NEW ORLEANS (August 10, 2010) – On August 14, 1945 the world learned that Japan had surrendered, effectively ending World War II, a war that Americans thought would go on indefinitely. No newsflash in modern history has ever been greeted with such overwhelming celebration. The iconic images of happy throngs holding up the newspapers that would go into countless scrapbooks and frames, the impromptu parades, hands in the air forming a “V” for victory, and the iconic images from Times-Square – including one very famous kiss between a nurse and a sailor.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans plans to recreate some of those iconic moments on August 14, 2010 with a special V-J Day commemoration, V-J standing for Victory in Japan. Activities will consist of a commemoration ceremony, a rousing and patriotic performance by the Museum’s Victory Belles, an Andrew’s Sisters-style singing group, and a Times Square kissing contest where couples can recreate one of the most definitive images of VJ Day.
Those who can’t make it to New Orleans can visit the Museum’s can visit the Museum’s VJ Day gallery on Flickr.com to see other famous V-J Day photos. Facebook fans can also post their own pictures at www.facebook.com/wwiimuseum.
America had been determined to stay out of World War II until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 ignited the country with patriotism and the ideals that would characterize the war era. However, the road to victory was a long one and many Americans doubted the war would ever end. Spirits were buoyed by the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945, now known as V-E Day for Victory in Europe. But as eyes shifted toward an attack on the Japanese mainland, the war seemed to be far from over. It was the deployment of a new and terrible weapon, the atomic bomb, which forced the Japanese into a surrender that they had vowed never to accept.
Harry Truman would go on to officially name September 2, 1945, V-J Day, the day the Japanese signed the official surrender aboard the USS Missouri. But August 14 would continue to be celebrated around the world as the day the news spread throughout the world that war had finally come to an end. The day is still commemorated in Japan, Korea, Australia and other nations to varying degrees but has faded for the most part from the American calendar.
"You would be hard pressed to find a person who lived through that time that doesn’t remember where they were," says The National World War II Museum President and CEO, Dr. Gordon “Nick” Mueller. "The celebration spread through towns and cities of all sizes. But it was also a bittersweet day, a reminder of the 418, 500 Americans who wouldn’t be coming home. The National World War II Museum is dedicated to sharing their stories so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn."
Though World War II was the most pivotal event of the 20th century, the memory of the valor and sacrifice of America’s Greatest Generation grows harder to summon as the men and women who fought its battles both around the globe and on the Home Front are passing away. Veterans are dying at the rate of 800 a day, and vanishing with them: the personal stories of epic battles and deeds of sacrifice and heroism that museums, historians and future generations must keep alive.
Recognizing the importance of saving these stories for posterity, The National World War II Museum is committed to preserving veterans’ histories. Museum historians have recorded more than 3,000 personal accounts from every branch of service and theater – including more than 1,000 video accounts recorded in high definition. These powerful interviews include men and women of all ethnic backgrounds, and even some who fought for the Axis. The collection began with the work of author, historian and Museum founder, Stephen E. Ambrose.
Such stories are an invaluable source for historians, researchers, filmmakers and future generations and they now serve as a cornerstone for current and future exhibitions. The Museum is currently in the midst of a $300 million expansion that will quadruple the size of the campus.
In November 2009, thousands attended the grand opening of three new venues. The Solomon Victory Theater features the exclusive presentation Beyond All Boundaries, a 4-D, immersive experience created by The Hettema Group with Tom Hanks as Executive Producer. The Stage Door Canteen is a lively entertainment venue recalling the days when a weary soldier could find food and fellowship at remarkable venues where A-list entertainers boosted morale. The American Sector – a Chef John Besh restaurant, draws delicious inspiration from the foods that characterized mid-century America and became staples of our modern cuisine.
Future expansion plans include the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion (Summer 2011), United States Freedom Pavilion: Land, Sea & Air (Spring 2012) and the Liberation Pavilion as well as a hotel and conference center.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.