After the cheers, jubilation and a prayer of thanksgiving, the tears came. They were flowing from all eyes, young and old. As a counselor, I supervised the children as they retired. This night there was no sleeping. Many were weeping over lost loved ones and needed consolation while others were just crying for joy but all were restless and happy that the end had come. They were growing up in the worst of times.

After we settled the campers down, some of the the counselors took a trip to the nearest town. Our transportation was the chaplain's automobile. Gas was rationed, but he had a full tank. He had also conveniently left the keys in the ignition. All along the country road people were celebrating with cookouts and parties and every one was an "open house." It was an unforgettable night.

Marie McGrath
Sandwich, MA

 

 


 

 

We had just played a few games and had gathered five friends plus my two sisters and me around the table to celebrate my younger sister's seventh birthday with cake and ice cream. This may not seem too out of the ordinary, but we had been rationing butter, eggs, milk, sugar, flour for four years. The nation was war-weary having many sons, daughters, husbands and fathers sent into combat half a world away. The small Emerson radio was on in the living room of our duplex home. It was a clear day. We gathered to sing "Happy Birthday" to the honoree.

An excited voice broke into the music playing on the radio: "We interrupt this program to tell you the war is over!" With the sound of tremendous excitement, the words came again. "World War II is over. There is victory in Japan!" Very soon, church and school bells began to ring throughout the city, and the few who had cars honked the horns. We too grabbed a cowbell and headed for the bus. We rode to downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma where hundreds from throughout the city were shouting, singing, hugging strangers, ringing bells and carrying small flags. The revelry lasted for several hours. It was well after dark when we got back home.

Sarah Frances Kellogg Shaw
Charlotte, NC

 

 


 

 

I was 12 years old on August 15, 1945. My mother, sister and I were on a two-week vacation in Wildwood, New Jersey. My friend Charlie and I were on the boardwalk in the evening when an announcement came over the loudspeakers that the Japanese had surrendered and the war was over. After a brief hush, people began shouting, hugging and rejoicing. Many people broke down and cried. Total strangers were united in a feeling of relief and joy. Charlie and I ran back to our boarding house to celebrate with our families. To us, it meant my brother Frank would be returning from Okinawa after fighting in the Pacific since the beginning of the war. What a relief and cause to celebrate.

Nicholas D. Possumato
Vineland, NJ

 

 


 

 

I was 12 years old and living in Marshall, Minnesota, a small city in the southwestern part of the state. Some friends and I were playing "war" using the large window wells in the local Catholic church as our bunkers. We were busy popping up and shooting at each other and throwing make-believe grenades when one of the priests stepped out of the rectory and shouted to us. We thought we were in trouble until we heard him yell: "You can stop shooting now, the war is over!"

Then on our way home we spent some time watching an old steam locomotive roar back and forth on the tracks at high speed blowing its steam whistle like crazy. It was a great day.

Dick Lennard
Midlothian, VA

 

 


 

 

On August 15, 1945, I had just turned seven. I remember being on my firescape in the Bronx, New York. I had gone there to witness what was happening on the street below me. People were shouting and confetti was showering down. I had never seen anything like that before and was quite caught up in the moment. I asked my mom what was happening. She was crying and said that the war was over.

I felt happy but did not really understand what war was. I did understand that I had to shop for my mother using coupons. One day she had sent me to the store. I had the precious coupons in my hand when I left, but when I reached the store and opened my hand, they were gone. I started to cry and stood on the corner not wanting to go home and tell my mom the sad news.

There was a local paper called The Home News. A reporter happened to be on this corner and asked why I was crying. Tearfully, I told him my tale of woe. He printed the story in the The Home News and many strangers responded by sending my mother either cash or even the oh-so-precious coupons.

Catherine Rocks
Carlsbad, CA

 

 


 

 

I remember that day in August 1945 with incredible clarity. I was very lonely, confused, and it was the first time I remember seeing fireworks. All the young boys were gathered together on the top, open patio of the orphanage and when the fireworks burst, it seemed like they were at eye level. It was an exciting, yet terrifying experience. V-J Day was in full celebration.

