The history and meaning behind V-J Day

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What's V-J Day?

Victory over Japan Day is the anniversary of Japan's formal surrender to the Allies. In August of 1945 news of the surrender was announced and celebrations erupted all across the US.

On September 2, a formal surrendering ceremony was held aboard the USS Missouri.

See photos of V-J Day celebrations in the United States:

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V-J Day celebrations
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The history and meaning behind V-J Day
Servicemen in Times Square, New York, were happy as they read the newspaper extras announcing the Japanese Domei News Agency's broadcast saying Japan was ready to accept unconditional surrender under the Potsdam conference terms if Emperor Hirohito could retain his prerogatives, Aug. 10, 1945. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)
A couple embraces amidst thousands of merrymakers as they celebrate on V-J Day in downtown Euclid Ave. in Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 14, 1945. The celebration followed U.S. President Harry Truman's official announcement that the Japanese had surrendered, ending World War II. (AP Photo)
A sailor and a member of the Women's Army Corp, after trading caps, do a "Victory Jive" on New York's Broadway, Aug. 14, 1945 after the news of the Japanese surrender had been announced. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)
Servicemen celebrate the announcement of the Japanese surrender with bottles of Three Feathers Whiskey in Washington, D.C., Aug. 14, 1945. (AP Photo)
Paper litters Seventh Avenue at 35th Street in New York's Garment District as workers began celebrating after it was announced Japan had accepted the Allied surrender terms on Aug. 14, 1945.(AP Photo)
The Japanese surrender to the Allies aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945. General Douglas MacArthur hands the pen to Lieut. Gen. Arthur E. Percival after signing surrender papers. (AP Photo)
Representatives of the Allied nations stand at attention as General Douglas MacArthur speaks, prior to the signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945. (AP Photo)
This is the scene aboard the battleship Missouri as the Japanese surrender documents were signed in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945. (AP Photo)
FILE--Carl Muscarello, center, who claims he is the sailor in the famous LIFE photo by Alfred Eisenstadt taken on V-J Day Aug. 14, 1945 of a sailor and a nurse kissing in Times Square, poses with his sisters in Coney Island in 1945 in this family handout photo. Edith Shain, the nurse, agrees Muscarello was the sailor in the photo. (AP Photo)
Chinese Americans on Mott and Pell Streets in New York's Chinatown celebrate the Japanese surrender on V-J Day, Aug. 14, 1945. (AP Photo/Tom Fitzsimmons)
UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 01: Lady Charles Cavendish and American soldiers, Sgt V.J. Baietti, Sgt Thomas D. Lockner and Sgt H.R. Sarro of Texas. (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
New York City celebrating VJ Day at the end of World war Two in Japan 1945. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
14th August 1945: A sailor blows a horn during the VJ Day celebrations in Times Square, New York. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
August 1945: Boy meets girl in the unleashed joy of the VJ Day celebration. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
A couple hug in the crowd celebrating the surrender of Japan on VJ Day, during World war II, September 2, 1945. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day) on Jackson Square, Oak Ridge. August 1945. The town of Oak Ridge was established by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Clinton Engineer Works in 1942 on isolated farm land as part of the Manhattan Project. The site was chosen for the X-10 Graphite Reactor, used to show that plutonium can be extracted from enriched uranium. Tennessee, USA. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)
View of crowds gathering in Times Square to read the news of Japan's surrender on V-J (Victory in Japan) Day, New York City. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Outside the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens Greece. Photo is part of a Panorama 360 for use on the service. It is used in conjunction with promotin to the 2004 Summer Olympic games.
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Sailor and his girl share a victory kiss in Times Square on VJ Day. (Photo by Phil Greitzer/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
2nd September 1945: An American air display in the sky over the USS Missouri on VJ Day. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
Floats in a parade marking the first anniversary of VJ Day pass the Governor, Sir Franklin Gimson, on the steps of the Municipal Building, Singapore, 25th September 1946. (Photo by R. Lock/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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When is V-J-DAY?

Well that depends who you ask and where you are. Some say it's August 14th or 15th (the UK celebrates on August 15th) -- that's when word of the surrender made it to American soil and images like this one made the front page of papers across the country. President Truman declared September 2nd to be V-J Day in the US. Rhode Island, the only state that recognizes Victory Day as a state holiday.

How Did We Get Here?

In December of 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack. Immediately following, the United States officially entered World War II - over two years after the war began.

Victory Over Japan Day didn't come until 1945 after the United States dropped two atomic bombs in the country. The Enola Gay dropped the world's first nuclear weapon to ever be used in war on the city of Hiroshima. Just days later a second a-bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki.

Over one hundred thousand people lost their lives in the bombings that led to the Japanese surrender. These remain the only nuclear weapons to ever be used in warfare.

