“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
– David McCullough, American author and historian
There are dates which live in infamy, and there are dates – perhaps even more important – that we might not recall with as much clarity. This week saw one such date: September 2nd marked the 69th anniversary of the signing of Japan’s formal surrender, officially ending World War II.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana,1905
While other dates surrounding the second World War are disputed, we do know some of the most important events that led to its beginning and end.
The start of the war for Europe can most easily be traced back to another recent date, September 1. On that day in 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany. December 7, 1941- our infamous date – marked the entrance of the United States into the fray.
After almost 4 more years of conflict, Germany would surrender on May 7, 1945. Japan followed suit soon after, admitting defeat in early August before signing their formal surrender aboard the decks of the USS Missouri that fateful September 2nd.
There are other things we know for sure about World War II, such as the fact that wartime efforts were not strictly limited to the conflicts waging overseas.
One of the most recognizable images representing the spirit of those at home in the United States while millions fought abroad is that of “Rosie the Riveter”. Norman Rockwell immortalized this can-do, hardworking spirit with his iconic Saturday Evening Post cover featuring a work shirt-clad Rosie, rivet gun in her lap, enjoying a break from her patriotic toil.
Rockwell went on to create more than one image of this icon of wartime dedication, and Rosie went on to inspire a social movement that drastically increased the number of American women in the workforce.
War itself deserves no accolades, but the brave men and women who fought and built, scrimped and saved, or even gave their lives to bring our last great war to an end are always worth celebrating.