Mt. Saint Frances was an orphanage owned by the Catholic Church and operated by the nuns in the small town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. I was only five years old and my parents placed my older sister and me at Mt. Saint Frances for a three-month stay while mother was recovering from major surgery. I really wasn't an orphan, but someone failed to help me understand that subtle fact.

Eventually I was reunited with my family, but not before V-J Day was indelibly marked in my memory, and I'm often reminded of it through smells, colors, and, of course, fireworks.

H. Russell White
Kissimmee, FL

 

 


 

 

I was 12 years old when WWII ended. I was in the house listening to the radio with my sister and mother. When the announcement came, I ran out to the garden where my dad was working and told him. Our family and the neighbors gathered in the street to cheer and hug one another. Everyone was elated. My dad had been working 12 hours a day, 365 days a year in a plant that manufactured cable and rope for our naval ships. He realized that soon he could go back to a normal work schedule. We also realized that my two cousins that were serving would soon be able to come home.

Rose Marie Keller
Grand Terrace, CA

 

 


 

 

With Bulova-like accuracy, the little gray carrier pigeon flew its mission swooping over our rural house toward the Fort Mifflin Navy Yard in South Philadelphia. We knew he had a coded message because one day his little wings faltered and he landed in my sandbox. We called the Navy and they came for their wounded warrior.

On August 15, 1945, my little avian soldier would have watched me from aloft and wondered where the rest of the children's Navy had gone. Dressed in a blue gabardine suit that I'd outgrown the previous winter, a paper hat from the Sunday funnies perched on my head, I marched into the woods drumming a large kitchen pot with a wooden spoon. My mission: to tell the beasts of the forest that America had won the war.

The music heard round the world played in my head. I was not aware of the embracing strangers and welcomings home. We didn't have TV in those days and wouldn't see the images until we attended our next Movietone News. But I knew the nightly news would change: no more battle reports; no more casualty reports; no more blackout curtains. The lights were back on. Our carrier pigeon, soon to be retired, had gone back to base.

Julie Eberhart Painter
Port Orange, FL

 

 


 

 

I was an "anchor baby" in 1938. My father was a supervisor at Curtis Wright in Buffalo, New York. Since my dad had come from Germany, we had the FBI at our curb for as long as I can recall. They used to follow me to school. I remember the day the war ended, the FBI cars disappeared. My maternal grandparents were ecstatic; my grandfather was Jewish. My fraternal grandfather was joyful. My fraternal grandmother was very upset. She adored Adolph. She was sort of like the middle-aged women in the front rows at Liberace concerts, screaming and applauding a man they knew absolutely nothing about.

Elaine Gilroy

 

 


 

 

I was in the U.S. Army Air Force stationed at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi when the war ended. All personnel were restricted to the base. A buddy and I tried to drink up the beer supply on the base. We didn't succeed but we did get very drunk.

Theodore R. Pfrimmer
Duluth, GA

 

 


 

 

Where was I August 15, 1945? I was four years old, living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My dad tied tin cans onto the back of my red trike so that my cousin and I could ride up and down the sidewalk making noise and celebrating the end of the war. Our parents went downtown to celebrate. We had saved sugar rations and now Uncle Howard would be coming home from Japan. Best of all, we were allowed to stay up until 9 pm!

Sally S. Coyle
Lake Bluff, IL

 

 


 

 

Grandmother and I rode a streetcar from our neighborhood to downtown Denver to see a movie that afternoon. In the movie, Peggy Ann Garner was joyfully receiving a pair of white booted figure skates when the film stopped and the theater lights came up. Everybody booed and hissed, thinking the film had broken. Then the manager stepped onto the stage, raised his hands to hush the moviegoers and announced through tears of joy; "The war has ended!"

