The decision was made to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Hiroshima was the headquarters of the Japanese regional army and a manufacturing and distribution center for military equipment. Five square miles of the city was destroyed when the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. Over 70,000 people died immediately, an undetermined number later died from the effects of radiation.
Three days later another atomic bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki. Nagasaki was a large steel manufacturing city, as well as a ship building center. Nearly two miles of the city was destroyed, killing 36,000; the injured and missing numbering over 40,000.
Business was at a standstill in Dayton for hours on August 14, 1945, as workers huddled around radios, hanging on every word or rumor, no matter how vague, which indicated they were about to hear that the final moment of the war was at hand.
They were not disappointed. That afternoon the voice of President Truman gave the world-stirring announcement of Japan’s surrender.
Stores, shops, offices, taverns and businesses closed as soon as the word was received. Army officers in charge of Wright and Patterson Fields immediately issued “shut-down” orders and both military and civilian employees joined in the merry-making.
Expressing deepest appreciation to the armed forces and to the industrial workers whose cooperation had ended the war, Dayton Mayor Frank M. Krebs declared that the people of Dayton had earned the right to celebrate.
“After having been in the war for nearly four years I believe that the people of Dayton have every right to celebrate. However, whatever form their celebration may take I think it should be tempered to a degee by thoughts of the sacrifice of lives which made this great day possible. A part of every celebration, too, should include attendance at the church of your faith, so that you may thank Almighty God for His guidance through the dark days of the conflict.”
In front of Emperor Hirohito, a Japanese representative signed the unconditional surrender agreements aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.
Robert Hergenrather was one of the Marines who made up the honor guard aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. From his vantage point less than 80 feet away, he watched as the surrender document was signed.
“To be honest, we did not show respect for the Japanese delegation when they came aboard for the signing.” Hergenrather recalled. “They were still the enemy, you know. We were apprehensive. We didn’t salute them, and during the ceremony we did not stand at attention for them.”
With the signing of the document, World War II was finally over.
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