This is everything you need to know about VJ Day and when it takes place in 2020

This is what you need to know about VJ Day (Photo: IWM)

VE Day celebrations are underway as Friday 8 May marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

While VE Day marks the end of World War II in Europe, VJ Day, which takes place later in the year, signals the end of the war entirely, when Japan finally surrendered.

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This is everything you need to know about VJ Day - from when it takes place to why the Japanese forces backed down.

What is VJ Day and when is it?

VJ Day stands for Victory Over Japan Day and it marks the day on which Imperial Japan surrendered in World War II, which in effect, brought the war to an end.

In the UK and the US, VJ Day is celebrated on different dates.

The initial announcement of Japan’s surrender was made on 15 August 1945, which is why the UK marks VJ Day on 15 August each year.

However, the surrender documents were officially signed on the USS Missouri battleship on 2 September 1945, which is why America celebrates on 2 September instead.

In Japan, the day is known as the “memorial day for the end of the war”, and is observed on 15 August.

How is VJ Day linked to VE Day?

VE Day stands for Victory in Europe Day, and it refers to the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945, after nearly six years of war.

Despite the battle against the Nazis coming to an end, and Hilter dead, Japan stood firm and war continued to rage on in the Pacific where Japan, a key German ally, fought off the advancing US army.

The Japan surrender didn’t come until after the German surrender, and this marked the end of World War II entirely, which is why there’s a separate day of remembrance and celebration.

Why did Japan surrender?

The Japanese surrendered from World War II following the fallout of the atomic bombs the Americans dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively.

The Allied leaders issued Japan something called a Potsdam Declaration, which called for the unconditional surrender of their armed forces.

Previously, Japan had not accepted these terms, but following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito (posthumously called Emperor Showa) decided to accept the declaration.

In the declaration, there was a promise of “prompt and utter destruction” if the armed forces of Japan didn’t surrender, and the use of weapons of mass destruction against Hiroshima and Nagasaki backed up this threat.

It wasn’t only the bombing from the US that secured Japan's surrender - an attack from the Soviet army was a huge factor as well.

While the Soviets had been allied with Britain and the US in the fight against Hitler, they weren’t actually at war with Japan at the time when the country was issued the Potsdam Declaration.

In fact, the Soviet Union and Japan had signed a neutrality pact in 1941, which benefited both sides during the war.

However, this changed on 9 August, the day of America’s atomic attack on Nagasaki, following the bombing of Hiroshima a few days earlier.

The Soviets broke their pact with Japan, and implemented a massive invasion of its territories, which took out huge numbers of Japanese soldiers.

Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, decided to do this because Stalin had made a promise to British and American leaders to join the war against Japan following the defeat of Nazi Germany.

According to American historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, the Soviet Union’s attack destroyed Japan’s hopes that they could end the war with help from Moscow.

Hasegawa said: “The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation.”

On 2 September, 1945, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was formally signed on board USS Missouri.

How do people in the UK celebrate VJ Day?

The UK celebrates VJ Day in a similar fashion to VE Day, with commemorations for those who fought in the war.

The 75th anniversary of VJ Day would usually be celebrated with the likes of parades, remembrance events and other celebrations.

The VJ Day government website says: “Veterans of the Far East campaign will be at the heart of commemorations as the nation thanks them for their service and sacrifice.

“Events will also pay tribute to the tens of thousands of service personnel from across the UK and the Commonwealth who fought and died in the war against Japan, including all those who were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese.”

However, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it might be likely that VJ Day 75 celebrations might be put on hold in the same way that VE Day celebrations have.

The government will announce its plants to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day in the coming weeks.