August 14, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender which marked the end of World War II, commonly called Victory Over Japan or V-J Day. The Living Church issues published during the two weeks after the announcement were filled with accounts of worship services, solemn speeches and general merrymaking across the country. A few excerpts are below, along with a retrospective editorial by Clifford P. Morehouse (1904-1977), editor of The Living Church from 1932 to 1952. Morehouse had been recently discharged from the Marine Corps, after serving as assistant editor of The Marine Corps Gazette from 1942-1945.
Nation Prays as Surrender News Is Received (August 26, 2020).
As the word of unconditional surrender by the Japanese forces swept the world, Americans throughout the nation gave thanks for victory and prayed for guidance in peace.
President Truman, with Mrs. Truman attended services on the Day of Prayer in the East Room of the White House. Chaplain Luther D. Miller, chief of army chaplains, and Chaplain William N. Thomas, chief of navy chaplains, conducted the interdenominational service. Surrounding Mr. Truman were members of his cabinet, of the Supreme Court, of Congress, and other high government officials.
The announcement that Japan had accepted the unconditional surrender terms of the Allies reached New York City by radio at 7: 00 p.m. on August 14th. Never, it is agreed by all who ventured into that region immediately after hearing the great news, was Times Square so crowded. Over a million men, women, and children (some of them infants in arms) streamed into that area, in the center of which is now the statue of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Because of the hour, most of the churches and synagogues were not open. Many persons, feeling the need to offer thanksgiving to God, went anyway churches in their neighborhoods, and kneeling on the steps, engaged in prayer.
The steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, of St. Thomas’ Church on Fifth Avenue, and of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the Times Square region were thronged with young and old, kneeling in silence. Places of worship that were open were filled to capacity.
In all the churches on the morning of the 15th, there were services at several hours. Trinity Church held a service every hour. In the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, there was, as had been planned, a special service of thanksgiving at noon, the Rev. Canon Edward West being the officiant. At the customary daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the cathedral, at 7:30 and 8 a.m., special thanksgiving and prayers of peace were said. The congregations were large and deeply serious.
Again on a day of victory, the Church came into her own – all communions to be sure, but very especially the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, which, strategically situated in the center of downtown Boston with the spacious Boston Common before her, appeals to the eye, and easily also to the ear by the aid of loud speakers. On Tuesday, day of the announcement that victory over the Japanese was assured, St. Paul’ s was thronged until 11 p.m. On Wednesday 20 -minute services on the hour, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. again filled it to the doors.
In the city itself, great hilarity was mixed with the spirit of thankfulness during the two-day official holiday. It took the turn of planned and also impromptu shows on the Common, while exuberant sailors frolicked in the noted old Frog Pond. Servicemen received many chaste salutes; Chinatown brought out its long, sinuous dragon to weave through its streets; in the North End, the Italian colony served wine and refreshments gratis to all from little stands improvised along the roadways; self-appointed orators held forth; there were bonfires; there were parades; there was flag waving, horn-tooting, the exhibition of dummies of the enemy, in the most noisy and colorful victory celebration in Boston’s history
Within ten minutes after the announcement of Japan’s acceptance of the terms outlined at the Potsdam Conference, the dwellers in the Arsenal of Democracy had looked at each other with a great light of comprehension dawning in their eyes, and gone completely and gloriously crazy. Within half an hour after the announcement, scarcely a place of business was to be found open – and usually there are a lot of places open in Detroit at night. The city authorities had cagily announced beforehand that the sale of gasoline and liquor would be prohibited for 24 hours immediately after the official announcement, and all the other storekeepers, as if in response to some unheard but perfect command, followed suit. With one accord they closed their shops, snatched the nearest means at hand for making noise, and joined the throngs out on the streets in tin-pan parades, snake- dances, corner discussions, and anything else to celebrate the peace. Small children tied tin cans to their tricycles and bicycles; older ones got out the family cars, long garaged and laden with the dust of years, and honking cheerfully up and down the streets.
Half a million went downtown, where the congestion was so great as to stall vehicular traffic to a stand -still. The din was terrific. Personally, we live out in the sticks, and it was interesting to mark the progress of the celebration, rising from the wildly excited center-of-the-city and coming gradually farther and farther into the outlying sections until our quiet neighborhood was a bedlam of joy and noise. We haven’t any idea how long it lasted; we dropped off to sleep after awhile from sheer exhaustion and kept waking at intervals as groups of celebrators whooped through the neighborhood.
For once, Detroit forgot problems, tensions, relationships, and all the catch words about being a “test- tube for democracy.” For once, Detroit was a community of brothers without reference to creed, class, or color and with but one thought uppermost in mind: “ They’ll be coming home— they’ll be coming home!
From the Editor (August 19, 1945).
Washington, D. C.
Dear Family: With victory almost within our grasp, perhaps actually ours, by the time these words appear in print, it is time for us to do a little spiritual stock-taking. It is a cliché to say that we are at a turning-point in history, that we stand on the threshold of a new era, yet the fact is indisputably true. Behind us lie nearly four years of the cruelest and most costly war in history — six years for our British and French allies, eight years for the longsuffering Chinese. Before us lies the postwar world, long held before our eyes as a brave, new, glittering era, complete with jet-propelled planes, television in every home, and a helicopter in every garage. And now, with the secrets of atomic energy being revealed to our scientists, still more dazzling possibilities are added to the dream of the future.
But before we enter that dream world and test its reality, let us pause for a moment, and bare our heads in the presence of Him who is the Master of time and of all power, in thanksgiving and intercession , in dedication and petition, in humility and in radiant hope.
Let not only our churches be overflowing with thankful men and women on V-J Day and on the Sunday following, but let the people give thanks in their homes, their offices, and their shops, their schools, their military camps, to God who alone giveth the victory.
Let us pray that the victory may be not ours only, but God’s. Let us remember those who have been killed in action, the wounded, the sick, the suffering; prisoners of war of all nations, the victims of concentration camps, the undernourished. Let us pray for our Allies. Let us pray for our enemies.
Let us dedicate ourselves to waging the peace as ardently as we have waged the war. Let us determine to gather up the fragments of the nations, and to build of them a world family.
Let us beseech God to guide us in the difficult decisions that lie before us; to turn our footsteps into the paths of peace, and to teach us to use constructively the mighty forces that we have unloosed in destruction.
Let us enter into the new world humbly and prayerfully, determined that it shall be marked not alone by material gains, but by greater social and economic justice, by the spread of the Christian faith, and by the twin principles of love of God and love of our neighbor.
Let us not despair, nor yield to a fatalistic view of the future. Let us rather be guided by faith in God, and the hope that is the fruit of faith. “Where there is no vision the people perish.” May God give us the vision to see and to build a better world, for our children and our children ‘s children.
We have shown that we could win the victory over Germany. Now we must prove whether we can win the victory over ourselves, the only way in which we can build a just and durable peace, at home and abroad.
We are truly at the crossroads. One way leads to more and bigger wars, ending in the destruction of civilization and perhaps to the wiping out of the human race. The other way leads to peace and justice and finally to the building of the Kingdom of God. May God grant that we choose the right way, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Clifford P. Morehouse