Charles Smith celebrated Japan's surrender in World War II on a naval destroyer in the Pacific. The veteran recalls the jubilation _ and the disbelief _ that accompanied the end of history's deadliest war.
"We almost got torpedoed that day," the 89-year-old Smith said. "Nobody knew if it was really over or not."
The East Providence, R.I., man was one of nearly 100 people who commemorated Victory Day on Monday at a small ceremony next to Pawtucket City Hall. Although many calendars still designate Sept. 2 as V-J Day, Rhode Island is the last state to formally observe the surrender of Japan with a public holiday.
Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945, and formally signed surrender papers the following Sept. 2. The surrender ended the war, which was over in Europe in May 1945 when Germany surrendered.
Rhode Island observes the historic moment as Victory Day on the second Monday in August. State and municipal offices are closed and public buses operate on a holiday schedule. Some businesses close for the day as well, giving many Rhode Islanders a three-day summer weekend.
Over the years there have been efforts to eliminate the holiday because Japan is now a U.S. ally, or because the surrender was preceded by a nuclear attack.
But supporters of the tradition say the holiday isn't about Hiroshima or Nagasaki _ or an excuse for a long weekend _ but instead commemorates a peace hard won by veterans.
"This day is about something much more important than a three-day summer weekend," said Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, who spoke at Monday's ceremony before taking the rest of the day off himself. "It is only because of their sacrifice that we can head to the beach or the backyard."
Pawtucket resident Penny Trottier was five years old on V-J Day _ too young to understand the magnitude of the day but old enough to recognize a celebration when she saw one. She and the other neighborhood children paraded up and down the block banging pots and pans after the surrender was announced.
"If your mother let you do that you knew it was a big deal," Trottier said. "I think it's important that we remember."