Victory Day is a holiday in the state of Rhode Island that is celebrated every year on the second Monday of August. It commemorates the end of World War II with the surrender of Japan during the war, on August 14, 1945.
Victory Day was originally celebrated all across the United States, until 1975 when all states but Rhode Island eventually dropped the holiday. It remains a state holiday in Rhode Island, so some businesses and all schools as well as government buildings are closed, many people have the day off to participate in the celebrations.
On December 7, 1941, Japan performed a surprise aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Hawaii. This attack made the United States immediately declare war on Japan, officially turning the war in Europe into a war that was being fought over the world. Due to the Allies' incredible war power and superior technology, the war against Japan was one-sided and Japan suffered many more casualties than the Allies.
On July 26, 1945, the Allied leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration urging Japan to surrender or suffer the consequences. The Japanese government refused to surrender, so on August 6, the United States dropped their first atomic bomb in the city of Hiroshima. Only three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb in Nagasaki. Japan accepted the terms of surrender unconditionally on the next day. This effectively ended World War II, sparking immense celebrations in the United States and Europe. Japanese representatives signed the documents of surrender the following month, on September 2, onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
President Truman declared September 2 to be VJ day, or 'Victory in Japan' Day, China and Taiwan as well as other countries also recognize and celebrate this date. However, when Truman made a proclamation in 1946 on the day to celebrate victory, he chose Wednesday the 14th of August, the day Japan surrendered, and announced that it should be known as Victory Day.
I call upon the people of the United States to observe Victory Day as a day of solemn commemoration of the devotion of the men and women by whose sacrifices victory was achieved, and as a day of prayer and of high resolve that the cause of justice, freedom, peace, and international good-will shall be advanced with undiminished and unremitting efforts, inspired by the valor of our heroes of the Armed Services.
Victory Day in Rhode Island
Victory Day was celebrated for the first time in 1948, and at that time it was celebrated all over the nation. Over the years it lost popularity, partly because of it's association with atomic warfare. It has also become conflated with VJ day, and for this reason controversial with many people thinking that the holiday is offensive to Japan and Japanese Americans, and that the day glorifies the devastation caused by the atomic bombs.
There have been petitions, and politicians have also called for a name change to the holiday. Suggestions include “Celebrate Rhode Day” and "Ocean Day", but Veteran groups have heavily resisted this, so the day retains the name Victory Day.
Rhode Island is the only state that still commemorates Victory Day due to its strong ties to the U.S. Navy, and so they can keep paying their respects and honoring the sailors from Rhode Island that lost their lives in the Pacific front. Rhode Island was the state that sent and lost the biggest number of soldiers to fight Japan.
How Victory Day is Celebrated
There are many events and parades happening in Rhode Island for Victory Day, to commemorate the Allies' victory and honor the fallen soldiers of the war. Many people take the opportunity of Victory weekend to enjoy the beach, as it is known as one of the biggest beach-going weekends of the summer.