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Labor Day Marks 74th Anniversary of Japan's WWII Surrender

Sept. 2, 2019 | BY David Vergun

As the United States enjoys its Labor Day holiday, it's also marking the 74th anniversary of the formal and unconditional surrender of Japan.

V-J Day — short for Victory over Japan Day — is observed in the United States on the anniversary of the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Japan's Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

Japanese officer signs document.as Allied officers look on.
Instrument of Surrender
Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the Japanese army’s general staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters on the battleship USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945. Watching from across the table are Army Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind MacArthur.
Photo By: National Archives
VIRIN: 450902-O-ZZ999-004C

Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Korea and the United Kingdom celebrate Aug. 15, 1V-J Day. On that date in 1945, Japan's Emperor Hirohito broadcast the surrender to the Japanese people on Radio Tokyo.

China and Taiwan recognize Sept. 2 as V-J Day. The Philippines mark Sept. 3 as V-J Day, because on that date, Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, military governor of Japan to the Philippines, surrendered.

The USS Missouri, where the formal surrender documents were signed,  was Fleet Adm. William Halsey's flagship for the last weeks of the war. The battleship's name, Missouri, was also the home state of then-President Harry S. Truman.

Aboard the Missouri, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur signed the Instrument of Surrender for the United Nations, and Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz signed for the United States. Halsey, MacArthur and Nimitz were five-star officers. There are currently no five-star officers in the U.S. military.

U.S. general signs document as other officers look on.
Instrument of Peace
Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs the Instrument of Peace as supreme commander of the Allied powers during the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945. Shown behind MacArthur are Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, left, and Lt. Gen. A.E. Percival, British commander of Singapore.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 450902-O-ZZ999-003C

The Japanese signatories of the surrender were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the army general staff.

The formal ceremony was witnessed by delegates from the other allied nations, including China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, France, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Japanese civilians in formal attire and officers in uniform stand on battleship deck with Allied service members standing nearby.
Japan Ceremony
The surrender of Japan ceremony, officially ending World War II, takes place aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 450902-O-ZZ999-001C

Of note, the flag that flew aboard the Missouri that day was the same U.S. flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

On the bulkhead near the ceremony, Navy Commodore Matthew Perry's 1853 flag was displayed. The significance is that 1853 was the year when the original Treaty of Japan was signed. 

The ceremony itself was brief, lasting a mere 30 minutes. A Navy chaplain gave an invocation, and a recording of the national anthem was played. The spectacular, which also included singing, also featured hundreds of American carrier- and land-based airplanes flying over the Missouri as the sun broke through the clouds.

The surrender document is on display in the National Archives in Washington, along with other important documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Massive crowd celebrates.
Times Square
A crowd gathers in New York’s Times Square to celebrate Japan’s surrender, marking the end of World War II, Sept. 2, 1945.
Photo By: Library of Congress
VIRIN: 450902-O-ZZ999-002C

An addendum to the formal signing: the Treaty of San Francisco, which formally ended the state of war between Japan and most allied nations, including the United States, didn't go into effect until April 28, 1952. That's also the date that officially ended the American-led Allied occupation of Japan.

Today, Japan is a valued U.S. ally.