Church bells rang. Whistles at fire stations and mill factories sounded. People poured into the streets, waving flags and honking car horns.
It was Aug. 14, 1945 — the day Americans learned that Japan had surrendered, ending the costliest conflict in human history.
“It was pandemonium with happiness,” remembered John Lucas, a World War II veteran and executive secretary of the Pawtucket Veterans Council.
Today, Rhode Island will once again observe the end of World War II, the only state still celebrating Victory Day, commonly referred to as Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day.
Critics say it’s discriminatory, and would like to eliminate the holiday or at least remove its reference to Japan.
There have been several attempts to change the holiday’s name, but each time lawmakers met overwhelming opposition, said state Sen. Rhoda Perry. She introduced bills in 1992, 1994 and 1995 to change the holiday to Rhode Island Veterans Day. A second 1995 bill would have changed it to Peace and Remembrance Day.
Perry said she received “vitriolic” mail from veterans.
“It was absolutely a no-winner,” Perry said. “I did not have support, period.”
However, the General Assembly passed a 1990 resolution stating that Victory Day is not a day to express satisfaction in the destruction and death caused by nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.