August 14: VJ Day Celebrated In Honolulu

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named…

There is one more major World War II milestone to note, and this short video does that well.  In recent weeks, as the anniversaries of the nuclear bombs passed, we were subjected to the usual 20-20 hindsight claims that it wasn’t necessary, and Japan was ready to cave.  We descendants of the Greatest Generation, who understand that an invasion of Japan would have been 1,000 times worse than Iwo Jima and Okinawa combined, lose no sleep over what was probably one of the easiest — and most correct — decisions President Harry Truman ever made.

Hat tip:  Chris Braunlich, whose father was on a troopship in the Pacific 75 years ago today.

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17 responses to “August 14: VJ Day Celebrated In Honolulu”

  1. I have no qualms about Truman dropping the A-bomb. My dad was in basic training at the time. He was to be sent to the Pacific theater…. in other words, to participate in the invasion of Japan.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      The first one, no. No arguments.

      The 2nd, … Remember, it took 3 days for Bush43 to respond to 911, and that in the age of “instant information”. Impossible to tell, obviously, but if instead of 3 days, a wait of 5 or 7 may have saved the lives of 250,000 mostly civilians. But, I don’t think that was what mattered.

      I always found the Nagasaki aimpoint to have been an interesting choice.

      Dad was aboard the South Dakota. Uncle was 1 of 10 survivors of the original 50 Satan’s Angels.

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    My Dad was in the Pacific, RMN 1, on the U.S. Gratia, a supply ship that had once been berthed next to the U.S. Indianapolis, when it carried that Bomb. One of his brothers was still in Europe, serving in the Army Air Corps. Another brother was in the military hospital, having received his second Purple Heart for a wound on Iwo Jima. 4th Marine Division rifleman, who also participated in the landings at Saipan, Tinian, and Roi Namur. He died at 90 with a Japanese bullet calcified in his back.

    Because of Truman’s brave decision, lots of Baby Boomers in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other nations got to know their fathers and uncles.

  3. My Grandfather was island hopping as a combat engineer in the Pacific at the time and was slated for the 100% casualty rate predicted invasion.

    Instead he helped rebuild and clean up after the bombs.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    My uncle was among the first Marines on Guadalcanal, racing to get Henderson Field operational. Not sure what his role would have been in the Japan invasion, but ironically he spent the Korean War in Japan as part of a Marine air wing. My Dad had enough “points” from his previous Atlantic theater service that the USAAF had told him he wouldn’t go to the Pacific. He also first got to Japan while on leave from Korea. His later USAF career was also centered on nuclear weapons (the missiles, anyway).

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Dad only told one, maybe two stories of the war; being at the Battle of Savo Island when the bridge took a direct hit, leaving him the only man not injured or killed.

      Uncle told two. He flew with Lindbergh when Lindbergh shot down a Betty. It was held in place for him to get the kill. BTW, Lindbergh was nothing short of a God to the P-38 pilots, no matter what his passive views garnered him at home. He saved untold numbers of pilots by teaching them how to fly and (this is what he was known for) conserve fuel, nearly doubling the plane’s range.
      Shortly after that, uncle’s cockpit was shredded and he was blinded. His wingman talked him to the ground. After getting the glass taken from his eyes, he was transferred to cargo flights in the Aleutians where he met my aunt. She was a nurse, and while preparing for a possible invasion by the Japanese, she walked in front of his plane and stood with a baby. Told him if he didn’t take the baby, she wasn’t moving.

      After the war, he had a bunch of fun stuff flying with the jet development programs. He was with Yeager and that crowd.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    If I recall (wasn’t around then), that my Dad, a Navy doctor, was on Hawaii with Reed Fawell’s Dad training their Marine amphibious tank battalion to get ready for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. Their unit was back about a year after the very rough invasions of Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

  6. My grandfather was in the Philippines in December 1941. He was injured and ended up being put on the last hospital ship (the Mactan) to leave before the Japanese overran Manila. He spent most of the war in Australia, but would have been one of those required to invade Japan had it come to that.

    He had no doubts about whether dropping the bombs on Japan was the right thing to do – and neither do I.

  7. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Peter, one of my friends spent her civilian DOD career in part with the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine (BuMed). She had this great poster your Dad would have loved: “The Marines Have Found Their Few Good Men: Navy Corpsmen.” This is bond that ties just about all of us. Good.

    Uh oh, NN. We got to Edwards AFB in 1958. Paths may have crossed.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Uncle. Uncle. Not a surrender, but the clarification of who was at Edwards. I was never there. Plus, I think he was there in between the wars.

      He almost died there. As he said, closer to it than during the war. He was flying a P-38 chase plane after Yeager in a jet. Yeager put it in a dive, and uncle followed, with the throttles firewalled, he passed him headed for the ground. Couldn’t pull the control back. He throttled back, dropped the gear, and could see faces when he finally pulled out. Apparently, he was severely reamed by the CO. That was his favorite story. That one I heard more than once. With a smile on his face.

      When my uncle died in the mid 80s, having retired in the 70s, he was buried in a small cemetery in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of the funeral, 4 jets roared over, turned, slowed, one peeled off, and 3 flew back over in a “missing man”. It was that moment when I realized that he might have done more in WWII then “lie in his hammock, smoke, sweat, and catch Malaria.”

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Kind thought. Steve. Was a great man. Thanks.

  9. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Okay, one more sea story, then that’s it, and this is at the risk of inflating Captain Sherlock’s head.

    Late 80s, or early 90’s word got out that the Navy, Marines, AF, and ANG were going to practice bomb the concrete ships off the Eastern Shore. A bunch of us took our boats and went to watch. We were greeted by USCG who marched us back about 1500 yards while they patrolled back and forth a couple 100 yards closer to the targets.

