Forty years ago this morning, Washington woke up to a generally happy hangover. The previous night, President Truman announced the end of World War II. A corporal whose life expectancy was greatly extended by the Japanese surrender, I wasn't here. What follows is extracted verbatim from the files of The Washington Post for V-J Day, Aug. 15, 1945.
Staid Washington blew the lid off last night.
The pent-up emotions of nearly four long years of war erupted promptly at seven into a tumultuous victory celebration which lasted long after midnight.
There has never been anything like it in capital history. Longtime residents and harried police agreed on that.
Downtown Washington exploded into blaring noise and honest emotions seconds after the news was flashed over the air . . . .
By 10 o'clock it was impossible to move at more than a slow shuffle along jampacked sidewalks . . . . Shouts and war whoops added to the din of tooting horns and clanging streetcar bells . . . . Within 10 minutes after the first flash, traffic clogged Post Square which is what the Post called what is now Western Plaza, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue . . . .
At St. John's Episcopal "Church of the Presidents" on Lafayette Square , the sexton Arthur Butler rang the ancient bell at 7:02 p.m., just two minutes after the peace announcement from the White House. Soon, many . . . were filing into the church . . . and into St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 10th and G streets NW . . . .
Washington's roaring, rollicking victory celebration . . . left two persons critically injured in celebration-related automobile accidents . . . Two policemen on duty at the White House suffered injuries one struck by a streetcar while trying to hold back crowds, the other hit in an eye by an object thrown from another streetcar . . . .
A wounded Navy enlisted man on liberty from Bethesda Naval Medical Center dived or fell from the Potomac River seawall into the Potomac at the height of the peace celebration . . . and was drowned . . . .
President Truman . . . paid tribute to federal workers . . . and proclaimed a two-day holiday for them, locallay and nationally.