Again this year, Aug. 14 came and went without a squeak of recognition — much less “celebration” — of this truly historic anniversary.
For younger, uninformed readers: On this date in 1945, Americans first heard that Japan’s Imperial High Command gave a “stop fighting” order to its military forces spread all across Asia and islands of the Pacific. Their Emperor Hirohito had required them to stop it. This ended, in effect, our Pacific war and World War II! (A formal surrender ceremony was on Sept. 2, 1945.)
Americans danced in the streets with tears of joy and relief. Then just a kid, I still remember that the prevailing feeling was not “We beat ’em” but rather “Thank God it’s over at last!”
Some Japanese people have regarded themselves as the war’s “victims.” And indeed citizens of Japan (and Korean slaves) had been victimized for a decade by their Imperial High Command. (It’s tempting to compare with Germans dominated by the Nazi Party during the same period.)
By summer 1945, Allied forces were advancing island by bloody island; U.S. bombers faced little opposition as they dropped incendiary bombs on Japan’s industrial cities. Still, no surrender. Japan’s admirals and generals were willing to hold on until the last civilian with a bamboo spear. So, in a horrible irony, dropping the atomic bombs helped avoid even greater loss of life on both sides!
Both Americans and Japanese (as well as Chinese, Filipinos, even Russians) have reason to celebrate this day. Please add it to your 2014 calendar.
Dale M. Heckman
P.S.: American Indians have not forgotten. My calendar from a prominent Indian relief organization designates this date as “Navajo Code Talkers Day,” as well they might remember with pride.