    The Navy planes nailed them. Bang on. As did The Marines. One after another, the planes approached and dropped their inert bombs hitting inside the concrete boxes.

    The AF planes made their approach and, let’s say, missed a little wide. Lots of slashes all around, a few on target The Coasties moved out, a little closer to us.

    Then the first ANG plane came in. After he made his drop, the Coasties went flying past us waving everybody back. It was exciting.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Dad’s Jupiters didn’t need to be terribly accurate….

      Yes, the Missing Man Formation does the goose bump thing for me very nicely, that and the riderless horse with the reversed boots which followed Dad’s caisson.

  10. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I have two good friends from WW2 still above ground. Mr. Al Gore, a WW2 Seabee was working on constructing barracks at Guam 75 years ago today. We talked today. He is looking forward to his 102nd birthday on September 17th. He enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor. Nascar Hall of Famer and owner of the famed Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. Mr. Bob Bluford was a WW2 Army Air Corps pilot and captain. He flew missions over Europe from an airbase in England. His plan was “The Flying Parson” since Bob was a Methodist preacher. Bluford was instrumental in reserving thousands of acres of civil war battlefield land for preservation. He too will be a 102 in October.

    I asked Mr. Gore today what he wanted for his birthday. He said a car so he could get the hell out of the nursing home.

  11. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    From With the Old Breed by Eugene B. Sledge 0n Okinawa, “the need to continually steel himself when moving from a brief respite in a rear position, back again into “the meat grinder”:

    “I found it more difficult to go back each time we squared away our gear to move forward into the zone of terror. My buddies’ joking ceased as we trudged grim-faced back into that chasm where time had no meaning and one’s chances of emerging unhurt dwindled with each encounter. With each step toward the distant rattle and rumble of that hellish region where fear and horror tortured us like a cat tormenting a mouse, I experienced greater and greater dread. And it wasn’t just dread of death or pain, because most men felt somehow they wouldn’t be killed. But each time we went up, I felt the sickening dread of fear itself and the revulsion at the ghastly scenes of pain and suffering among comrades that a survivor must witness.

    The increasing dread of going back into action obsessed me. It became the subject of the most tortuous and persistent of all the ghastly war nightmares that have haunted me for many, many years. The dream is always the same, going back up to the lines during the bloody, muddy month of May on Okinawa. It remains blurred and vague, but occasionally still comes, even after the nightmares about the shock and violence of Peleliu have faded and been lifted from me like a curse.”

    For more, see:

  12. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    NN. When I was a goofy college kid home for the summer I went out fishing in Pamlico Sound. I had strayed into a Marine bombing range. I actually got buzzed by an A6 Intruder.interesting.

  13. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    After learning that Japan has surrendered, and that he will not have to invade Japan, an 18 year old combat marine in the Pacific, a veteran of Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, writes home to his father in Kansas for the first time, since learning the surrender news.

    “… Not getting off the subject Dad, but today is the first day of world peace and to hear the folks all over the world by radio celebrating and rejoicing it makes me cry. It seems almost to good to be true … when they play the national anthem and the various service songs, it makes a guy feel like a million dollars.

    On the other hand, when I think of the guys that I actually saw fall never to rise again, I wish so much that there was some way we could show our appreciation. I’ve been with kids who were my own age, 18, and I’ve seen some of those kids die horrible deaths, but they died like real men. It seems that the average fellow worries more about how his folks will take it, rather than actually dying. I guess there is only a certain point that pain can go and no further, beyond this point it becomes all numbness. It seems that just at the end that the pain goes away and things begin to fade away, and, in each instance, that I’ve ever known, the dying man always passes away with murmurs of or about his savior on his lips. Most of these men are pretty rough and tough. But they’re about as meek as a lamb when dying. I guess the assurance of eternal life is really what makes death so much easier than one would believe.

    You know Dad, you may think I’m lying, but I was so positive of getting knocked off before dawn once that I could clearly envision Mom getting the government notice and promptly fading away. I could remember little Jimmie Teten too, and I figured that in a matter of hours I would see him and Uncle Will. I wasn’t afraid. I don’t know why but I wasn’t. Yet I was so positive of death. Lou’s rifle would not work. My bolt was fouled up because of all the sand in it. When shells half smother you up in the sand, why your weapon is only usable as a ball bat. But more than once one man has secured a nip or two that way. I had a batch of U.S hand grenades and a whole batch of Nip grenades that I got off a dead Nip officer … plus I had two combat knifes and one bayonet, a Nip bayonet that was mighty sharp.

    So you see I still had a lot of potential power, but even then a guy can’t get them all when they come like flies. Several attacks came but never got us. But if they had thrown all their strength in one rush, why old J. B. wouldn’t be writing this today, Dad.

    I could never be a doctor. It hurts me clear down to the bottom of my shoes to a see a guy in deep agony. One night it almost drove me mute with a guy was so badly hit that it was only a matter of minutes before he died. He kept screaming for a corpsman, and they were all dead themselves, the cry of a dying man cam be horrible … I hope we never have to go to war again, but I’m not too optimistic about those type of miracles. How about you Dad? …

    Now where was I – oh yeah – Sam just brought my mail – one from you two, one from Jo Ann, and one from Lois Geis. Jo Ann is as “giddy” as ever. Lois has finally arrived at California (Diego). So I guess you know where J. B. is heading on his first weekend leave. You mentioned Bev and Joyce visiting you two. Incidentally, just between you and I Dad, what is Bev like now …”

    For more, see

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