History Explains Why the U.S. Marks VJ Day as September 2, 1945, Instead of August 15, 1945

Library of Congress

By David Vergun

August 14. August 15. September 2. September 3. In most countries around the world, depending on where you are, one of these four days is recognized as VJ Day, or Victory over Japan Day.

In Australia, this celebration is called VP Day, or Victory in the Pacific Day.

For those who were not alive during World War II (or were very young), these various VJ Day date observations and names can seem confusing and rather conflicting at first. However, the different date observations and names simply come down to semantics and a better understanding of what happened during each of these days during the end of WWII.

When is VJ Day in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada and South Korea?

Today, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom and several other nations commemorate August 15 as VJ Day.

On August 15, 1945, local time, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito broadcast the surrender to the Japanese people on Radio Tokyo. August 15, 1945, marked the end of the fighting and the beginning of the lengthy process of officially ending WWII.

Because of time zone differences, many countries outside of Japan heard word of this surrender broadcast on August 14, 1945, and informally celebrated in real-time.

(Fun fact: August 14, 1945, is when the famous kissing photo was taken in New York City’s Times Square.)

Despite any informal celebrations that occurred, many nations, including those mentioned above, also chose to formally commemorate this announcement a VJ Day as a holiday the next day, August 15.

When is VJ Day in Australia and Why is it Called VP Day?

Lois Anne Martin (center) on VP Day. Martin knitted the red, white and blue vest she is wearing especially for VP day and never wore it again. | Photo credit Australian War Memorial

Interestingly, in Australia, August 15 is called VP Day, or Victory in the Pacific Day. There is even a famous photo taken in Melbourne, Australia, on August 15, 1945, of an Australian woman wearing a “VP Day” sweater. According to Australian government records, she made the garment specially to wear on the day the war was officially over and allegedly never wore it again.

Despite popular myth, August 15 has never been called VJ Day in Australia.

When is VJ Day in the U.S.?

In the U.S., VJ day is officially acknowledged on September 2, 1945. This day marked the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Japan’s Tokyo Bay.

China and Taiwan also designate Sept. 2 as VJ Day.

Photo credit National Archives

Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the Japanese army’s general staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters on the battleship USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.

When is VJ Day in the Philippines?

The Philippines mark September 3, 1945, as VJ Day because on that date Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, military governor of Japan to the Philippines, surrendered.

Regardless of what day it is commemorated or the name it is given, the anniversary of the end of WWII is as important to acknowledge today as it was in 1945.

- USO Senior Content Marketing Manager Sandi Gohn also contributed to this report.

-This story first appeared on defense.gov. It has been edited for USO.org in 2021.

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