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Explained: What is Victory in Japan Day, and why it coincides with India’s Independence Day

15 August 1945 is remembered in history as Victory in Japan or V-J Day, when Allied forces mark their victory over Imperial Japan during World War II.

Written by Om Marathe , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 15, 2020 6:05:22 pm
Victory in Japan, Victory in Japan Day, V-J Day, World War 2, 1945 Japan, Hiroshima Nagasaki atom bombFILE - In this B/W file photo dated Aug. 15, 1945, Japanese prisoners of war at Guam, Mariana Islands, bow their heads as they hear Japanese Emperor Hirohito making the announcement of Japan's unconditional surrender. (AP Photo/FILE)

15 August 1945 is remembered in history as Victory in Japan or V-J Day, when Allied forces mark their victory over Imperial Japan during World War II.

Japan, which had entered the war in September 1940, was part of the Axis bloc– consisting of itself, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and had occupied several parts of Asia during the international conflict.

What is V-J Day

In May 1945, Axis powers in Europe had been defeated (the Victory in Europe or V-E Day is marked every year on May 8). Allied forces, however, continued fighting Japan in East Asia in the following months.

As a part of the British Empire, India also played a key role in the war with Japan– its troops helping secure Singapore and Hong Kong for the Allies in August 1945.

Things started changing rapidly after the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and three days later, another one on Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

On August 14, US President Harry S Truman announced that Japan was surrendering, and British Prime Minister Clement Atlee confirmed the news at midnight.

On August 15, the Japanese emperor Hirohito in his first radio address ever announced Japan’s surrender. V-J Day marked the complete end of World War II, and Japan formally signed surrender documents on September 2 that year.

Japanese rule in India

During the war, Japan had also forced its exploitative control over one of India’s territories.

Japanese forces landed in South Andamans on March 23, 1942 and in the next three to four hours gained complete control over the area. Japanese control over the Andamans coincided with Subhash Chandra Bose-led Indian National Army (INA)’s occupation over the area and the internal understanding between the two, ensured that the Japanese faced no resistance while trying to take over the Andamans.

ALSO READ: When Japan ruled over (a part of) India

Bose believed that India could never achieve independence without resorting to revolutionary forces, and held faith in acquiring help from international powers for expelling the British from Indian soil.

Once freed from the British, Bose convinced the Japanese to hand over the islands to him and consequently hoisted the tricolour there on December 30, 1943. He also named the islands Shaheed (martyr) and Swaraj (self-rule).

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Soon after, however, things turned bitter as the Japanese force erupted over the island’s population with the kind of barbarity unheard of before, as administration remained only nominally in the hands of the INA. It is estimated that close to 2,000 Indians in the Andamans died as a result of Japanese brutality. Finally, the islands were again taken over by the British in October 1945.

V-J Day and India’s Independence Day

For almost two decades before India actually became independent, the country’s freedom fighters had been celebrating January 26 as “Poorna Swaraj Day”– after Congress leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Bose pushed for complete independence from British rule over dominion status at the Lahore session of 1929-30.

But when independence finally arrived in 1947, British rulers coincided the date of transfer with the second anniversary of V-J Day, August 15. The historian Ramachandra Guha notes, “freedom finally came on a day that resonated with imperial pride rather than nationalist sentiment.”

Two years later when Indian leaders finished writing the country’s Constitution, it was decided to adopt the document on Poorna Swaraj Day in 1950 as it was associated with national pride. January 26 has since been celebrated as India’s Republic Day.

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