You probably have no idea what I’m talking about.
Victory Day, formerly known as VJ Day, formerly known as Victory Over Japan Day, no longer is celebrated anywhere in the U.S. except in my home State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It is celebrated the second Monday in August, even though Japan didn’t actually formally surrender until September 2, 1945.
The Ocean State is the only one that still observers an official holiday marking Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. That’s been the case since 1975, when Arkansas dropped the commemoration, which it had already rechristened “World War II Memorial Day” by that point.
There have been attempts to rename the holiday here in Rhode Island, too – Gov. Ed DiPrete tried to transform it into Governor’s Bay Day, and in 1995 there was a bid to start to calling it “Peace and Remembrance Day” – but protests from veterans and traditionalists have always put the kibosh on them.
There’s no question World War II had an enormous impact on Rhode Island. More than 100,000 of the state’s residents served in the war, and 10,000 were killed, injured or lost.
While Victory Day is a state holiday, there are not many commemorations, as reported by The Providence Journal:
Once an occasion for celebration, commemoration, marches, speeches and wreath-laying, Victory Day observances are literally a dying breed.
In recent years, turnouts have diminished. Younger generations have come to view Victory Day as a long weekend holiday in summer rather than the anniversary of the climax of the great catastrophe known as World War II, at the blood-soaked culmination of which the day itself was birthed.
And so it is this year, as the very announcements of gatherings to commemorate the fallen have themselves dwindled to the vanishing point.
Jack Lucas has a succinct theory about all of this: “old age.”
What’s the chance of resurrecting Victory Day nationwide, in an era when victory is a dirty word?