Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day) commemorates the announcement of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. Coming 3 months after Victory in Europe Day, V-J Day signaled the effective conclusion of the war in the Pacific and of World War II overall. It is typically observed on August 15, though the United States considers September 2 to be its official V-J Day.
Despite Japan’s defeat seeming imminent during the summer of 1945, it wasn’t until after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August—at nearly the same time that the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and attacked Manchuria—that Japan finally agreed to an unconditional surrender on August 10.
The American public first heard word of the surrender from a Tokyo radio report on August 14, 1945. Then, that evening, U.S. president Harry Truman made the official announcement about Japan’s capitulation. British prime minister Clement Atlee made his own announcement at midnight. Emperor Hirohito also addressed the people of Japan in a radio broadcast.
Crowds took to the streets across Allied nations to celebrate the end of World War II, including in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia (where the day was called Victory in the Pacific Day), New Zealand, Canada, and China.
A two-day holiday for August 15 and 16 was declared in many locations. Spontaneous celebrations on the 14th and 15th often gave way to more formal, pre-planned events on the 16th. In contrast to the celebratory crowds elsewhere, destructive riots broke out in San Francisco, California, and in Sudbury, Ontario.
Later Events & Observances
The formal surrender documents were signed on September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Although the war was over, it was still some months before the Allies had accepted the surrender of all the widespread Japanese garrisons.
V-J Day observances became less popular in later decades, due in part to controversy over the use of atomic bombs. The day is sometimes also referred to as Victory Day or the End of the War in the Pacfic.
Learn more about Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day) through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.