Favorite images for VJ Day, August 15

August 15, 2013

August 15, 1945, was VJ Day — the day that World War II ended in the Pacific Theatre. VJ is an acronym for Victory Japan. Victory in Europe, VE Day, was declared the previous April.

VJ Day is affiliated with a series of images that students of U.S. history should recognize; these images tell much of the story of the day and the events of the weeks leading up to it.

The most famous image is Alfred Eisenstadt’s photograph of an exuberant sailor kissing a swept-off-her-feet- for-the-moment nurse in Times Square, New York City. This is one of the most famous photographs from the most famous photographer from Life Magazine:

The Smack Seen 'Round the World, photo by Alfred Eisenstadt, Life Magazine, 8-15-1945

The Smack Seen ‘Round the World, photo by Alfred Eisenstadt, Life Magazine, August 15, 1945

Eisenstadt coolly titled his photo “VJ Day, Times Square.” It came to be known as The Smack Seen ‘Round the World. It was fitting that the photo would be taken by Eisenstadt, since his work came to be a symbol of Henry Luce’s Life Magazine in a pre-television era when photography magazines like Life and Look were key news organs for the nation.

In a fun and continuing mystery, several people have claimed to be the sailor, or the nurse, through the years.

Before the victory celebration, there had to be a victory. Japan asked for conditional surrender discussions, but the Allied forces insisted on unconditional surrender. Japanese military officials were rather certain that, if the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War, Allied victory would be assured. Japan hoped to either get a conditional surrender agreement, according to some sources, or inflict heavy losses on Allied forces to get better surrender conditions, but before Russia entered the war. Russia and Japan had long-standing grudges against one another dating from before their earlier war in the first decade of the 20th century.

Read the rest of this entry »


2012 Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, still “infamous”

December 7, 2012

Encore and traditional post, mostly, from December 7, 2006 with updates.

1941 AP file photo, small boat rescues victims from U.S.S. West Virginia

Caption from Naval History and Heritage Command: Photo #: 80-G-19930
Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48) during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard of the sunken battleship.
Note extensive distortion of West Virginia’s lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location.
Also note 5″/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia’s foremast.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Today is the 71st anniversary of Japan’s attack on the U.S.’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Many Americans fly their U.S. flags today.  The date is not one specified in law for flag-flying.  President Obama issued a proclamation asking citizens to fly flags at half-staff today.

Our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, ran a front-page story on survivors of the attack in 2006, who have met every five years in reunion at Pearl Harbor. [December 7, 2006] was their last official reunion. The 18-year-olds who suffered the attack, many on their first trips away from home, are in their 80s now. Age makes future reunions impractical.

In 2010, it is estimated that fewer than 4,000 veterans of Pearl Harbor still live to remember, though, of course those surviving do.

From the article:

“We’re like the dodo bird. We’re almost extinct,” said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then – on Dec. 7, 1941 – an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.

Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178 others, that plunged the United States into World War II and set in motion the events that led to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I suspect not many people have thought about this, but we’re witnessing history,” said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. “We are seeing the passing of a generation.”

Another article notes the work of retired history professor Ron Marcello from the University of North Texas, in Denton, in creating oral histories from more than 350 of the survivors. This is the sort of project that high school history students could do well, and from which they would learn, and from which the nation would benefit. If you have World War II veterans in your town, encourage the high school history classes to go interview the people. This opportunity will not be available forever.

There is much to be learned, Dr. Marcello said:

Dr. Marcello said that in doing the World War II history project, he learned several common themes among soldiers.

“When they get into battle, they don’t do it because of patriotism, love of country or any of that. It’s about survival, doing your job and not letting down your comrades,” he said. “I heard that over and over.”

Another theme among soldiers is the progression of their fear.

“When they first got into combat, their first thought is ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ The next thought is ‘It might happen to me,’ and the last thought is ‘I’m living on borrowed time. I hope this is over soon,’ ” Dr. Marcello said.

Dr. Marcello said the collection started in the early 1960s. He took charge of it in 1968. Since Dr. Marcello has retired, Todd Moye has taken over as the director.

Other sources:

While this is not one of the usual dates listed by Congress, you may fly your U.S. flag today.

End of 2006 post —

Other resources (2007):

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery - from the Panoramas of World War II site

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery – from the Panoramas of World War II site

More, 2012:


2010 Anniversary of Pearl Harbor – Remembering

December 7, 2010

Encore post, mostly, from December 7, 2006.

1941 AP file photo, small boat rescues victims from U.S.S. West Virginia

Caption from Naval History and Heritage Command: Photo #: 80-G-19930
Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48) during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard of the sunken battleship.
Note extensive distortion of West Virginia’s lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location.
Also note 5″/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia’s foremast.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Today is the 69th anniversary of Japan’s attack on the U.S.’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Many Americans fly their U.S. flags today.  The date is not one specified in law for flag-flying.

Our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, ran a front-page story on survivors of the attack in 2006, who have met every five years in reunion at Pearl Harbor. [December 7, 2006] was their last official reunion. The 18-year-olds who suffered the attack, many on their first trips away from home, are in their 80s now. Age makes future reunions impractical.

In 2010, it is estimated that fewer than 4,000 veterans of Pearl Harbor still live to remember, though, of course those surviving do.

From the article:

“We’re like the dodo bird. We’re almost extinct,” said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then – on Dec. 7, 1941 – an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.

Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178 others, that plunged the United States into World War II and set in motion the events that led to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I suspect not many people have thought about this, but we’re witnessing history,” said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. “We are seeing the passing of a generation.”

Another article notes the work of retired history professor Ron Marcello from the University of North Texas, in Denton, in creating oral histories from more than 350 of the survivors. This is the sort of project that high school history students could do well, and from which they would learn, and from which the nation would benefit. If you have World War II veterans in your town, encourage the high school history classes to go interview the people. This opportunity will not be available forever.

There is much to be learned, Dr. Marcello said:

Dr. Marcello said that in doing the World War II history project, he learned several common themes among soldiers.

“When they get into battle, they don’t do it because of patriotism, love of country or any of that. It’s about survival, doing your job and not letting down your comrades,” he said. “I heard that over and over.”

Another theme among soldiers is the progression of their fear.

“When they first got into combat, their first thought is ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ The next thought is ‘It might happen to me,’ and the last thought is ‘I’m living on borrowed time. I hope this is over soon,’ ” Dr. Marcello said.

Dr. Marcello said the collection started in the early 1960s. He took charge of it in 1968. Since Dr. Marcello has retired, Todd Moye has taken over as the director.

Other sources:

While this is not one of the usual dates listed by Congress, you may fly your U.S. flag today.

End of 2006 post —

Other resources (2007):

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery - from the Panoramas of World War II site

USS Missouri Memorial – Main Battery – from the Panoramas of World War II site


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