V-J Day in Syracuse

At the Onondaga Historical Association, one of the requests that came into the Research Center was to track down the people mentioned in a letter written on August 14, 1945 by a man in this city.  He wrote the letter to a young man serving in the Pacific – I believe it was his nephew – telling the recepient about the events of the day that news leaked out the Japanese were going to surrender.

It is a marvelous letter.  The author includes tidbits of information, such as the fact that the receipient’s employer had hired women to replace male workers in the military, neighborhood gossip, and and hour by hour recitation of  the events of that special day.

Syracuse celebration end of World War II with newspaper headlines

The letter’s author, who signed the letter “Fritz”, went downtown in the evening, as apparently thousands of other people did, to South Salina Street (then the hub of the city). There, they celebrated with singing and dancing, thrilled to have the war over and their sons, brothers, nephews, husbands, and fathers coming home soon.

Syracuse celebration end of World War II

Missing from the letter is any mention of the atomic bombs, but that was not unusual.  Historians have studied Americans’ reactions to the use of the bombs at the time, and find little evidence of outrage or fear.   Rather, it seems that most Americans viewed the use of these weapons as just part of winning the war.   It would be later, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, as we learned more about the effects of radiation, that an anti-nuclear movement grew.

The other interesting thing about this particular letter is that it was never delivered to the addressee.  Why not?   Was he on his way home by the time the letter made its way through channels to the Pacific theater?  Or, more tragically, was the young man killed in the last days of the war?   I couldn’t answer that question, but the letter continues to intrigue me.


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