Backtrack: News Splash

1945: Elated by the word that World War II had ended, Indy citizens took to the streets to cheer, party, wave flags—and even skivvies-dip on Monument Circle.

September 2017Add a comment

“It’s over!”

Radio reporters blared the news around 3 a.m. Indiana time on August 14, 1945: Japan had surrendered, at last drawing World War II to an end. People across the nation burst onto the streets in joy, and Indianapolis was no exception. The tragedy, rationing, and worry that had plagued the country for nearly four years, since the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, turned to euphoria.

Even if you had missed the radio broadcasts, it was hard to sleep through the noisy celebration that ensued. People arose from their beds and joined in the frolicking. Boys who now wouldn’t have to go to war stripped down to their undies and splashed in the pools of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Circle. Hundreds watched, cheering them on. Revelers blew party horns, and fireworks lit up the early-morning sky.

Then word came: The wire reports were announcing a surrender that hadn’t officially happened yet. We were still at war.

By noon, everyone had gone home, deflated. “It was a day of confusion and mixed emotions, and a marked let-down feeling when it was finally realized that VJ [Victory in Japan] wasn’t official after all and that the war still was going on,” according to an Indianapolis Star article. The “only remaining evidence of the fiesta spirit were red, white and blue paper hats … and small American flags gripped in grimy fists.”

The disappointed citizens of Indianapolis—and the world—didn’t have long to wait for war’s end, though. Japan officially surrendered the next day, and August 15 was proclaimed V-J Day. Once again, celebrations broke out on the streets of Indy.

But city leaders had learned their lesson from the previous day’s jubilant antics: The water in the Monument’s pools was shut off to “discourage any further aquatic stunts,” according to the Star. And the newspaper noted that Wallace O. Lee, chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Safety Council, urged citizens to drive carefully and to “cooperate with the police department in helping promote a sane observance of peace.”

A cautious President Harry S. Truman declared the official celebration of V-J Day to be the date when the Japanese signed a treaty ending the war: September 2, a Sunday. Churches were encouraged to hold special services. On September 22, Indianapolis toasted victory once more with a three-hour-long parade, some 200,000 people cheering on 100 floats, despite the constant rain that day. Everyone kept their clothes on this time, and went back to work on Monday.

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