Victory Day is also known as VJ Day and marks the anniversary of Japan’s surrender to the allies during WWII. VJ Day is a legal state holiday in Rhode Island. Many people take a long weekend. Veterans march in parades with Old Glory flying. Kids and old folks cheer.
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Although Japan’s formal surrender did not occur until 2 September 1945, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6 August and on Nagasaki on 9 August effectively ended the war then. Rhode Island officially declared Victory Day a state holiday in 1948 and has celebrated it each year since.
While other states eventually rescinded the holiday, Rhode Island has been a stalwart in preserving the tradition of celebrating Victory Day. Critics point out that Japan is now our ally and good trading partner. They say that Rhode Island is insensitive and politically incorrect.
Other’s point out many Americans lost their lives fighting a war to preserve American freedom after the attack at Pearl Harbor. More than 100,000 Rhode Island residents served in World War II, and more than 10,000 of those were killed. And Newport was the naval home of the Atlantic destroyer fleet.
Even suggestions that the holiday be celebrated on a floating date were argued down as recently as 2013, with the Rhode Island AFL-CIO arguing that doing so would be disrespectful to veterans.
On Victory Day weekend in Rhode Island, families go camping; fishing tournaments are held at area lakes; arts and crafts fairs line the main streets of local towns and villages. It is hard to tell the difference between a VJ Day celebration and a 4th of July celebration, except for the date. As one Rhode Island resident responded to critics, “We still celebrate July 4th, and we are friends with England, so why not VJ Day.”