Hearing the News of Victory

The three stories below describe how an average day was transformed into a cause for great celebration in both ordinary and unconventional settings. Leslie Prince Raimond heard the news while with her family on the beach, describing how the announcement—carrying in the wind from local Air Force Base speakers—sounded like a “voice from the heavens.” Fred Israel was on his way from his home in New York City to Naval service boot camp in the Great Lakes region when his train windows were lifted by civilians on the platform to pass around cases of liquor in celebration. Finally, Fenton Martin was in a U.S. port examining the destruction wrought by Japanese kamikaze pilots on aircraft carriers and destroyers when he heard the news that Japan had surrendered.

The War is Over—Leslie Prince Raimond

So the story that I would like to tell you all and that I do have a memory of, and the memory was always kind of vague and floating along, and I’d never really stopped to analyze it. But I do know that one time, I was at a beach, and a voice from the heavens came down (and this was an isolated beach which I’ll explain more exactly where it was) but this voice came from above which said, “The war is over, the war is over, the war is over,” And I’m with my mom, my sister, some cousins, and everybody’s screaming with glee. Later, much later like last week or something, I’m like how, what was I hearing? We were on this isolated beach. And as it turned out, we were not far from the Whidbey Air Force Base which blasted out over there, over the water. I think it was probably only a couple miles away or maybe only a mile that across the Puget Sound up in Washington state, this voice came out.

VJ Day on the Train—Fred Israel

So now I’m in the Navy. We were at Great Lakes for eight weeks, and then you get Boot Leave. So you come home. So I come home to New York City and then I’m going back to Great Lakes. And the day I’m going back to Great Lakes is August 15th, 1945 – the day the war ends. But we’re in a train. So we didn’t really know what was going on. And we pull into Altoona Pennsylvania. The platform is full of people. The train is full of people in uniform. On the platform – civilians. And we come in. And the doors of course open and they’re yelling ‘The war’s over! The war’s over! Japan has surrendered.’ And then they go like this [gestures] to pick up the windows. Now that’s before the days when they kept the windows closed for air conditioning purposes. And so the windows came up and they now started passing in cases of liquor. For the service men on the train. World War Two was total involvement of the population of the United States. And its children, and its fathers, and your brothers in the war. It was total.

V-J Day Announcement at Naval Yard—Fenton Martin

I was in the Navy yard working on a dock beside a naval vessel, I think a destroyer, as I recall. And the Navy yard was full at that time of destroyers and even some aircraft carriers that had come in for repairs after concentrated kamikaze attacks where you know the Japanese pilots would commit suicide by just dive bombing into the ships. The guts of those ships were just blown right out. And I remember walking by one of them when over the ship’s loud speaker system came, “We have an important announcement to make: the war is over. Japan has surrendered.” The head of the office, of course they had mechanical drafting boards and big tables so we had a huge room there with maybe a hundred draftsmen. And the head of the office was there as I came back in, and he was in the process of saying, “Well, it looks like we all better be looking for another job.” And he took his mechanical drafting board and turned it upside down, and everybody started laughing. But, of course, there was a riot of celebration, as much as you can do in an electrical drafting room. But, yeah, there was a great sense of pleasure and relief, because no doubt, the casualties were going to continue if we didn’t [end the war].