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Victory! Americans Everywhere Celebrated the End of World War II in 1945

(Today’s post is from Jim Worsham, editor of Prologue magazine, the quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, and is based on a longer article in the Summer 2015 issue.)

President Harry Truman reads the Japanese message agreeing to unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945. (Harry Truman Library)

President Harry Truman reads the Japanese message agreeing to unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945. (Harry Truman Library)

President Harry S. Truman watched the clock closely, wanting to abide by the agreement to make the historic announcement at the same time as our Allies in London and Moscow.

At exactly 7 p.m. Eastern War Time on August 14, 1945, Truman revealed Japan’s response to the Allied demand for unconditional surrender.

The announcement the world was waiting for came just a few days after atomic bombs fell on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the opening shots in the nuclear era.

The emperor of Japan, the statement read, had agreed to unconditional surrender to the Allies. The President then appointed Gen. Douglas MacArthur supreme commander in Japan and the Pacific and who would officially accept Japan’s surrender September 2, 1945.

American servicemen and women gather in front of “Rainbow Corner” Red Cross club in Paris to celebrate the conditional surrender of the Japanese on August 15, 1945. (111-SC-210241)

American servicemen and women gather in front of “Rainbow Corner” Red Cross club in Paris to celebrate the conditional surrender of the Japanese on August 15, 1945. (111-SC-210241)

 

New Yorkers in Little Italy celebrated the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945. (208-N-43468; National Archives Identifier 535794)

New Yorkers in Little Italy celebrate the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945. (208-N-43468; National Archives Identifier 535794)

The euphoria that erupted May 8 when Truman announced the Germans had surrendered unconditionally, ending the war in Europe, erupted again. Now, it was much more full throated than before.

The Second World War—the deadliest and most destructive war in history, referred to by generations as simply “The War”—was officially over. The official day of celebration would be September 2, when the Japanese signed the surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Ships loaded with war-weary veterans of the European theater headed for Japan could turn back. The high casualties predicted for an invasion of the Japanese mainland would not happen.

Children who had never seen their fathers or uncles or big brothers would soon see them coming home in uniforms with dufflebags on their shoulders. The rationing of everything from gasoline to food would come to an end. No more blackouts. No more round-the-clock watching for enemy planes or submarines.

Gaunt Allied prisoners of war, waving flags of the United States, Great Britain, and Holland at Aomori camp near Yokohama, Japan, cheer rescuers from the U.S. Navy on August 29, 1945. (80-G-490444; National Archives Identifier 520992)

Gaunt Allied prisoners of war, waving flags of the United States, Great Britain, and Holland at Aomori camp near Yokohama, Japan, cheer rescuers from the U.S. Navy on August 29, 1945. (80-G-490444; National Archives Identifier 520992)

When the war was over, some 60 million to 80 million people, depending on which data are used, had died in battle, because of starvation or disease, or as victims of crimes against humanity. It was about 3 percent of the world’s population then.

The roster of war dead included about 420,000 Americans—in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, and elsewhere. The American toll amounted to about three-tenths of one percent of the United States’ population, but the war took its toll from nearly every American city, town, village, and rural area.

Within minutes of Truman’s announcement on August 14, people began celebrating—spontaneously, enthusiastically—in many ways.

Two million people squeezed into New York City’s Times Square, always a measure of public excitement, in a celebration that went on for several days. Paper rained down on them, conga lines snaked around, and people kissed anybody in sight.

The Chicago Tribune reported that a man climbed a ladder to light an 18-foot-tall solid wax victory candle that had taken three months to make. In downtown Chicago, a half-million people crowded into the Loop, singing and dancing down the main streets.

Amid the celebrations and homecomings, however, was apprehension of what was to come. The abrupt end to the war had also ushered in the nuclear age, with all its possibilities and fears that the next war would be even more deadly than the one we just won.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Behind him are American Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainright and British Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival, both of whom were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese. (80-G-348366; National Archives Identifier 520694)

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Behind him are American Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainright and British Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival, both of whom were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese. (80-G-348366; National Archives Identifier 520694)

America’s great industrial sector had converted to bombers, tanks, and rifles for the war. Now, it would reconvert to automobiles, household appliances, and a new kind of appliance people heard about that would change their lives—television.

