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Nov 20th
Miami Celebrates V-J Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul S. George, Special to the BT   
November 2017

A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

IPix_PictureStory_11-17t was the best of times! World War II, the worst conflict in human history, ended August 14, 1945, with the Japanese surrender. President Harry Truman informed Americans of this development that evening with a broadcast from the White House.

Communities throughout the country reacted instantly to the news by pouring into their town and city centers for impromptu celebrations. They held parades, waved flags, danced, and sang.

Within one hour of Truman’s announcement, an estimated 30,000 Miamians had descended on E. Flagler Street, the city’s main downtown thoroughfare, near 2nd Avenue. They danced and sang, kissed, waved flags, and happily turned their heads upward to watch the ticker tape and confetti floating down from the stately Alfred I. DuPont Building across the street from the Olympia Theater.

Miami was especially well positioned to host a rapturous celebration, as seen in this iconic photograph in front of the ornate Olympia Theater, because it served as a huge training facility during the war for hundreds of thousands of men and women representing every branch of the armed forces.

U.S. Navy personnel, along with their Soviet and Chinese counterparts, occupied many downtown hotels. These sailors constituted a large share of the celebrants. One sailor had an especially interesting experience, as he explained in a newspaper account:

“I was on Flagler soon after the word came thru [of peace] and went into a store. A girl working there said, ‘I am going to kiss the first serviceman I catch on the outside so hard he’ll never forget it.’ ‘I’ll be waiting behind the first door on the right,’ I said. She came out and did.”

By midnight, the celebration was over. A relieved Miami Police Chief H. Leslie Quigg declared, “Things went unusually well. There were a few fights, a minimum of accidents, and no more drunkenness than normally could be expected.”

In fact, all liquor stores were closed by a state law designed to reduce excessive celebrations. Miamians and other Americans quickly turned their attention to peacetime pursuits as the country embarked upon an era of untrammeled growth and prosperity.

 

Paul George is historian at HistoryMiami Museum. To order a copy of this photo, please contact HistoryMiami archives manager Dawn Hugh at 305-375-1623, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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