14 Aug VJ Day
You’d be forgiven if you thought that World War 2 ended when the Nazi’s surrendered on the 7th of May 1945. The war wasn’t over, for the Japanese refused to surrender their holy war. Emperor Hirohito had, by loyal degree, forbidden surrender. It was either victory or death.
This approach to war was illustrated by Japanese tactics. Kamikaze suicide bombers would plunge into the sides of ships in the hopes of sinking them, 19% of which succeeded. Soldiers would kill their wounded if there was a risk of capture. Even civilians weren’t spared from the way of the warrior, for their Emperor had told them that “The Hundred Million” as they were called should be ready to lay down their lives: to die “like shattered jewels” to protect the dignity of the country and it’s ideals when the invaders entered their shores. All this was happening while firebombs destroyed Japanese cities and a third of their economy, rendering many Japanese starving.
The men on the other side of the war didn’t have it easy either. The British and Commonwealths Pacific campaign was the longest campaign in all of World War 2. 2.5-million troops took part in the campaign and around 3-hundred-thousand of them became prisoners of war: forced to live in camps where food was scarce, disease thrived, and torture and executions were commonplace. Of these prisoners of war, around 1-hundred-thousand lost their lives. Of those that died, 12-thousand men lost their lives building the infamous “Death Railway”, one man for every sleeper laid.
With the Allied forces closing in and the Japanese refusing to surrender, it seemed like endless bloodshed on Japanese soil was inevitable. To prevent this, US President Harry Truman promised that, if the Japanese would not surrender now, they would fact “prompt and utter destruction.” Their warning fell on deaf ears. On August 6th the USA flew over Hiroshima with her payload: “Little Boy”, a 13 kiloton atomic bomb that instantly killed 80-thousand people on impact and some more with radiation poisoning. This was still not enough to make Japan surrender, so 3 days later America dropped “Fat Man” over Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40-thousand people on impact.
On the 15th of August 1945, the aftermath of the devastation of the atomic bombs prompted the Japanese Emperor to say in his first radio-broadcasted speech that: “The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.” With that, and the signing of the official Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the ship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on the 2nd of September, the worst war in history came to an end.
Since that fateful Wednesday when the Emperor announced their surrender we’ve been celebrating Japan’s defeat every year. Victory over Japan Day is celebrated all around the world, and this year will be its 75th anniversary. We bring you the documentary stunt VJ Day to commemorate this important occasion. Learn about what it was like back then in the two shows Inside World War II and Nazi Megastructures so that you too may understand the significance of this day.
Saturday, August 15th, at 9 PM on National Geographic (ch 220) One day only stunt