City rejoices after Japanese surrender

WAY BACK WHEN

Back Story

Taking Note of History

August 13, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

We interrupt this broadcast for a special bulletin ..."

This was what a war-weary world had been waiting for ever since Japanese aircraft appeared over Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, launching the attack that brought the nation into World War II.

In the wake of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August, Japan's military leaders vowed to continue fighting on while the country's six-member Supreme Council debated surrendering.

It was Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki who finally took the surrender issue to Emperor Hirohito, who declared that "continuing the war means destruction for the nation and a prolongation of bloodshed and cruelty in the world. .... We must bear the unbearable. I swallow my tears and give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied proclamation."

The Japanese emperor announced on radio on Aug. 14, 1945, that his country would accept the surrender terms.

It was midnight in the United States, and late-night revelers listening to Cab Calloway and his band over the Mutual Broadcasting System heard the show interrupted and an announcer breaking in to say: "Flash. Japanese radio has just been heard announcing the acceptance of surrender terms. The war is over!"

(The war wasn't officially ended until President Harry S. Truman formally accepted the surrender at the White House that evening at 7.)

"Ladies and gentleman, this is the end of World War II," said a jubilant Robert Trout, the veteran CBS Radio correspondent whose familiar voice and frontline reports had taken listeners from the London Blitz to the end of the Pacific war.

The 5,000 workers on the night shift at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyard knew it was official when yard whistles broke into protracted screams. Immediately, the public address snapped to life urging workers to remain on the job.

But it was not a time for listening to high-sounding words, or for working either. For most of the workers it was a time to get home to families and friends who could share their joy -- not unmingled with a sense of loss and insecurity.

A cheering, milling crowd of more than 200,000 Baltimoreans jammed into Sun Square at Baltimore and Charles streets.

"War plants closed, traffic stopped dead in the center of the city and thousands hurried either to the streets to celebrate or to churches to offer prayers of Thanksgiving," reported The Sun.

The Glenn L. Martin Co. became the first Baltimore war plant -- 30 minutes after Truman announced victory -- to announce a return to the pre-war, 40-hour, five-day workweek.

Automobile horns blew cheery notes as crowds swirling through the streets caused streetcar motormen to bring their cars to a halt. The jubilant crowd rang cow bells and blew noisemakers as confetti fell in a blizzard from office buildings.

A soldier grabbed a young woman at Light and Baltimore streets. "I came all the way from Okinawa for a kiss from you," the soldier said.

Unfazed, the woman quickly replied, "Help yourself."

The celebration picked up speed from hip flasks and bottles, whose owners generously shared their liquid contents with those near them. "Motorists bound from the suburban sections toward the heart of the city ran into more traffic jams along the way than you could safely gnash your teeth over -- and many fists were shaken, but they invariably had a bottle in them," reported The Evening Sun.

At Baltimore and Hanover streets, crowds jitterbugged in the streets to music that blared from a portable record player, while along Pennsylvania Avenue, jukeboxes were rolled outside for men and women to dance long into the night.

The sight of several British merchant seamen marching through Sun Square prompted the crowd to break into a spirited "Rule Britannia."

Through the din of it all, the City Hall clock began its salute to victory at 7:55 p.m. Eastern War Time.

A decorated sailor in a crisp white uniform standing at Mulberry and Charles streets seemed to sum it up for everyone. He kept asking his comrades, "Tell me again. Just tell me again it's over."

An engineer from a British ship docked in the harbor told a reporter, "I was in London on V-E Day, but it couldn't compare with this. I must say, you Yanks can put on a good show."

At the height of the celebration at 10 p.m., police estimated that there were no less than 100,000 people jammed into Baltimore Street between Eutaw and the Fallsway. Another 75,000 filled Howard Street, from Centre to Baltimore, while 75,000 filled Lexington Street.

Despite the massive assemblage of humanity, police reported no damage, vandalism or other disturbances.

For the city's Gold Star Mothers, it was a tough day. There would be no joyous homecomings for them.

"Theirs is a grief that cannot be complete because with it and over shadowing it, is a deep pride in loved ones who helped make this day possible," reported The Evening Sun.

Mrs. William Woll, who lived on Highland Avenue and had sent eight sons off to war, could hear the sounds of the victory celebrations.

She told a reporter she couldn't help but think back to the morning of Feb. 3, 1945, when a Western Union messenger rang her doorbell and delivered a telegram informing her that one of her sons had been killed in the Pacific theater.

She quickly wondered which one.

"But it was William. William with the brown eyes, dark hair, quiet manner and love of dogs," she said.

She later received a letter from Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his Purple Heart.

"Seven of her boys soon would be home again. All but William. For him she had three things, a ribbon, a letter from a general and his dog, Timmy, whining in the kitchen," reported The Evening Sun.

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