Three quarters of a century ago, the bloodiest, most costly war in human history came to an end with the unconditional surrender of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. VE (Victory Europe) with the German surrender had occurred on 8 May, some four months earlier. The war was finally over.
The world was exhausted after some seven years of war in Europe and in the Pacific. The attempt of those two powers to rule the world had taken millions of lives, destroyed the economies and infrastructures of most of Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Far East countries of China, Korea, Vietnam, and hundreds of islands in the Pacific. The free world, which had united against the ruthless forces of totalitarianism had finally brought those forces to their knees and the world could begin to breath a true sigh of relief for the first time in years.
The cost in human treasure, the unselfish sacrifices of millions of American and allied soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen had finally defeated the most existential threats to universal human freedom in history. A total of 405 thousand of our military and their families paid the ultimate price for that freedom. Some 671,278 of them had been wounded. Worldwide, some 20 million people had been killed and 21 million wounded: 9.7 million military and 10 million civilians. A total of 5.7 million military members of the Allied forces were killed.
The joy that burst forth on September 2, 1945 across the United States was unprecedented. It was like a pressure valve had been released. Everything stopped, millions went to the streets and engaged in spontaneous celebrations. This video captures the celebrations that broke out in several of the countries major cities that day, immediately after President Harry S. Truman went on camera to declare the unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the Allies.
The surrender took place on the deck of the decorated battleship, the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. A video of that event is included here.
We once again honor and give our thanks to the Greatest Generation for their courage, their love of freedom, their dedication to take the fight to the enemy until the end. They came home and went to school, and built the strongest economy the world had ever seen.
We pray that the world will never see another world war. Indeed, we pray also, as we should, for the end of all war. We pray also for the undaunted courage to treasure and to strengthen our commitment, as a people united in the pursuit of the transcendent values that are enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, so that we can truly be a light shining on a hill, a model of liberal democracy, human decency and humble generosity of spirit to all the world.