Somewhere around 60 million people lost their lives during World War II - some estimates go upward to 80 million. V-J Day commemorates the end of the deadly war.

See recreations of the famous V-J Day kiss:

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V-J Day Kiss in Times Square 1945 & recreations
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The history and meaning behind V-J Day
In this photo provided by the U.S. navy, a sailor and a nurse kiss passionately in Manhattan's Times Square, as New York City celebrates the end of World War II, on August 14, 1945. The celebration followed the official announcement that Japan had accepted the terms of Potsdam and surrendered. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
German-American photographer and photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt poses at the opening on May 5, 1986 of an exhibition of his famous pictures taken for "Life" magazine at the Kultur Kontor der Hamburger Hanse Vier, in Hamburg, Germany, with one of his best know photographs taken during the celebrations of V-J Day in Times Square, New York on August 1945. (AP Photo/Jockel Finck)
Carl Muscarello and Edith Shain recreate their original pose from the famous 1945 Life Magazine photograph by Alfred Eisenstadt, in New York's Times Square Sunday, August 13, 1995. Times Square, billed as the Crossroads of the World, will again be the site as the city throws a block party to commemorate VJ-Day, 50 years ago. Times Square is where the moving headlines broadcast the words "Japan Surrenders," "War Ends" and "Peace" on Aug. 14, 1945. The messages touched off an impromptu celebration that had people kissing and hugging and dancing in the streets. (AP Photo/Frank Ross) <%% 0 PICTURE_OK HEADER_OK 0 2 %%>
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Army National Guard Capt. Ben Summers and girlfriend Elizabeth Booher kiss as they join dozens of couples in Times Square for a group kiss on the anniversary of the end of World War 2. Summers, an Afghanistan War veteran, also proposed to his lady friend as the couples mimicked the famous shot, captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, of a sailor kissing a nurse on Broadway on V-J Day, 62 years ago. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA – September 7, 2008 : Per and Dorene Piencka, (CQ) of Norwalk, CT, make a kissing pose for their scrapbook next to J. Seward Johnson's sculpture 'Unconditional Surrender' next to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier at the San Diego Embarkadero. Unconditional Surrender, which is 25 feet high and weighs 6,000 pounds, is a three–dimensional interpretation of a photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a Sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, New York City on Aug. 14, 1945, following the announcement of V–J Day. TheEmbarcadero is a popular scenic section of waterfront located next to the downtown area. It has sweeping views of San Diego Bay and many tourist attractions. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A couple kisses beneath "Embracing Peace", a 25-foot-tall sculpture by Seward Johnson, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in New York's Times Square. The sculpture is inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day. Aug. 14, 1945, was the day fighting with Japan ended. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Gredorieo Smith and Berity Rees (right), a couple on lunch break, join dozens of other couples in Times Square for a group kiss on the anniversary of the end of World War 2. The couples mimicked the famous shot, captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, of a sailor kissing a nurse on Broadway on V-J Day, 62 years ago. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Edith Shain, foreground right, the nurse in the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York's Times Square on V-J Day, tries to imitate the photo's embrace with Nick Mayo, foreground left, a member of the cast of the musical South Pacific as they pose with other South Pacific cast members at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, Sunday Nov. 9, 2008. Shain, 90, is in New York to serve as the grand marshal of the 2008 New York City Veterans Day parade. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
People speak next to a famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York's Times Square on V-J Day, right, as they visit the exhibition of German-American "Life" magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt at Moscow's Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The June 17, 1996, issue of The New Yorker magazine, with a cover showing two male sailors locked in a passionate kiss in Times Square, went on sale Monday, June 10, 1996. The provocative sketch is a lampoon of the famous Life magazine photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, who shot a euphoric World War II sailor kissing a nurse in the square on V-J Day. (AP Photo)
Imtiaz Zainule, right, of New York, looks up as he poses for a picture with Nicole Dhillon, of New York, under the sculpture "Unconditional Surrender," on Friday, May 21, 2010 in San Diego. The sculpture, by J. Seward Johnson, commemorates the iconic image by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, during the celebration to mark V-J Day, the end of World War II. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14: Carl Muscarello and Edith Shain, who claim to be the nurse and sailor in the famous photograph taken on V-J Day, kiss next to a sculpture based on the photograph in Times Square to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II August 14, 2005 in New York City. Alfred Eisenstaedt took the famous photograph in Times Square but did not note the names of the people in the picture. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The statue entitled Unconditional Surrender stands tall in the parkway along the waterfront Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 in San Diego. The statue, which was modeled after a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt taken in Times Square on V-J Day at the end of World War II, is schedule to be moved at the end of the month. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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