Victory in the Pacific Day (VP Day) is commemorated each year on August 15. Also referred to as VJ Day (Victory over Japan), VP Day commemorates the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces on 14 August 1945.
The following day, 15 August 1945, Prime Minister Ben Chifley announced the end of the war.
“Fellow citizens, the war is over… Let us remember those whose lives were given that we may enjoy this glorious moment and may we look forward to a peace which they have won for us.”
Earlier in the year, on 7 May 1945 (a week after the death of Adolf Hitler) the Germans surrendered to Allied forces. Prisoners of war were being liberated and Australian sailors and aircrew began their long journey home.
However, despite the end of the war in Europe, the fighting in the Pacific continued.
On 6 August 1945, an offensive by United States B-29 bombers began, dropping two atomic bombs on Japanese cities, the first on Hiroshima and the second three days later on Nagasaki. The offensive destroyed both cities with more than 200,000 people killed.
Devastated by allied bombings, and with the looming threat of invasion, the Japanese Government accepted an unconditional surrender with a formal surrender signed aboard the deck of the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945, in Tokyo Bay.
The announcement of Japan’s surrender triggered celebrations in the streets and in homes across Australia.
Australians had been at war for over 5 years, and the Victory in the Pacific marked the end of Australia’s involvement. Almost one million Australians served in World War II, with approximately 40,000 lives lost.
In this live broadcast from the streets of Sydney just an hour after the official news had come through, ABC reporter (and later General Manager) Talbot Duckmanton describes the scenes of jubilation before him from the ABC’s ‘mobile studio’ set up at Martin Place. If you’ve ever wondered what the end of World War II meant to ordinary Australians in 1945, take a listen to this clip:
With the war over, men and women who had played such a vital role in wartime, now returned home to be husbands, fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. Their homecoming saw them faced with a new challenge, the challenge of adjusting to a post war life as a civilian.