On Saturday at 11am at the Te Awamutu Memorial Park Sunken Cross, the Te Awamutu RSA will be holding a ceremony to commemorate this important occasion - Victory in Japan, VJ Day. Veterans are asked to please wear medals and meet at the Sunken Cross by 10.45am.

The following brief summary by Alistair Kerr outlines the lead-up to the Declaration of Peace in the Pacific.

By July 1944, the American campaign to counter the southward advances of the Japanese forces in the western Pacific were beginning to show some successes, in such encounters such as the battles of the Coral Sea, Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, the Japanese bases had been captured and the forces were being driven northwards.

In fact, the Allied High Command was now in a position to consider an eventual attack on the Japanese mainland. Their first consideration was to secure bases closer to Japan and the selected area was in the Marianas Group. Three islands there being preferred, Saipan, Tinian and Guam, with Iwo Jima and Okinawa being closer to Japan. Iwo Jima and Okinawa, were seen, as one writer describes them, as "being unsinkable aircraft carriers which had no need to turn into wind to launch their planes".


This choice was backed by the availability of a new long-range bomber, the Boeing B-29 which had the range to make the return trip to Japanese targets. Within a few months the first three islands had been occupied, but at the cost of learning a hard lesson.

It is well documented that the Japanese Bushido code of honour considered surrender shameful and death honourable, which was demonstrated beyond belief by the Japanese army units defending these islands. Once the islands had been occupied by an overwhelmingly larger force of the US military, the Japanese took cover in the myriads of caves which were available and they could only be flushed out by means of napalm and flame throwers.

To compound the situation, the Japanese were either killing off the civilian population who wanted to surrender and, worse still, were either "brainwashed" or physically driven to jump off precipitous cliffs onto jagged rocks or into the sea.

To the Allies this was a clear indication that if this sort of resistance was encountered away from the mainland, how much more intense it would be if they were defending their home soil?

The Japanese High Command lost no time in making it clear that is exactly what the population, led by the Emperor whose word was seen as divine and must be obeyed, would do.

The US High Command evaluated the situation and realised that an all-out invasion of Japan would result in the cost of literally millions of lives, both American and Japanese.

Another factor was the emergence of the kamikaze tactic when Japanese pilots used their planes as guided missiles for suicide attacks on US warships. (As an aside, one of our local RSA members, the late Ron Powell who was a Royal Marine on the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable, had a miraculous escape when the ship was hit by one of these attacks).

In the meantime America had developed the atomic bomb and while, as yet, they had no clear idea of its destructive potential, they also saw it as a weapon which had enough power to demonstrate what might well happen if Japan did not surrender.


Because the Japanese War Cabinet remained defiant, vowing to defend their country to the last man, woman and child, the decision was made to deploy the bomb.

At 0800 hours on August 9, 1945 the B-29 "Enola Gay" with Colonel Paul Tibbetts in command banked slightly over the city of Hiroshima and commenced her bomb run. At 0815 hours the bomb was released and a flash of light lit up the world and our world would never be the same again.

Even after learning the horrible results, the Japanese Government remained defiant and the decision was made to drop a second bomb, this time over Nagasaki.

Then there followed a tense few days. Within the Japanese Government there were three factions, one which advocated the "No surrender-fight to the end" policy, another wanted complete but conditional surrender, while a third group saw that, given the mighty forces ranged against them, that surrender could only be unconditional.

The deadlock was broken by Emperor Hirohito who saw the practicality of the third option. In an Imperial Rescript he told his people that they would have to accept the previously unacceptable and accept the Allied terms.

The Rescript was broadcast and published on August 1945 and war in the Pacific ceased on August 15, 1945.