We sat in stunned silence for a moment; then everyone shouted with joy, poured into the streets and joined in the most boisterous, happy celebration I've ever seen! Young men in uniform were being thanked and hugged, and everyone was dancing. Shouts and confetti were pouring out of windows above us. There were spontaneous renditions of the national anthem and "God Bless America," loud and strong. It was a massive parade of endless joy. We stayed in the streets to watch until nearly dark.

Oh, by the way, we haven't seen the end of that movie yet! I'm over 70 now, and I still get a lump in my throat and tears of joy whenever I see a parade of soldiers returning home.

Jean Hejde
Fairview Heights, IL

 

 


 

 

I was 11 years old. My father was one of the first Classical Pentecostal Holiness Ministers in Oklahoma, and he called for all of the Pentecostal Ministers in the world to preach every sermon from then on on the subject of: "War no more, war no more, pray to God there is war no more."

Mary Murphy

 

 

 


 

 

After being an Aviation Cadet, I was a flight instructor, teaching Cadets to fly aircraft in Texas. I recall how well we received the news, as college boys who volunteered for WWII service and would soon be going back to college where we would be taught to think again, instead of simply following orders and learning procedures used in the previous war. The military stresses obedience above all. Those, of all ranks, do little creative thinking that might modify a method already in place. Too much emphasis is placed on traditional strategy and tactics.

Richard MacDonald
Green Valley, AZ

 

 


 

 

I was 17 years old when V-J day was announced. I was so excited that I went to downtown Washington, D.C. on a streetcar and got off in the middle of F Street. The crowds were unbelievable! I stood on the corner and, all of a sudden, a soldier grabbed me and kissed me and held me for a whole minute. There was a uniformed policeman standing almost next to me and I screamed to him that the soldier wouldn't let me go, and he said, "So what!" If a photographer had been there, it would have been like the famous picture of the sailor kissing the woman that was in Life magazine. My girlfriend and I stayed for about 15 more minutes. The crowd was shoulder to shoulder and it was getting scary, so we hopped on the streetcar to go home, but the driver wouldn't move. He was drinking a beer and shouting, "The war is over, I'm not moving from here!" We just got on the car and sat down in the back and watched the crowd from the windows. After about half an hour the driver got back in and, still drinking beer, shouted "OK, here we go!" Then we made the 40-minute trip to our stop, trying to be quiet so as not to upset the driver, who was intoxicated by then. We pulled the rope for him to stop, and he yelled "Happy V-J Day, girls!" and let us off. We were really thankful we made it home without an accident!

Ann Lederman

 

 


 

 

When World War II ended, I was eight years old and away from home (for the first time) at a Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin. In mid-afternoon the chow bell began clanging furiously and my friends and I ran toward the dining tent to see what could be happening. "The war is over," we heard repeated again and again. My tent mates and I clapped and cheered and laughed. After all, we had all saved our pennies for Liberty bonds, collected tin cans and the foil from gum wrappers and even milk weed pods and had seen our families deal with gas and food rationing; we knew about the war. But then we stopped laughing suddenly. The older campers and counselors were hugging and crying—why?

Someone told us they were crying for joy. It was my first experience of that grown-up reaction to good news and I clearly recall my bewildered wonderment. It was a very special day.

Anne Dean Mackintosh
Cherry Hill, NJ

 

 


 

 

I was 10 years old, visiting my cousin, David, and we had gone on a home delivery with his dad, my Uncle Eli, who owned a hatchery in northern Indiana. On that very warm August day, he had to deliver some chicken feed to an Amish farm outside town. David and I always liked to visit the Amish with him, and this particular farm had a new litter of St. Bernard puppies we were anxious to see.

Due to the 'war effort' and the gasoline shortage, Uncle Eli was making this delivery in his personal car, a 1937 Chevrolet coupe. It had held up very well during the war years. We heard the news of the war's end on that car radio, and with much excitement, were able to relay the great news to the Amish family when we arrived there. We had a great visit with that family and played with the beautiful puppies for a long time.

