On Aug. 14, 1945, fighting with the Japanese Empire in the Pacific ceased. The Allies had claimed a decisive victory, effectively ending World War II.

Aug. 14 is often referred to as Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day. Sept. 2 is National V-J Day, marking the day Japan formally surrendered in 1945. Japan’s surrender in the Pacific brought years of fighting to a highly anticipated end.“It took me a long time to talk about my service time,” said Dick Foster, who served in the U.S. Army’s Delta Company, 347th Battalion, 87th Infantry Division. “After Pearl Harbor, everyone just kind of felt a responsibility to join up. I met some amazing people and unfortunately, not all of them made it home.”

Japan’s surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941 led to an immediate U.S. declaration of war the following day. Germany then declared war on the United States, turning the war in Europe into a global conflict that would carry on for four long years.

“I volunteered right after Pearl Harbor,” said Arthur Frey, a former U.S. Navy aviation mechanic. “Nothing like Pearl Harbor had ever happened before and I knew we were going to bring the fight to them. I spent most of my time in Normandy during the war. We lost a lot of good people, but, so did they.”

By 1945, the Allies were consistently bombarding Japan from air and sea. Over 100,000 tons of explosives fell on more than 60 Japanese cities and towns, prompting Japan’s eventual surrender.

In a radio address in the early afternoon of August 15 (August 14 in the United States), Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender.

“I remember when I was about 7 years old, sitting around the radio listening to the evening broadcasts with my family and getting updates about the war,” said Linda Morton, daughter of an air raid warden in Marion, Ohio, in 1945. “I remember when the announcement came on that Japan had surrendered and the war was over. People ran out into the streets. They were waving flags and cheering. We all knew that meant the ones still fighting could finally come home.”

On Sept. 2, General Douglas MacArthur, along with the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, and the chief of staff of the Japanese army, Yoshijiro Umezu, signed the official Japanese surrender aboard the U.S. Navy battleship Missouri. The war was over.

“I cannot even explain the size of the celebrations when the war ended,” said Bryson Harding, former U.S. Navy Corpsman. “I was in Kansas City by then, because of my shoulder… We united as a county over this. It didn’t solve all our problems, but we felt like we were part of something.”