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.
Victory Day History
On December 7, 1941, Japan did a surprise aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Hawaii. Thus, the United States immediately declared 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. On August 6, the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Only three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb in Nagasaki.
Japan finally accepted the terms of surrender unconditionally 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 'Victory in Japan Day' or 'VJ Day. Countries such as China and Taiwan as well as other countries also recognize and celebrate this date. However, in 1946, Truman made a proclamation to change the date to the 14th of August because it was the day Japan surrendered.
"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. Although Victory Day is considered the official name of the holiday, many people still call it 'Victory in Japan Day' or 'VJ Day'.
Over the years it lost popularity, partly because of its 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 change to the name of the holiday. Suggestions included “Celebrate Rhode Day” and "Ocean Day”. However, Veteran groups heavily resisted this, so the day retains the name Victory Day. As of 2023, a hearing in the Rhode Island General Assembly has been scheduled to change the name of Victory Day to 'Peace and Remembrance Day'.
Rhode Island is the only state that still commemorates Victory Day due to its strong ties to the U.S. Navy. Thus, they can keep paying their respects and honoring the sailors from Rhode Island that lost their lives on the Pacific front. This is because Rhode Island was the state that sent and lost the biggest number of soldiers to fight Japan.
Victory Day Celebration
Many events and parades take place 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.
The term ‘VJ Day’ or “Victory Over Japan’ Day was influenced by the name ‘VE Day' or ‘Victory in Europe Day'.
Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945, was announced by Emperor Hirohito himself. It was the first time his voice was broadcasted all over Japan.
Japanese Army was highly dissatisfied with the surrender. Many soldiers committed suicide after this.