Home Featured V-J Day: The world changed 77 years ago today

V-J Day: The world changed 77 years ago today

Good morning and thanks for joining us again, ladies and gents. We’re honored to have you start the day with us right here on The County Line. 

Today is a good day—for three specific reasons. 

First, we’re now back on a regular posting schedule after a few days of sporadic coverage. Please accept this apology for the lull in content, but do not fret, everything is—fingers crossed—now back to normal. 

Secondly, it’s Friday, so you know what that means. Crank the George Jones loud and proud because your motor is surely running for a wild weekend. It is our sincere wish for you to forget the workin’ blues and let the good times roll for two or three days. 

Last, but certainly not least, there is one other reason that this day is noteworthy. In a rare departure from the morning-post norm on this website, this is not an excuse to make jokes about a silly holiday few have ever heard of. No one enjoys writing about ridiculous wannabe holidays more than this guy, but today necessitated a sweeping change in the approach. The silly nonsense that this morning post was built on will return soon enough—perhaps even tomorrow morning—but Sept. 2, 2022 calls for a slightly more serious tone. This date is an important marker in American history.

Today is V-J Day, more formally known as Victory over Japan Day. 

Exactly 77 years ago, Japan signed surrender papers officially ending World War II. This is one of those rare instances where the course of history was immediately and significantly altered by a single event. I’m no historian, but I took a few John Peck classes in high school, so I feel qualified for this discussion. 

There isn’t enough time—and I’m not smart enough—to comprehensively examine V-J Day’s importance. There are nuances, backstories, and details that are better left to the Mr. Pecks of the world to explain. Instead, let’s look at just a few, broad ramifications resulting from V-J Day, both short- and long-term:

Japan’s surrender ended the defining military conflict of the 20th century, a war in which almost every country on earth chose a side and one that claimed more than 50 million lives (some estimates are as high as 80 million). The terms of the surrender forced immediate, radical changes in Japan. The country’s government was rebuilt as a democracy, and its economic and education systems were completely revamped. These changes put Japan on the track to economic prosperity—fueled by an innovative technology sector—that persists to this day. 

Of course, the end of WW2 did not bring world peace. After fighting two world wars over the preceding three decades or so, humanity immediately proved how little it learned from those lessons. Almost as soon as Japan surrendered, the world moved into position for WW3. Like picking new teams after a few pickup basketball games, countries quickly reconfigured their alliances and drew another line in the sand, kicking off a Cold War that would last another half-century. 

Maybe the best way to understand the magnitude of this moment is to imagine it never happened. If the Japanese had not surrendered when they did, would anything have been different?

One thing that surely would have been different is WW2’s death toll. The longer fighting continued, the higher those numbers would rise. America had to drop not one but two atomic bombs on Japan before they surrendered, killing approximately 200,000 people. Would we have continued with a third bomb? A fourth? Would it have gotten to the point that nuclear weapons became a commonly used military tool? It seems possible, and if that had happened, humanity might have wiped itself out by now. 

Would the Cold War, primed to pop off at WW2’s conclusion, have still happened if Japan continued fighting for a few more months, or a few more years? My best guess is yes, but it could have looked far different. Historians agree that the United States and Soviet Union—allies throughout WW2—were on a collision course to see who the world’s top power would be, but a lingering fight in the Pacific would have complicated the situation even further. From here, we could even speculate about the subsequent wars in Korea and Vietnam, both of which were products of Cold War ideology and alliances. Korea, in particular, is interesting because it was a colony of Japan throughout WW2. 

Ironically, Japan’s surrender benefitted Japan maybe more than any other country, at least in the long-term. This writer might be way off base with his relatively under-informed opinion, but there are at least some facts to back it up. 

WW2 decimated Japan economically. Factories were damaged or destroyed, and infrastructure was sorely lacking. Because they surrendered, however, the U.S. moved in to occupy and essentially oversee the development of a “new” Japan. America pumped money and resources into the rebuild; dictated a new, democratic constitution; and metaphorically greased the wheels of capitalism out of fear that the Soviets might make a play at introducing the country to communism. Within a few years, Japan had become the first fully industrialized nation in Asia. 

The result came to be known as the “Japanese economic miracle.” With newly built, state-of-the-art factories, few countries could compete with Japan’s efficiency in manufacturing. The country earned a reputation for pioneering new technology, and eventually boasted the second-largest economy in the world behind the U.S. 

This post was not meant to be a history lesson, but an acknowledgement of one of the defining moments of the past century. Once upon a time, V-J Day was a full-fledged, federally recognized holiday, a paid day off work and a reason to cancel school. As we sit here almost 80 years later, it’s easy to underestimate the magnitude of what V-J Day represents. I think it’s important to remind ourselves of these defining moments. 

If Japan had not surrendered, we might be sitting here today having never even heard of a Nintendo or PlayStation. That’s not a world I want to live in.

Let’s wrap it up. Here’s the intern with today’s weather report:

At 6:30 a.m., it’s a cool and cloudy 64 degrees at The County Line’s headquarters in Russell Springs. Intern correspondents report an identical temp reading of 64 in Jamestown, and it’s mostly the same in Columbia, just a bit warmer—66 degrees—outside the company’s Adair office. Expect the cloud cover to persist throughout the day, with a daytime high topping out in the mid-80s. No precipitation is expected. 

This post is dedicated to Brian Willis, who celebrates a birthday today. Congrats on another trip around the sun, Brian, and hopefully your day is full of fun and laughter!

That’s all for now. Thanks again for checking in with The County Line this morning, and keep your eyes peeled for more fresh content headed your way throughout the day—always from local voices. 

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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.