AUGUST 1945 — Fighting in Europe had been over for more than three months, but American, British, Australian and Chinese forces continued to battle the Japanese in the Pacific theater, bringing World War II ever closer to the island nation.
Allied forces pushed closer to the main Japanese islands, eventually retaking the Philippine islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Though a full-scale infantry invasion had not occurred, regular bombing attacks destroyed Japenese cities while American submarines cut off Japanese imports.
Allied leaders met in Potsdam, Germany, in mid-July and, in the Potsdam Declaration, reiterated the demand for the unconditional surrender of Japan following that of Germany two months earlier.
President Harry S. Truman said, “Surrender or suffer prompt and utter destruction.”
Japanese leaders refused, and on Aug. 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber bearing the moniker “Enola Gay” dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki.
On Aug. 15, the Japanese agreed to surrender, but it would be more than two more weeks before the end of the war would be finalized on Sept. 2, 1945, when the documents formalizing the surrender would be signed aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Sept. 2 is declared as V-J Day (Victory in Japan Day) by Truman.
In commemoration of today’s celebration of the 65th anniversary of World War II and the upcoming observance of the anniversary of V-J Day on Sept. 2, we look back at the local headlines of the Aug. 31, 1945 edition of the then-weekly Starkville News to see what was making news that week:
• The top of the front page of the newspaper carried a photo of the U.S.S. Missouri with a headline that read “Scene of Historic Jap Surrender.”
The caption for the photo read, “The United States Navy’s might 45,000 ton battleship, the U.S.S. Missouri, ended its World War II career in a blaze of glory in Tokyo Bay when she served as the scene of the unconditional surrender of the Japan to the United Nations.”
Though the Missouri had arrived in Tokyo Bay to be the site of the surrender, the actual signing of the surrender documents by U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme Allied commander in the Pacific, would not occur until two days later.
• Multiple news stories reported about the continuing fund-raising for the War Fund, including the Victory War Loan, which aimed to help the servicemen and women returning home from the war with medical and other expenses.
• Among the top stories in the newspaper that day were headlines about the Starkville Electric Department’s report of its activities during the last year of the war.
“In spite of wartime operating conditions, the past year’s operation of the City of Starkville’s Electric Department has been highly successful,” said then SED official W.A. Hogan in making an annual report.
The department reported a net income of $24,656.83 and a gross income of $90,657.25. The net income was reported after “depreciation payment into the general funds of the city in place of taxes, maintenance, salaries and all the other costs of operations.”
• Another top story headline was an announcement by then-Starkville schools Supt. J.W. Overstreet of the faculty members for the primary, upper elementary and high school for the 1945-1946 school year. Classes for the school year were to begin Sept. 10, the newspaper reported.
• Mississippi State College officials reported they were preparing for a large fall enrollment for the 1945 fall semester as many veterans began returning home and to classes.
“Veterans and their wives are to be accommodated in two sections of the Main Dormitory at Mississippi State this fall. Unmarried male students are to be housed in Hull Hall, where many room reservations have already been made for the fall semester beginning on Sept. 24,” the newspaper reported.
During the war, the Starkville News regularly reported news about the service of local soldiers in the European and Pacific theaters of the war:
• One news story reported the recognition of Army Cpl. Julius C. Ellis, son of Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Ellis, with a citation for “heroic action” under fire while fighting in northern Italy.
The citation was awarded to Ellis for an incident on March 3, 1945, near Iola, Italy, after he volunteered to carry vital messages between his unit commander and attacking platoons during “the height of enemy resistance.”
“In spite of the known danger of crossing an open field fully within enemy observation, he skillfully made his way forward to finally reach the other element of his company and deliver the essential information, which greatly aided in the success of this operation.”
• Another news brief reported that U.S. Navy Lt. Joe H. Timberlake of Starkville had survived the sinking of the destroyer escort Underhill in Pacific waters near the Philippines.
One officer and 13 enlisted men were listed as killed and another 89 were listed as missing.
Timberlake, who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action, was the surviving senior officer. He had seen service in the Atlantic before transfer to the Pacific Fleet.
• Another Starkville soldier, Sgt. Tommie R. Edwards, was reported to have returned to the United States for additional training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in preparation with the occupation forces in the Pacific.
Edwards served 12 months overseas in England, France, Belgium and Germany and was awarded the Presidential Citation, Good Conduct Medal, the European Theater of Operations Medal and the Pre-Pearl Harbor Infantry Badge.
• Staff Sgt. Theodore H. Rubenstein, husband of Margaret Rubenstein of Starkville, was awarded the Philippine Liberation Medal. Rubenstein had previously been awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal with two bronze service stars for the New Guinea and Philippine campaigns.
• A former assistant coach at Mississippi State College, Major S.W. “Bud” Fatheree, was reported to be among the first American troops to fly into Japan as American forces began to occupy the island.
• Fireman First Class William O. Templeton was reported to have returned to the West Coast as the ship on which he served — the destroyer escort U.S.S. Wintie — had entered the U.S. Navy drydock after “22 months and 125,000 miles of intensive battle duty in the Pacific,” the newspaper reported.
“The Wintie escorted oil tankers to the invasion of the Gilberts and accompanied LST’s (landing ship, tanks) into the invasion beaches at the Marshall and Northern Solomon islands and the Bismark Archipelago,” the newspaper said.