Victory over Japan Day, the day that the Japanese government announced its surrender to the US, Utahns celebrated in the streets. Celebrations were complicated by uncertainty and fear from the Topaz Relocation Camp near Delta.
On August 15, 1945, the imperial Japanese government announced its intent to surrender to the United States and its allies, ending the Second World War. In Utah, the statement from overseas sent people into the streets in spontaneous celebration. In Kanab, a street dance, fireworks, and a concert, followed by impromptu horse races at the rodeo grounds, marked the day. “Horses were matched,” wrote the Kane County Standard, “and many exciting races were run for the amusement of the celebrating crowd.” To the northwest, in Moab, fire engine sirens and a free dance in the county ballroom signaled the war’s end. Utahns were especially happy about the end of wartime rationing. The Moab Times Independent quoted Price Administrator Chester Bowles as saying that “as far as gasoline is concerned the day is finally here when we can drive our cars wherever we please when we please and as much as we please.”
The news of Japan’s surrender evoked a decidedly less celebratory response from the Topaz Relocation Camp near Delta, not because its residents were any less patriotic or relieved that the war had finally ended. It was just that they now faced the imminent closure of the camp and yet another relocation. They had been forced out of their West Coast homes following the bombing of Pearl Harbor; now they were being forced out of the camp with minimal opportunity to put their affairs in order. According to the camp newsletter, the Topaz Times, each camp resident would “be given two weeks in which to choose a departure date and destination” before the War Relocation Authority made “his plans for him.”
Image: WWII Victory in Japan Day, August 14, 1945. Victory over Japan Day Celebration in Salt Lake City, UT. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See Kane County Standard, August 17, 1945, 1; Moab Times Independent, August 16, 1945, 1; Topaz Times, August 15, 1945, 1-2.