DAYS GONE BY: World War II ends

At 7:01 a.m. Washington time, President Harry S. Truman made the long awaited announcement that Japan’s unconditional surrender had been accepted by the Allied Nations. August 15, 1945 – a day to be remembered. Pandemonium broke out all over the allied world when the good news was heard. WW II was over! 

Sirens sounded, bells rung, factory whistles blown, engines in railroad yards sounded off and motorists ran down their car batteries by blowing their horns. People stood on porches all over America and banged on tin pans cheering the news.

President Truman followed his announcement with the declaration of a two day holiday for all federal employees, who he said had “labored along and been ever faithful and thus, were entitled to a rest”. Businesses everywhere quickly followed suit.

The war manpower commission immediately announced the lifting of all restrictions on employment. The Draft Board announced that draft quotas would be cut from 80,000 to 50,000 a month. And, the rationing of gas was lifted.

V-J Day (Victory over Japan) would not be set until after General MacArthur had received the signatures of the Japanese on the peace document, however, President Truman designated the next Sunday as a national day of prayer and services were held in churches throughout America.

Baldwin received the surrender news in typical fashion. The town siren shrieked continually for over an hour. It was reported in the Lake County Star that “Clyde Wilkinson’s oil run tooted its whistle for several minutes. Church and school bells rang and even the obsolete fire bell added its anemic clatter. Strings of autos paraded the streets with horns tooting, headed by the forestry and conservation fire trucks with their sirens wailing.” 

Surprisingly there was no disorder reported. There were only a few drunks as the liquor store ran out of whisky and had closed. Party-goers did jimmy the time control for the noon siren, so Fire Marshall Jess MacDougall had to shut it off and re-time it.

It was reported that Baldwin merchants had jumped the gun in celebrating V-J Day. They received the news on the early morning radio broadcast and immediately closed their doors for the day. Only the post office, Lake County Bank, Bob’s Five and Ten, Moon Mullens Tavern, the ice cream parlor, drug store and one gas station remained open. The Lake County Star cited “the bread trucks were besieged on the street and a farmer with a load of vegetables and fruit sold out at the curb.”

In Luther the folks greeted the news by also sounding their fire siren and ringing church and school bells. Two huge bonfires were built on the main street which was blocked off for what was then called a “pavement dance”. Temple Townsend, who served with the Engineers in India and Machinist Mate Dan Smith of Okinawa who had recently returned home, led the dancing.

General MacArthur who emerged from retirement to take command in the far west Pacific was named the commander of the Allied Forces. He traveled to Japan to receive the formal surrender and to direct the demobilization of the Japanese forces. He acted through the Emperor Hirohito and his word became law in the Orient.

On Sept. 2, 1945, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was formally signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. V-J Day was official. World War II had ended!