Victory over Japan (VJ) Day
VJ Day, like VE day, showed public regulation at work. Again the preparation had been considerable, and the celebration went more smoothly. The news of the Japanese surrender arrived in New Zealand at 11 a.m. on 15 August.
The sirens immediately sounded, a national ceremony was held, and the local celebrations followed. Once more there were parades, bands playing, thanksgiving services, bonfires, dances and community sports. Once more the beer flowed, and there were streamers, whistles and dancing in the streets. Again there were two days' public holiday.
There were also some revealing differences. In Auckland, where there were few organised events, the city went out to enjoy itself the moment the factory whistle sounded. At first it was simply people drinking, dancing and scattering confetti. Then some rowdy people began throwing bottles. Windows were smashed, and people were hurt. By the evening, 51 people had been taken to hospital and 15 tons of glass lay in the roads.
A merchant seaman remembers
VJ Day we actually had arrived the night before in Auckland. And if I remember right, well the whole city went bloody mad. The following morning it was reputed that they swept up five ton of broken bottles. They went nuts ... I had a cousin who was in the navy, fell off a tram and nearly killed himself, pissed ... I went ashore with my wife on the afternoon, Christ, man, they were rooting in the bloody house bar, they were rooting in, you know. Oh, it was all on.
I believe a lot of people who came out, and they had the churches open in the afternoon for thanksgiving or whatever, parents who had lost sons or daughters, were disgusted. They were really upset over it, you know.
Merchant seaman Jim Blundell interviewed by Neill Atkinson, 2004. Hear extract from this interview
The next day, although the crowds were much smaller, drunken hooligans returned, and the police arrived in numbers to restore civil peace. In Wellington inclement weather reduced the numbers in the streets – instead people crowded into the hotels, while in Christchurch another People's March was less successful, with some prominent employers being concerned that the unions had taken the lead.
Everywhere it was noted that people in uniform attracted less adoration than in May. New Zealanders were enthusiastic about peace on VJ Day, but, by comparison with VE Day, the unity of war had begun to weaken and was being replaced by some of the social conflicts of peace.