Saturday, 13 August 2016

VJ Day 1945

On VE day in May 1945, while the nation celebrated and partied, British and Commonwealth Armed Forces continued to fight in Burma, Singapore and Thailand. Japan had yet to surrender. It was a bloodied, ferocious few months, which finally came to an end following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: POW camps, & work on the Death Railway
The British Forces over there had been stuck for three solid years, as even on a three day leave, it was simply too far to come home. They would only see their homes once victory in Japan was achieved. 

There were around 300,000 Allied POWs in Japanese camps, and of these only 200,000 would survive. Life in those camps was extremely harsh with torture and executions being commonplace. Their rations were extreme too, with many surviving on meagre amounts of boiled rice and river water. As a result, disease was rife - beriberi, dysentery and malaria were common.

Many, if not all of the men were in a poor state of health and extremely weak and yet they were forced to work on the infamous Thailand-Burma Railway, known as the Death Railway. Around 16,000 POWs died during its construction, along with more than 80,000 Asian labourers. Also built by the POWs was the Wampo Viaduct, which the POWs called "Hellfire Pass" because of how it looked at night by torchlight.
Wampo Viaduct "Hellfire Pass" Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The railway was constructed so the Japanese could send supplies to their army, and thus avoid shipping. As part of the route would take the railway across a river, a bridge had to be constructed. The first wooden bridge was completed in February 1943 by POWs, and a few months later, they replaced it with a steel bridge, the same bridge you see there today.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Bridge on the River Kwae
On the 6th August 1945, at 08:15 local time, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. A B-29 Superfortress bomber, by the name of 'Enola Gay' was piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbetts. The bomb, codenamed "Little Boy" caused horrific widespread death and destruction, killing approximately 80,000 people and wounding many more.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: Colonel Tibbetts just prior to his mission.
Sixteen hours later, President Truman called for Japan to surrender, informing them to "expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth."
On the 8th August, Russia declared war on Japan and invaded the Japanese state of Manchukuo. Later that day, the US dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The primary target had originally been Kokura, but due to bad weather it was amended.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: "Little Boy" the mushroom cloud rose to more than 20,000 feet

On August 14th, Emperor Hirohito addressed his Empire on the radio where he announced the surrender of Japan to the Allies. The next day, 15th August 1945 was celebrated as VJ day.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: Hiroshima
On September 2nd, 1945, Japan's Emperor, Hirohito, accepted the terms of surrender, signalling Japan's capitulation. This brought the war in the Pacific to an end, and also Japan's colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. Hirohito signed the surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay as his aides looked on, weeping.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Japanese surrenders on USS Missouri
King George VI said, "The surrender of Japan has brought to an end six years of warfare which has caused untold loss and misery to the world. "
Crowds swarm in front of Buckingham Palace VJ Day 1945
That unforgettable Sailor's kiss in Times Square on VJ Day 1945
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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