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Soldiers and civilians let out a collective sigh of relief—and then celebrated—after Germany's and then Japan's surrender.

World War II was more destructive than any war before it. During the six-year conflict, millions of people were injured, landmarks were destroyed and an estimated 45-60 million people lost their lives. Adolf Hitler's rise to power had spelled disaster for Germany and threatened anyone outside of his National Socialist Nazi party. Under Hitler's sadistic rule, six millions Jews and millions of others had been murdered in the Holocaust

When the war came to an end in 1945, it seemed the world released a sigh of relief to be rid of the pain and horrors. The beginning of the end started in the spring when German troops throughout Europe laid down their arms. On May 8, both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day. Cities across the allied nations rejoiced in the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis with mass parades and celebrations.

Months later in the summer, the war would conclude with another Allied victory. President Harry Truman decided to take drastic measures to ensure the defeat of the Axis power that had originally drawn the United States into war with its attacks on Pearl Harbor. In early August 1945, the United States unleashed the devastating destruction of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

By August 14, 1945, Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. This day became known as “Victory Over Japan Day,” or V-J Day. The term has also been used for September 2, 1945, when General Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s formal surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, while anchored in Tokyo Bay.

While victory was in hand, many soldiers still had to wait to head home. It had taken four years to get the estimated 7.6 million troops overseas and it would take more than four months to get them back. But once troops set off to finally go home, it became a joyous journey. 

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