What victory might we not want to celebrate?

Not everyone wants to celebrate Victory in Japan, or VJ, Day. Many people have always thought less of the War in the East  than of the War in Europe against the Nazis. This is partly because it was far away and because it came a few months later than VE Day (Victory in Europe). Even at the time, many people had finished celebrating ‘the end of the War’ by the time they heard of the defeat of Japan. They were getting on with everyday life. The term ‘The Forgotten War’ was used quite soon after it ended.

Was Victory in Japan less relevant?

The Japanese did not seem to pose as obvious a danger to Britain as the Germans, due to the facts of geography. What of the long view? Thinking on a worldwide scale, you might argue that Japanese imperialism was as big a threat as the Nazis. Where would ‘the Empire of the Rising Sun’ have ended, had Japanese forces continued their run of victories?

Remembrance Day. It is not victory that we remember.

Remembrance Day. It is not victory that we remember.

Should we be ashamed of this victory?

The war against Japan ended soon after the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on that county. One was on Hiroshima, the other on Nagasaki. The devastation was enormous, as was the human suffering. Some regard these acts as war crimes, but nobody ever holds victors to account. However, we must remember that the Americans used atomic weapons after a long ‘conventional’ war. Many Japanese people had died, as well as British, American and other allied soldiers.  Countless civilians of many nations, from Manchuria to Burma, had also died and others suffered terribly. Would it have been more humane to allow the war to continue for several more years? If that had happened, it is likely that as many Japanese people would have died from starvation as from any other cause. Many more allied servicemen and civilians would also have died.

Would a kinder victory have been possible?

People who have studied the Japanese Samurai culture believe that the nation would never have surrendered but would have fought to the last man. Prior to accepting defeat, once it became inevitable, the Japanese Army would probably have killed all prisoners and many other non-combatants, before committing mass suicide. As it was, even after the atomic bombs had been dropped, most Japanese leaders were reluctant to surrender. The Emperor had to give a clear order to make it happen. Only his absolute authority was sufficient for the purpose. That is why the allies left him in place afterwards. Any attempt at arresting or punishing him would have led to total resistance.

As with any war, there is much to regret about the one with Japan, but we should celebrate the allied victory.