VJ-Day commemorated as 'Spirit of ’45 Day' in California

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Image of VJ Day taken by U.S. Navy photographer Victor Jorgensen, who was standing next to Alfred Eisenstadt, photographer of the iconic photograph The Kiss.

This Saturday is the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II — “V-J-Day” for “Victory over Japan.” On August 14, 1945, after Japan surrendered, President Harry Truman addressed the nation.

"The war to which we have devoted all the resources and all the energy of our country for more than 3 1/2 years has now produced total victory over all of our enemies," he said.

California has designated August 14, 2010 as the “Spirit of ’45 Day.” It’s part of a yearlong campaign to establish a national day of remembrance for the World War II victory and the men and women known as the “greatest generation.”

Hollywood movie actress Rhonda Fleming was a part of that generation. She remembers where she was on VJ Day in 1945.

"I was at RKO, doing a film. We were all sitting around the television. And I was sitting with some of the other stars of the film and we were all just sitting there with our mouths open, thrilled with the news.

It meant she would soon be able to see her paratrooper husband for the first time in two years. Fleming — who got her first big break in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” — entertained troops for the USO, and made the rounds at military hospitals.

"I'd say a little prayer with them and kind of give them a little hug and sing for them, I love to sing. That was where my heart was more than the film business. But I was able to use whatever name value I had to do those things."

Fleming, along with Tony-winning actress and singer Carol Channing and Margaret O’Brien, a child star from the era, will commemorate the day with a few hundred WWII veterans at the new California Veteran’s home in West Los Angeles.

Organizer Warren Hegg with the “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive” campaign says more than 100 events are being held in cities across the country.

"This is a day of national renewal, to remind America of our finest hour, which is when this country had triumphed over the worst evil the world’s ever seen, and then turn on its heel and within the same few days began to rebuild the world both helping friend and former enemy to have a better future for themselves and for their children’s children.

Hegg says the campaign for a national day of remembrance was initiated in Long Beach three years ago by Edith Shain — who said she was the unidentified woman in the iconic Life magazine photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square during a VJ Day celebration. She died two months ago at age 91.

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