The Herald Bulletin

August 14, 2013

V-J Day emotions captured in note 68 years ago

Teenager wrote down her feelings during war

By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin

— As a teenager, Marilyn Van Zant was -- like all Americans in the 1940s -- affected by World War II.

Her family, living in a rural home southeast of Anderson, had experienced rationing. Her father had also worked on war projects at the Delco plant, though he couldn’t talk about the secret work with family or friends.

But when Japanese forces agreed to an unconditional surrender to the Allies in August 1945, the 15-year-old Marilyn was ecstatic.

The surender — announced in America on Aug. 14 — ended combat in World War II. It came a few months after the April 12 death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and on the same day that French Marshal Philippe Petain was found guilty of treason for collaborating with the Germans.

On that day, Marilyn wrote a five-page note detailing her feelings. She put it in desk drawer in her bedroom.

Marilyn came across her letter recently. At 83, she has returned to live again in her parent’s home. Over the years, she married and was widowed three times. She had four children with her first husband, Edwin Sanders, and later married Don Adams and Eugene Martin

A graduate of Anderson High School and Ball State University, she became a teacher. She has 19 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Sitting in her cozy family home, she recently looked at the faded lined pieces of paper where she had written down her thoughts in cursive.

“It was like I was reading something by another person when I discovered it, but it was my 15-year-old self,” she said.

“I wasn’t in school that day because it was summer. I didn’t write this for an assignment. But the emotion of the day, I just had to write it down.”

Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, but Americans heard the news on Aug. 14, due to the time difference. The following is the full text of her account of the day.

August 14th, 1945

This is one of the greatest days of my life: the end of the greatest and most horrible war the world has ever known. The radio has been on every minute of the day. I ironed today and listened to all the news leading up to the great news of 6:00 p.m.

After 6:00 there were no regular programs, just more news. We heard from New York (Times Square), Washington, Hollywood, San Francisco and China Town, Des Moines, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and from Paris, London, Guam, 3rd fleet off the coast of Japan and several other places.

All the places were celebrating alike — blowing horns, shouting, throwing paper and confetti, and just tearing up jack. Several cars went by headed for Anderson and they all made so much noise. So much else has happened today, too: Petain was sentenced to death for treason.

And after the great news, the announcement which said that 5 million men would be released from service within a year from now, President Truman announced that tomorrow and Thursday are to be legal holidays and that no one need go back to work either day.

Now to enumerate things as they happened today. First when I got up this morning it was gray and cloudy out. I found that news had been received around 2:00 this morning that Japan was sending a message to America. Not much more was heard until there was the broadcast from Bern, Switz., around 3:00 saying that a message had been received from Japan containing several thousand code words. It was turned over to the Japanese ambassador and then to the Swiss chancellor. Then it was put into 160 diplomatic code words and sent to the Swiss embassy in Washington in 12 minutes — the Japanese have surrendered unconditionally.

It was the words that the people all over the world have been anxiously awaiting for several days. I can’t express in words the great contentment and peace that settled on me when I heard those words. I hadn’t realized how anxious I had been. From the broadcasts from various cities several different persons were interviewed. One drunk soldier, “Do you know what I’m going to do? When I get sober I’m going to go to church and thank God that this was is over and that I’m alive.”

I think everyone should go to church and pray for the brave men that died that we may celebrate this great day. All day church services will be held tomorrow for this purpose.

Tonight — around 6:00 — it was raining with plenty of thunder and lightning — you could hardly hear the radio. It seemed that the heavens were also celebrating this great event.

It was just too bad that our beloved late President couldn’t have lived just these 4 months and 2 days to see the end of the war which he so strived for. But I think he knows now anyway.

Here at home, instead of getting out and making a lot of noise we all just worked as hard as we could. I did a great pile of dishes without even thinking and Daddy, who has been coming home too tired at nights to do anything, said he felt like doing just loads of work tonight. (There were many peaches canned today too.)

This, the 3rd week birthday of Lorabeth [my baby sister], will go down in history — this is the day we’ve been waiting for since December 7, 1941 — Pearl Harbor — this is the day we can make plans — plans for the future with no interruptions.

Our men can come home again to their families. Although we have had no one very close to us lost in this war-to-end-all-wars and I thank God that we haven’t — I pray that God will watch over those who have had someone taken from them. So on this the 14th day of August in the year 1945 I thank God that this terrible war is over and I pray that we may never again have one so terrible.

Marilyn Rose Van Zant (Tuesday night)