As soldiers and sailors put away their uniforms, they married and started families (their children would become known as “baby boomers”). The GI Bill would help them buy a home and get a college degree, something previously obtainable only by the upper classes.

Labor unrest resulted from returning GIs looking for jobs and unions demanding higher wages. And fighting and killing were over. For now.

 

The-Amarillo-Globe-Aug-14-45-short


On Display: The Japanese Instrument of Surrender

Today’s post comes from Darlene McClurkin, from the National Archives Exhibits staff.

Signing the Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945. (General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives)

Signing the Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945. (General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives)

On September 2, 1945, in a formal ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, representatives of the Japanese government signed this Instrument of Surrender, officially ending World War II.

The terms called for “the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated.” Although it preserved the Japanese Imperial House.

Signing for Japan was Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff.

General Douglas MacArthur, Commander in the Southwest Pacific, signed for the United States and accepted the surrender in his capacity as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz also signed for the United States.

Then representatives from eight other Allied nations signed, including the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The ceremony took less than 30 minutes.

General Wainwright unveils exhibit of surrender document, September 12, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 4477174)

General Wainwright unveils exhibit of surrender document, September 12, 1945. (64-NA-421; National Archives Identifier 4477174)

After the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was presented to President Harry S. Truman at the White House on September 7, 1945, it was put on exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and it was later formally accessioned into its holdings.

Both pages of the original Japanese surrender documents will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. from August 27 through September 3

From September 4 through October 28, the original first page will be on display with a facsimile version of the signature page.

Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945, page 1. (Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Archives)

Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945, page 1. (Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Archives Identifier 1752336)

Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945, signature page. (Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Archives)

Instrument of Surrender, September 2, 1945, signature page. (Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Archives Identifier 1752336)

 


The First Dog, Fala Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fala, and MacKenzie King at Quebec, Canada for conference, 9/11/1944. (National Archives Identifier 196995)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fala, and MacKenzie King at Quebec, Canada for conference, September 11, 1944. (National Archives Identifier 196995)

In celebration of National Dog Day, today’s post comes from Meagan Frenzer, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum maintains documents of critical participants within the FDR administration.

This list includes prominent figures such as Frances Perkins, Harry L. Hopkins, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and, surprisingly, President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala.

The Scottish terrier became a national figure as President Roosevelt’s loyal, four-legged companion.

When his distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley gave the terrier as a Christmas gift in 1940, President Roosevelt renamed the terrier Murray the Outlaw of Falahill after his famous Scottish ancestor.

Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt and the late President Roosevelt's dog, Fala, at the dedication of the Franklin D. Roosevelt home at Hyde Park, New York, 4/12/1946. (National Archives Identifier 199362)

Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt and the late President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala, at the dedication of the Franklin D. Roosevelt home at Hyde Park, New York, April 12, 1946. (National Archives Identifier 199362)

Shortened to “Fala,” the terrier accompanied the President on trips and attended key meetings, including the 1941 Atlantic Charter Conference.

Fala enjoyed entertaining international dignitaries and famous visitors with his tricks.

In his travels, Fala met British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Queen of the Netherlands, and Mexican President Manuel Camacho.

During World War II, Fala served as an honorary Army private and became the national president of Barkers for Britain, which created chapters for dog lovers to help the war effort through membership donations.

Letter from a school child to Daisy Suckley  asking to explain how Fala can get mail from his K-9 mother and brothers. (FDR Library)

Letter from a school child to Daisy Suckley asking to explain how Fala can get mail from his K-9 mother and brothers. (FDR Library)

The Roosevelt Library holds thousands of letters sent to Fala by people and animals from across the country.

Daisy Suckley, who was also his trainer, acted as his appointed secretary and helped Fala answer his fan mail.

The library needed five document boxes to hold all of Fala’s correspondences.

In addition, the library holds the draft for the famous “Fala Speech.”

The “Fala Speech” was President Roosevelt’s response to the allegations by Republicans that the President ordered a destroyer to retrieve Fala when the terrier was left behind on an Aleutian island.

In a speech to the Teamsters Union, Roosevelt said:

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him—at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars—his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself . . . But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.

After President Roosevelt’s death, Fala lived with Eleanor Roosevelt until his death in 1952.

