Featured in our museum’s timeline, this image depicts the relief experienced by American service members following the surrender of Japan.

AUGUST 15, 1945

VJ Day (Victory over Japan)

August 15, 1945, marked the momentous end of war in the Pacific Theater. Referred to now as “VJ-Day,” we remember this day as an occasion to commemorate Japan’s surrender.

Prior to the surrender, Japan was under incessant fire from the United States following the attack on Pearl Harbor. When presented with the opportunity to unconditionally surrender at Potsdam, Japanese leaders refused, prompting the United States and the Soviet Union to increase their firepower. Following a series of destructive events, including the demolition of two U.S. atomic bombs and the Soviet declaration of war on Japan, it was recognized that there was no possibility of victory. In the early evening of August 15, Japan accepted terms of the Potsdam Declaration, sparking a celebration throughout the Allied nations.

Following the surrender, British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, announced August 14 & 15 as days of national celebration for VJ-Day. Others acknowledge September 2 as VJ-Day, the date the official surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri.

Photo: National Veterans Memorial and Museum

AUGUST 16, 1940

National Airborne Day

Today we honor our nation’s Airborne Forces. After World War I, Brigadier General William Mitchell first conceived of the idea of parachuting troops into combat. In 1940, members of the Parachute Test platoon pioneered methods of combat jump at Fort Benning, Georgia. Since then, the U.S. has conducted approximately 20 large-scale combat parachute assaults in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard, CO, 30th Inf. Regt. (R) discusses military strategy with Lt. Gen. George S. Patton (L). Near Brolo.

AUGUST 17, 1943

The unofficial “Race to Messina” was won

Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, was a major campaign during which the Axis powers lost the island of Sicily to the Allies. In order to advance Operation Husky, the city of Messina needed to be taken by the Allies.

U.S. General George S. Patton was known for his determination and is said to have been one of the most successful combat generals in U.S. history. During WWII, he commanded the 7th Army and aimed to be the Allied leader to take Messina. Although Allied leader, British Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, and his 8th Army were instructed to take Messina, Patton pushed forward to win on his own.

Portrait of Peter Fechter around 1961, taken from his passport for a memorial in Berlin

AUGUST 17, 1962

A young man was killed trying to escape into West Berlin

Peter Fechter was a bricklayer who assisted in building the Berlin Wall. At 19 years of age, Fechtor and Helmut Kulbeik attempted to flee East Germany. However, Fechter was shot in the pelvis while climbing the wall. He laid in the street suffering for almost an hour receiving no aid or medical assistance, and later died from his injuries. Fechter’s death was one of the most famous deaths at the Berlin Wall, and sparked outrage in Europe. 

Portrait of Susan B. Anthony and Anne Fitzhugh Miller, two driving figures in the early women’s suffrage movement

AUGUST 18, 1920

The 19th Amendment was ratified

The struggle for women’s suffrage was marked by decades of intense and tireless protest. Women who found their political footing through the abolition and temperance movements shifted their focus to attaining their own rights in the 1800s, beginning with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, this initial meeting sparked a decisive drive within the hearts of women to participate in the democratic process. The process was slow; it took the women’s suffrage movement 31 years to drive the introduction of the 19th amendment in Congress, and most of the original organizers didn’t live to see the amendment ratified on August 18, 1920.

On August 18, we remember this momentous development in women’s rights and honor those whose bravery, persistence and dedication in the face of opposition won women the right to vote in our country.

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$1 Admission on Jan. 16 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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