 

Barbara Cavanaugh
Plainfield, IN

 

 


 

 

Our town had something to celebrate on August 15, 1945: coming back to life. Lead (pronounced Leed), South Dakota was the site of the nation's largest gold mine, which had been shut down by government order in 1942 so the miners would work in mines that produced much-needed metals for the war effort. It was the town's only industry, so the population dropped in half from about 7,000 people. Enrollment in the schools also fell about half. Like the rest of the nation, for four years we heard the phrases: "For the duration" and "When the war's over."

My father, in company management, had been asked to stay. I was 15 years old and had finished my sophomore year in high school when the war's end was announced on a fine summer day. Townspeople headed to the center of town, in front of the post office, to cheer and celebrate. There were my classmates and other students and there were a lot of oldtimers. Everyone knew everyone else. Someone started some music, and soon we were all dancing in the middle of Main Street. I remember a lot of hugging, cheering, laughter and some tears. Our town, full of boarded-up houses and some closed shops, could begin again.

The mine soon started up, and a great many of the miners returned during the next couple of years. Those of us who had held the town together "for the duration" felt vindicated.

Betty Noble Shor
La Jolla, CA

 

 


 

 

How well I remember August 15, 1945.

My brother (18) and I (13) had train tickets to go from our home in central Nebraska to visit our grandmother in Minneapolis. We left in the morning for Omaha and on the way heard that the Japanese had surrendered!

We arrived in Omaha, where we were to change trains at 5 pm. We had three hours to get to another terminal to go to Minneapolis. We had planned to take a taxi as it was about a mile away, but when we got out of the station, we found utter pandemonium. Thousands of people were celebrating in the streets. No car traffic could move, as the streets were full of people, so we had to walk with our suitcases.

It was quite a struggle, but we finally made it and boarded the train to Minneapolis. You can imagine that two farm boys had very big eyes as they observed all that was going on.

I think the whole country was celebrating on that day, realizing that terrible war was finally over. A celebration like that has not been seen since.

Vernon T. Reinertson
Ravenna, NE

 

 


 

 

It was a scene that had always impressed me in the movies, signifying important or breaking news reports: newspaper boys hawking their papers with cries of "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" Now, as I stood in front of my dad's barber shop on a warm August morning in 1945, I was thrilled to see and hear that scene actually happening on the streets of my hometown. Boys I knew were performing the roles of the movie actors, offering the extra edition of the local newspaper announcing Japan's surrender. This unique occurrence would forever mark V-J Day in my memory.

To celebrate, my Dad, along with the other downtown merchants, closed their shops and businesses for the day, and we went fishing!

I was six at the time, but, in my own way, I understood the importance of this day. Most significantly, it meant my three beloved uncles would be returning safely from duty overseas, allowing them to get back to the task of spoiling their nephew!

Regrettably, another uncle would not return to the United States until 1948. He rested in the soil of France where he had succumbed to wounds received in the killing fields of Normandy. As a consequence, V-J Day was a bittersweet time for our family. We rejoiced in the victory, but we also understood the sacrifices made to achieve peace. We still honor my uncle's memory and remember with pride his service to our great nation.

Bill Howard

 

 


 

 

At the end of WWII, I was six years old. Prior to that day, I vividly remember the air raid drills with sirens screaming and my parents hustling to cover all the windows with light proof drapes. While a bomb dropping on us would have been nothing more than "collateral damage," we being 20 miles away from the steel mills in Gary, Indiana, the air raid drills were nonetheless real and, for a very young boy, quite terrifying, which is, no doubt, why they remain so fresh in my memory now more than 60 years later.

My recollection of the end of the war is of riding around Michigan City, Indiana on a warm summer day with my parents in their 1938 Plymouth. (This car had been parked for much of the war and had a fabric top that had been thoroughly punched through by a pre-war hailstorm and then patched with globs of roofing tar). There was much honking of car horns and happy shouts from large crowds in the streets. It was, without doubt, a most happy day but, at the time, I didn't have a clue what we were happy about. That understanding would only come later.

