So on this joyous and unbelievable afternoon, George ran from Rita — the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen — grabbed the first nurse he saw, spun her around, dipped her and kissed her. Rita was just steps behind them, and in the photo she’s beaming. “A lot of people want to know what I was thinking,” she says. “It was a happy day; I was grinning like an idiot. The kiss really didn’t bother me at all. If I had been engaged, maybe.”
The photo "V-J Day, 1945, Times Square" was published in Life magazine. Knowing nothing about it, Friedman just kept on with her life; she left New York and moved to Frederick about 40 years ago. She did not realize until the 1960s, she said, that her impromptu kiss had been captured on film.
It was the kiss seen around the world, and Greta Friedman never saw it coming. In a new book published this week, Friedman, of Frederick, is identified as the woman kissed by a World War II sailor in a famous Life magazine photo printed more than six decades ago.
In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the administration of President Bill Clinton referred not to V-J Day but to the "End of the Pacific War" in its official remembrance ceremonies. The controversial decision sparked complaints that Clinton was being overly deferential to Japan and that the euphemism displayed insensitivity to U.S. veterans who as prisoners of war suffered greatly at the hands of Japanese forces.
Responding to critics clamoring for political correctness and sensitivity so that our Japanese neighbors wouldn't be offended, Rhode Island lawmakers made several attempts to either get rid of the holiday or, in the absence of its elimination, at least change its name. Each time the tremendous opposition of the state's citizens caused them to abandon their efforts. Three separate legislative bills introduced during the 1990s by State Senator Rhoda Perry attempted to change the title of the holiday to Rhode Island Veterans Day. "It was absolutely a no-winner," Perry was quoted as saying. "I did not have support, period."
Rhode Island is still celebrating Victory Day? Really? Rhode Island is still the only state in the country that observes the holiday previously known as Victory Over Japan Day or VJ Day. The holiday is held to observe Japan's surrender on Aug. 14, 1945 (North American time).
Critics of the holiday charge that it is discriminatory and want to remove all references to Japan and the Japanese people. The Associated Press quoted former Rhode Island State Representative George Lima as saying, "This is a stigma against the Japanese whom we do business with and are allies."
On the morning of 2 September 1945, the Allied and Japanese delegations met aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay for the formal signing of the surrender documents. After finishing an eloquent introductory statement, General MacArthur directed the representatives of Japan to sign the two instruments of surrender, one each for the Allied and Japanese governments. They were followed by representatives of the United States, China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. World War II had formally ended, and President Truman declared 2 September to be the official VJ Day.
On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped the first ever atomic weapon on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Japanese officials, despite the terrible consequences of the attack, convened to debate their next move. The United States waited three days before dropping a second bomb on Nagasaki. The Japanese then began talks directly with the United States and, although their government's decision was not unilateral, Japan had little choice but to surrender. The Soviet declaration of war on Japan (on 8 August 1945) and the nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima forced Japan to face the facts, and the Empire disintegrated.
VJ Day marked not only the end of the war in the Pacific, but also the end of World War Two. In Britain, huge crowds gathered to cheer King George VI and his Queen en route to Westminster for the opening of Parliament.
The embattled Japanese government in Tokyo refused to surrender, and on August 6 the American B-29 plane Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, killing more than 70,000 people and destroying a 5-square-mile expanse of the city. Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing another 40,000. The following day, the Japanese government issued a statement accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. In a radio address in the early afternoon of August 15 (August 14 in the United States), Emperor Hirohito urged his people to accept the surrender, blaming the use of the "new and most cruel bomb" on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the country’s defeat.
On 9 March 1945, northern Tokyo came under US fire. Tens of thousands of civilians died and 40 square kilometres of the city were razed. Japan's poor defences were revealed. And yet, still the Japanese refused to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration which demanded an unconditional surrender. The Japanese had asked Russia to act as intermediary for them at the Potsdam Conference, but Stalin was about to break the terms of the Russo-Japanese non-aggression pact (negotiated in 1941) and did not convey Japanese concerns. Without representation at Potsdam, Japan was doomed.
On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Since then, both August 14 and August 15 have been known as "Victory over Japan Day," or simply "V-J Day." The term has also been used for September 2, 1945, when Japan's formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. Coming several months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, Japan's capitulation in the Pacific brought six years of hostilities to a final and highly anticipated close.