Fala was buried on what would have been his 12th birthday in the Rose Garden at the Roosevelt Library alongside the President in Hyde Park.

Fala-related items are on permanent display at the Roosevelt Library and Museum.

For more information about Fala, visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum or read the article “Fala and the Barkers for Britain” from the Winter 2006 issue of Prologue Magazine. 

FDR at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, NY, August 8, 1940. Fala is 4 months old. (FDR Library)

FDR at a picnic on “Sunset Hill” near Pine Plains, NY, August 8, 1940. Fala is 4 months old. (FDR Library)

Fala's Grave  Fala, FDR's famous Scottish terrier died on April 5, 1952 and is buried in the Rose Garden at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park. (Courtesy of the FDR Library)

Fala’s Grave
Fala died on April 5, 1952, and is buried in the Rose Garden at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, NY. (Courtesy of the FDR Library)


Talk #POTUSvacation with us on Twitter!

Work can be stressful, especially when you’re the Commander in Chief.  Each President has sought a place to relax from the rigors of the White House. George Washington escaped to Mount Vernon, and for the next two weeks the Obama family is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.

This summer, we invite you to explore Presidential vacations!

Let's GoThe Presidential Libraries have film footage, photos, letters, schedules, artifacts, and much more that provide a fascinating view into POTUS vacations. You can choose your own adventure on Instagram and chat with us on Twitter.

On Wednesday, August 19, join us for a #POTUSvacation Twitter chat!  Presidential Library archivists and curators will be on hand to answer your questions and share stories from:

We’ll also be joined by:

We look forward to chatting with you!

 


The 60th Anniversary of the Presidential Library Act of 1955

Today’s post comes from Meagan Frenzer, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Presidential Libraries Act of 1955, August 12, 1955. (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

Presidential Libraries Act of 1955, August 12, 1955. (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

Signed into law on August 12, 1955, the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 (PLA) established a system to preserve and make accessible Presidential records through the creation of privately erected and Federally maintained libraries.

The precedent for the PLA began with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Before President Roosevelt’s terms, Presidential records were considered private property, which Presidents took with them upon leaving office.

They then donated the papers to repositories like the Library of Congress, or their collections remained at their estates.

President Roosevelt hoped to change this tradition by creating a single location where all of his papers would be available for the public.

He proposed the creation of a library, which would be donated to the U.S. Government. This library would then come under the control of the National Archives, which was established during Roosevelt’s administration.

FDR speaking at the dedication of the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, June 30, 1941. (FDR Library, National Archives)

FDR speaking at the dedication of the FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY, June 30, 1941. (FDR Library, National Archives)

Though President Roosevelt’s actions regularized the procedures of preserving the papers of future Presidents, other Presidents encountered difficulties when trying to emulate their predecessor.

For instance, governmental budgetary concerns regarding Presidential libraries slowed the transfer process for President Harry S. Truman’s Presidential materials. Truman therefore had to bring his materials with him back to Kansas City, Missouri, after his Presidency.

The Federal Records Act of 1950 hoped to fix these issues by allowing the Government to accept deposits of Presidential papers. But the act proved unsuitable for Truman’s donation.

In January 1955, David Lloyd, a Truman aide, sent Archivist of the United States Wayne Grover a draft resolution that would authorize the Government to accept the Truman Library.

Harry S. Truman at Groundbreaking for Truman Library,  May 8, 1955. (National Archives Identifier 6789287)

Harry S. Truman at the Truman Library groundbreaking, May 8, 1955. (National Archives Identifier 6789287)

Grover revised Lloyd’s draft to allow the Government to accept libraries from any President, past or future.

He also inserted language that allowed states, universities, foundations, and institutes to become partners with the Government in establishing Presidential libraries.

Grover was the primary witness speaking in support of the act when it came before Congress. No one testified in opposition, and the legislation passed without controversy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 into law.

Since its passage, the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 has been used 13 times to bring Presidential libraries into Government control.

For more information about the Presidential Libraries Acts, read the Prologue article The Presidential Libraries Act after 50 Years.

The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, accepts custody of the George W. Bush Library on April 24, 2013.

Archivist of the United States,David Ferriero accepts custody of the George W. Bush Library on April 24, 2013.