I just finished reading “No Ordinary Time” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. As I mentioned in my last article, it concerns the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and gives a bird's-eye view of the leadership during World War II.
Because of my reading, a square on the calendar for Aug. 14 caught my eye. In it is written “Japan Surrenders, end of WWII.”
Hmmm, I thought, “Isn’t VJ Day Sept. 2, when the war ended?”
Turns out both dates have a valid claim because Aug. 14 was the day Japan cabled the United States its surrender. Aug. 15 was the day when all the spontaneous celebrations with the sailor kissing the girl in New York City occurred. Sept. 2, 1945, the official date of VJ Day, was started with a ceremony and formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay.
From the many calendars that come to our address, my calendar of choice the last few years is one sent by the Disabled American Veterans. I like the column on the left side that lets me write memos to myself, which my failing brain survives on.
Each national holiday is marked in the left corner by a waving American flag. This year, VJ Day has a flag in the corner only because it is the same day as Labor Day. Last year, the acknowledgement is written in, but on VJ Day no flag appears. Somehow that seems wrong.
The people who make the calendar are not at fault. It is “we the people” who are happy to have any old holiday to finish up the summer. The intent of Labor Day has diminished into a marker to end summer. Many businesses stay open, creating another day of work for many. We swim, boat and picnic. It’s a fun day if you have it off.
The day was created to give the workers of America a day to honor them for their contributions. While this is a noble idea, putting the two days side by side as they were last year, it didn’t seem right that Labor Day had a flag and VJ Day did not. The two should at least be combined, and perhaps we should also add 9/11. A case could be made for that day as well.
In her book, Goodwin calls World War II “the most destructive war in history” with an unimaginable 50 million people who lost their lives. She says, “The Soviet Union lost 13 million combatants and 7 million civilians. The Germans calculated losses of 3.6 million civilians and 3.2 million soldiers. The Japanese estimated 2 million civilian and 1 million military deaths. Six million Jews had been killed. The number of British and commonwealth deaths is calculated at 484,482.”
The United States suffered the fewest casualties, but still our number was large at 405,399. To bring it into perspective in today’s world, those numbers are like wiping out every person in Oakland, Calif., Minneapolis or Miami.
In the Pacific Theater, one battle, the battle for Saipan, took the lives of 14,000 Marines. In the Atlantic Theater during the fierce battle for Normandy, 6,600 U.S. servicemen died on only the first day.
Besides the loss of so many lives, people made great sacrifices of time, energy and resources to keep Germany and Japan at bay. They mostly took it all in stride until the subject of stopping the manufacture of women’s girdles to save rubber. A great howl went up, and the government backed down. They found the women didn’t mind being “Rosie the Riveter,” but they needed to do it in a girdle.
This article will in no way persuade Congress to enact a new holiday, as it seems to continue at loggerheads. My hope is perchance with these few reminders, some of you may decide to fly a flag on any or all of the days in remembrance for those who gave their all.