The history and meaning behind V-J Day

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V-J Day Refresher

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:

12 PHOTOS
V-J Day celebrations
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The history and meaning behind V-J Day
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:

5 PHOTOS
V-J Day Kiss in Times Square 1945 & recreations
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The history and meaning behind V-J Day
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)
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)
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)
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