Columnist Recalls City’s Reaction to News That War Was Over

The August 14, 1945 Johnson City Press Chronicle headline with “PEACE” written across the top of it in large bold letters said it all: “Japan Bows; War Over” – Washington, Aug. 14 (AP) – President Truman announced at 7:00 p.m. EWT (Eastern War Time) tonight. – Japanese acceptance of surrender terms. They will be accepted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur when arrangements can be completed.”

The event would become known as “V-J Day.” The yellowed with age and frayed paper went on to say: “The Press Chronicle suggests you preserve this war-end edition, which will become valuable through the years as a memento of one of the high points of history. Peace, now coming into being after nearly six years of warfare may last forever. This is the fervent hope of people the world over and is not an empty hope. World collaboration plus military and scientific achievement have brought us to the point that we must and shall live in peace”. Fortunately, my dad complied, saving the entire newspaper.

Although the First World War was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” it failed to do so. Why then were we naive enough to think the second one would bring lasting peace for all mankind. The Korean conflict punctured that fragile bubble within a few years.

The cost of the global war was high in several respects. From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, 16 million of 160 million Americans were in uniform; 400 thousand lost their lives; and 700 thousand were wounded. The entire world celebrated the end of fighting especially the military personnel who played an active role in the bitter clash.

Johnson City conducted its own celebratory party. According to the paper: “Shortly after the official announcement was broadcast, after only about 10 minutes warning that something important would be told, Johnson Citians unleashed its long pent-up spirits and the raucous sounds of automobile horns, boys’ bicycle bells, whistlings and wahoos started in earnest. The first signs of celebration were heard in the western end of town.

“Meanwhile, as firecrackers popped and automobile horns blasted, the cities observance of victory over Japan took another line. Church doors opened for services one hour after reception of the announcement at 8:30 p.m. so that thanksgiving and worship might have their day. Ministers and fighting men's families gathered in prayers for the living and the dead in churches of their choice.”

I vaguely remember the exciting event. Grandpa Cox took Grandma, Mom and me for a ride in his “old brown Dodge,” as the family called it. We drove all over town celebrating with others the end of the war. Vehicular horns were blaring everywhere. My assignment was to sit on Grandpa’s steering column and blow his horn.

I truly did not understand what was happening; the war was over and servicemen were coming home. My grandparent’s son, my mom’s husband and my dad would soon be on his way to Johnson City. Although I was too young to remember him when he went into service, I routinely “wrote” him through Mom’s letters.

Although to some extent I recall the festivities surrounding V-J Day, I have no recollection of any commemoration associated with V-E (Victory Over Europe) Day on May 8, 1945, probably because of my age. 

The reality of the war’s culmination for me came a few months later when a handsome young man wearing an OD (Olive Drab) green uniform and carrying a large duffle bag anxiously entered our front door Gardner Apartment into the waiting arms of his loving wife.