On May 8, 1945, World War II in Europe came to an end. As the news of Germany’s surrender reached the rest of the world, joyous crowds gathered to celebrate in the streets, clutching newspapers that declared Victory in Europe (V-E Day). Later that year, U.S. President Harry S. Truman announced Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II. The news spread quickly and celebrations erupted across the United States. On September 2, 1945, formal surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri, designating the day as the official Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day).
V-J Day was especially momentous—the gruesome and exhausting war was officially over—but the day was also bittersweet for the many Americans whose loved ones would not be returning home. “More than 400,000 Americans gave their lives to secure our nation’s freedom, and in the midst of exultation, there was recognition that the true meaning of the day was best represented by those who were not present to celebrate,” said Robert Citino, PhD, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy at The National WWII Museum.
Seventy five years later, The National WWII Museum will pay tribute to the historic anniversaries, as well as the myriad servicemembers and Home Front workers who helped preserve freedom and democracy. Through a number of events throughout the year—including educational travel tours taking place throughout Europe and the Pacific, distance-learning programs that will broadcast live from the Museum’s new Hall of Democracy, conferences and symposia examining the war’s lasting impact on the world, and a special exhibit that will travel to institutions across the nation—the Museum will reflect on the legacy and meaning of the end of World War II.
See below for a list of The National WWII Museum’s 2020 commemorative initiatives:
January 31, 2020:
The Museum’s traveling exhibit So Ready for Laughter: The Legacy of Bob Hope launches a national tour at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio. So Ready for Laughter tells the story of Hope’s unique place in the history of World War II and beyond, and the contributions he made that still reverberate 75 years later.
February 4, 2020:
The Manhattan Project Electronic Field Trip, produced by the Museum’s WWII Media and Education Center, will take students nationwide on a virtual, interactive journey to discover the science, sites and stories of the Manhattan Project and the creation of the atomic bomb, which ultimately brought about the end of the war.
February 8, 2020:
Museum symposium Yalta at 75: From World War to Cold War will feature leading scholars in a daylong discussion about the Yalta Conference—a series of extended strategy sessions between Soviet Union Dictator Josef Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The symposium will examine this crucial moment of World War II in detail: the days leading to the conference, the proceedings themselves and the legacies of Yalta for the postwar world, for the Cold War and for today.
February 19, 2020:
The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima Commemoration Ceremony will take place in the Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. The short ceremony will feature the Marine Band Quintet and Marine Color Guard, as well as a special guest speaker.
March 20-30, 2020:
The Museum is honored to offer the Victory in the Pacific travel program, which provides guests with the unique opportunity to explore Pacific island battlefields and landing beaches in the company of expert historians and WWII veterans. From March 20 through March 30, Victory in the Pacific journeys from Pearl Harbor—where it all started for the Americans—to the islands of Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima and Tinian, from where the Enola Gay departed to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
May 8, 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day. The Museum will commemorate the milestone anniversary by hosting a series of public events at its campus in New Orleans, as well as five educational travel programs throughout Europe, including England, France and Germany. So Ready for Laughter will also open at the New-York Historical Society.
On September 2, 2020, the Museum will commemorate the 75th anniversary of V-J Day with a number of celebratory events in New Orleans, including a panel discussion featuring WWII veterans, as well as a featured presentation by Clifton Truman Daniel, the oldest grandson of former US President Harry Truman.
September 10-12, 2020:
The Museum’s global conference Memory Wars: World War II at 75 will explore the war’s place in public memory through a global prism, examining how museums, filmmakers, media, memorials and historians (both academic and public) help shape memories of the conflict.
The Museum’s year of commemorative events will culminate with a celebration in New Orleans featuring 40 WWII veterans and 40 students who will visit the Museum as part of Gary Sinise Foundation’s Soaring Valor program. Museum staff will host the group along with an annual Veterans Day public programming event and Victory Ball, a lavish reception that salutes the men and women who dedicate their lives to freedom.
In addition to commemorating historical anniversaries, the Museum is on the cusp of a major institutional milestone: the 20th anniversary of opening its doors as The National D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000. This coming June, the institution will host a weeklong celebration that will include the annual Dr. Hal Baumgarten D-Day Commemoration Ceremony and will culminate with the Museum’s annual American Spirit Awards gala. WWII veterans and longtime Museum champions and volunteers will also be present.
For ongoing historical content related to the 75th anniversaries and additional information on Museum programs, please visit http://www.nationalww2museum.org.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. The 2018 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards ranks the Museum No. 3 in the nation and No. 8 in the world. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.