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The road to VJ Day

Events leading up to J day, 1945. Spring/summer: Allies increased military pressure on Japan, bombing 60 cities and towns. large numbers were killed in the first attack on Tokyo. Plans for a land invasion of Japan were drawn up. 28th July: The Allies issued an ultimatum to Japan – the Potsdam Declaration – which was ignored. 6th & 9th August: The USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people and causing long-lasting devastation. 8th August: The USSR declares war on Japan. 10th August: The Japanese government indicated it would sign the Potsdam Declaration. 15th August: Emperor Hirohito announced on the radio that Japan would accept the terms of Potsdam Declaration. 2nd September: The surrender is formally signed, ending WW2.

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VJ Day – marking Victory in Japan at the end of the Second World War – takes place on 15th August in the UK.  The USA marks the day on 2nd September when the formal surrender was signed.

VE Day – Victory in Europe – took place in May 1945, when Germany and Italy surrendered. However, the war between the Allied Forces and Japan continued until August. On VE Day, Churchill reminded the British public that the country should  ‘not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead’.

The different dates, only three months apart, highlight the wide geographical range of the Second World War. The first phase of the war took place in Europe. However, in December 1941 Japan attacked British territories in Hong Kong, Malaya (now Malaysia), Singapore and Burma (now Myanmar), and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the USA into the war.

By June 1942, Japan had occupied much of South East Asia and the Pacific.  Singapore fell in February 1942. British and Indian forces fought a long campaign in Burma and eventually re-took Rangoon (now Yangon) and Mandalay.

After a sustained military campaign, and the devastating use of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the USSR declaration of war on Japan, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced on the radio on 15th August that Japan would surrender. This is the day which is today marked in Japan as ‘the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace’.

The formal surrender ceremony took place on 2nd September on the American battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The Allied Supreme Commander Douglas Mac Arthur signed the document, along with others.

Click on the boxes below to explore this online display:

Liberation of Prisoners-of-War  Able Seaman Harold Lock

Private Raymond Suttle  VJ Day in Suffolk

Researching Second World War ancestors

Interested in researching your family’s history during the Second World War? Then use our introductory guide to getting started with researching this period of our history.