“Celebration of V-J Day, 08/14/1945”

“I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese Government…”

At the White House, President Truman announces Japan’s surrender. Abbie Rowe, Washington, DC, August 14, 1945. 79-AR-508Q.

At 7 pm on August 14, 1945, President Harry Truman stood before reporters gathered at the White House and announced the unconditional surrender of Japan. The Pacific War was over.

Although the formal signing of the terms of surrender ending World War II would not occur until September 2nd,  the announcement of Victory Over Japan Day, or V-J Day, sent millions of Americans— citizens and members of the armed forces, out into the streets of cities and towns across the country and around the world .

In Washington, DC, people had gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, to wait and listen for Truman’s announcement. Later, people jammed the streets of downtown Washington, DC.  An article in the September 7, 1945 issue of Yank Magazine described the scenes of joy, as well as sorrow, many felt that day of that day:

“This capital city…relaxed its worn nerves and celebrated the winning of the war with a screaming, drinking, paper-tearing, free-kissing demonstration which combined all the features of New Years and Mardi Gras..Not everyone on the streets was demonstrative either…a middle-aged white-haired man with a Scottist burr remarked sadly, ‘You know soldier, it’s a nice celebration, but I lost two sons—two sons. It might be a joke to some, but.’ And the middle-aged man shook his head and walked slowly away.”

You can see some of these scenes in the film preserved and made accessible by the National Archives, titled “Celebration of V-J Day, 08/14/1945.”

The majority of scenes in this silent film are ones of celebration—at first subdued, as people sit and mill around Lafayette Park waiting for Truman’s announcement. A bit later, the scene turns more raucous as the Navy camera crew moves downtown, with more of the type of activity Sgt. McGurn recounts in his Yank Magazine article.

The film is part of a series from Record Group 428 NPC, Department of the Navy, Naval Photographic Center.  Over 15,000 entries from this series are listed in our online public access catalog, OPA, with over 1,500 films available for viewing online.

The catalog description for “Celebration of V-J Day” contains, like many films in the series, fairly detailed shot lists.  Shot lists usually list and describe the visuals seen in a film. The majority of shot lists we have in OPA originated from the descriptions in the Naval Photographic Center’s original card catalog.

The shot list for “Celebration of V-J Day”  has a good summary about the types of shots in the film, but not a lot of detailed information such the names of people or specific filming locations.

The film provides us with some visual clues–for example, shots of the Capitol Theater tell us some scenes were filmed near the corner of  13th and F Streets, NW in downtown Washington. The Capitol’s movie marquee tells us one of the movies playing at the theater was “Murder He Says ,” but what about some of the other locations or people we see in the film? See someone or someplace you recognize? Help us identify them through NARA’s Citizen Archivist initiative.

“Celebration of V-J Day” is one of the many special media records-film, audio recordings and still images which document the events of that day.

An item from the WTOP Radio Broadcast Collection is one example. WTOP, a Washington radio station, was at the time owned by the CBS network. The audio clips below are from an item in the WTOP Collection (Local ID 200-WTOP-835), and include “on the spot” coverage of V-J Day activities in Washington. Their mobile transmitting unit can be seen in some of the shots in “Celebration of V-J Day.”

In the first clip,  WTOP correspondent Bill Henry reads Truman’s statement of Japan’s surrender. Click play to listen:

In the second clip, WTOP correspondent Chris Coffin describes the celebration near the White House.  Click play to listen: 


One thought on ““Celebration of V-J Day, 08/14/1945”

  1. I was in London during the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of V-J Day in 1995. (I was in London to do research at the then-Public Record Office.) Several barges were placed on the Thames over the course of some miles, from which fireworks blasted for seemingly forever. This to the accompaniment of war-era music being blared over a huge PA system. I witnessed all of this literally standing on the center stripe in the middle of Tower Bridge. The night capped off with “We Will Meet Again” and “Pomp and Circumstance,” and it was really quite moving to hear thousands of people sing along. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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