B. William Maxey
Kalamazoo, MI

 

 


 

 

Today I am 65, but I remember it well. Two days earlier I had become a six-year-old, anticipating the first grade with the mixed emotions natural to a child. But on this day my parents' and the neighbors' excitement and sheer joy filled me with wonder. What could possibly be happening that was more important than first grade?

Then they explained it to me in words that helped me finally understand what all the rationing and deprivation had been about. That the deprivation was of course relative I came to understand later, when a growing maturity would help me see the horrors experienced by others. But that day was joyous for us, and there was a special church service, hastily called to celebrate and express our thankfulness that it was all over.

I began my school years shortly thereafter, and I do remember being somehow more focused and happier. And so, I now realize, was the rest of the world.

Robert F. Broyles
Carlisle, PA

 

 


 

 

I was only 10 years old, but I remember everyone being very excited. I lived in East Orange, New Jersey on a street bordering Newark. On that corner there was a tavern, and the grownups burned an effigy of Tojo. Everyone was in the street, and it seemed to be an all night block party although I probably didn't stay up. Another thing I remember about the war was the headlines in the Daily News. As the war progressed, I was learning to read and by 1945 I was a pretty proficient reader.

Carol Murray
New Egypt, NJ

 

 


 

 

I was born July 17, 1941, the second child of Lorance and Kathryn Evers in Iowa City, Iowa. My father was finishing medical school. By 1943, my father had completed his Residence Training in Ann Arbor, Michigan and had joined the Army, eventually being stationed in occupied Germany. My mother moved to her hometown of Monmouth, Illinois, close to her father and sisters, whom I believe had husbands or boyfriends all serving in the armed forces as well. I remember tire drives, Liberty Gardens, ration cards, squeezing color into margarine and saving bacon fat. Eardrums were pierced with a hot wire when infections occurred, as all the antibiotics were saved for wounded soldiers. My mother and her sisters cried a lot. Later I learned that many of those tears came when the Germans were defeated and soldiers were being mobilized to fight the Japanese, and husbands and boyfriends would once again be in harm's way. A cloud of worry and sadness was always about our home.

On August 15, 1945, I remember people running into our upstairs apartment, everyone hugging, crying, shouting with happiness. My grandfather came in smiling and tears were coming down his cheeks. That really got my attention, as he was normally a stern man. We went to what I remember as the town square, although I think it is really a circle. The fire trucks were running through the streets, and I remember firemen with drums and horns making huge sounds, and everyone was laughing and crying with joy. Months of sadness ended that great day.

Bruce Evers
Salem, OR

 

 


 

 

I talked with my parents who were married shortly after the war ended and these were their thoughts.

My mother was working at the Defense Depot in Ogden, Utah, making items to be sent overseas to the servicemen. When she heard the war was over, she was really happy but then the thought hit her: "I'm going to be out of a job."

My father was serving in the Army/Air Corps as an airplane mechanic in the Philippines. I am sure after so many months of service he was gratified to know the war was over, but his first thought was: "I'm going home."

In the months after returning from the Philippines, my father was still looking for work after several small part-time jobs. My dad went back into the military and served 22 years honorably. I look back and after having served during the Vietnam era, I can understand the overwhelming feelings and stories that stay hidden because they are too graphic to bring up.

Larry D. Anthon

 

 


 

 

On August 15, 1945, I was a five year old vacationing on Lake Erie at Linwood Park, Vermillion, Ohio with my mother and brother. My father was not yet back from the war. When I was six months old, he left for Fort Bragg, North Carolina and then shipped out to the South Pacific. He did not return until I was five years old, after V-J Day. The beach was crowded that August day and my family was part of that crowd. Linwood was operated by the Evangelical United Brethren Church and their large, white tabernacle was a focal point in the park. Suddenly, the church bells began to ring. A murmur of excitement filled the air. Everyone on that beach picked up their blankets and beach gear and moved in one fluid motion up the stairs to the tabernacle for a joyous celebration and prayers of thanksgiving. Some details of that day are fuzzy in my mind—time of day, day of the week, the sermon and hym

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