August 14, 1945: VJ Day
On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Victory over Japan—or VJ—Day was celebrated across the United States and in every West Virginia town. The Mountain State had contributed greatly to the war cause. West Virginia had the fifth-highest percentage of servicemen, with nearly 6,000 sacrificing their lives.
Many West Virginians distinguished themselves throughout the war. “Woody” Williams earned the Medal of Honor for his valor on Iwo Jima, “Spanky” Roberts became the first African-American cadet in the Army Air Corps, and “Chuck” Yeager shot down five German planes in one day.
Some 2,000 West Virginia women served in the armed forces. Winifred Love commanded the first contingent of WAVES overseas, Dolores Dowling was among the first American nurses to land in Sicily after D-Day, Florence Blanchfield was superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps, and Ruby Bradley nearly starved to death in a concentration camp—while nursing other prisoners.
West Virginians also supplied more than 600 million tons of coal to fuel the war; established the world’s largest synthetic rubber plant; and produced steel, gun barrels, and ships.