VP Day Service at Avalon Beach RSL Cenotaph
conducted by Avalon Beach Sub-Branch, 2023
VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day, also referred to as VJ (Victory over Japan) Day, is celebrated on 15 August. This date commemorates Japan’s acceptance of the Allied demand for unconditional surrender 14 August 1945. For Australians, it meant that the Second World War was finally over.
The following day, 15 August, is usually referred to as VP Day. In August 1945 Australian governments gazetted a public holiday as VP Day and most newspapers reported it as such.
Australia had been at war for 5 years, 11 months and 11 days when Japan accepted the Allied nations’ terms of surrender and Australia’s Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, confirmed that the war was over.
NSW Minister for Veterans David Harris who attended the commemorative service at the Cenotaph today, alongside RSL NSW President Ray James and members of the veteran community paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of all Second World War veterans.
“Today on VP Day we come together to remember all those men and women who served – in the ranks of our Navy, Army, Air Force, the Merchant Navy and nursing – and thank them for their sacrifices, in conflict and in captivity.
“It’s a date, we will never forget," Mr Harris said.
“We honour those who served, and the 39,000 Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace and freedom.”
Australian forces were engaged in campaigns across the Pacific – in New Guinea, Bougainville, New Britain, Borneo, and in the Philippines – and Australian prisoners of the Japanese were spread throughout Asia.
RSL NSW President Ray James OAM, said commemorating significant moments in our military history is vital to Australia, as people, a community and a nation.
“People should never forget how close we as a nation came to invasion and occupation during the Second World War,” Mr James said.
“But for the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served in our armed forces, and those of the Allied forces, the Australian people would not have been protected from the battles of the war reaching our shores."
At Avalon Beach RSL Cenotaph Cdre. Richard Menhinick AM CSC, President of the Avalon Beach Sub Branch, conducted the 2023 VP Day Service, with vocals and music by students from Mater Maria Catholic College in Warriewood, who led the Hymn Abide with Me and the National Anthem and provided the Last Post and Reveille.
The Prayer for the Fallen was read by Tamara Sloper-Harding OAM, Vice President of the Sub Branch, the Prayer for the Services by Cdre. Richard Menhinick AM CSC.
Wreaths were laid by Tamara Sloper-Harding OAM for the Sub Branch and Kylie Darcy-Smith, representing Avalon Beach RSL Club.
The Commemoration Address was given by Cdre. Richard Menhinick AM CSC, President of the Avalon Beach Sub Branch, who kindly allows this to be placed on the record this Issue for those who could not attend this year's VP Day Commemoration Service.
Commodore Menhinick (RAN Rtd.) explained most facts in this speech were garnered from the WWII series of weekly encyclopaedia magazines published by Orbis Publishing World War II (1975) which he had collected as a youngster and read avidly.
VICTORY IN THE PACIFIC DAY
78 YEARS ON
On 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito publicly announced Japan’s acceptance of the Allies’ terms and Japan’s surrender. Nazi Germany had surrendered to the Allies three months earlier. The Second World War was over.
Australian forces were engaged in campaigns across the world, on all the oceans and skies and in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Asia and the Pacific.
World War II proved to be the deadliest international conflict in history, taking the lives of 60 to 80 million people, including 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Civilians made up an estimated 50-55 million deaths from the war, while military comprised 21 to 25 million of those lost during the war. Millions more were injured, and still more lost their homes and property.
The legacy of the war would include the spread of communism from the Soviet Union into eastern Europe as well as its eventual triumph in China, and the global shift in power from Europe to the United States and the Soviet Union, to more recently include the People’s Republic of China
While there were many contributors to Japan’s defeat in the war, the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945 brought the conflict to a sudden end. Most had expected the war against Japan to continue into 1946.
The film Oppenhiemer, which is currently on at the cinemas, a must see movie in my view, digs into the moral, ethical and technological issues surrounding the invention and then the dropping of the first Atom bomb.
What is known of Japanese intentions in the absence of weapon such as the atomic bomb is that as late as May 1945, the Japanese High Command had expressed confidence that any Anglo-American invasion of the Japanese homeland could be repulsed. The main strength of the Army remained intact, and Japans’ air force had been dispersed to many airfields to preserve it from destruction from American bombers. Plans to repulse the invaders called for the entire air force to attack approaching ships in waves of kamikaze assaults whilst Army operations would concentrate on elimination of the invaders at their disembarkation sites.
In late July 1945, the United States War Department provided an estimate that the entire invasion would cause between 1.7 to 4 million U.S. casualties, including 400-800,000 U.S. dead, and 5 to 10 million Japanese dead.
Meanwhile Emperor Hirohito himself was convinced it would be necessary to negotiate. His civilian advisers and the Navy command as well as some members of the high command, privately had told him that the military situation was hopeless and that the war must be ended immediately. As a result, early in July 1945, while the high command was planning to repulse the invaders and fight to the last man, the diplomats were appealing to the Soviet Union to act as a mediator in order to end the war.
At Potsdam on 17 July 1945, Stalin met with Truman and Churchill and informed them that the Japanese had approached him about peace talks, but seemed unprepared to accept the Allies’ demand for unconditional surrender . The Potsdam Proclamation on 26 July 1945 reiterated the demand that surrender be unconditional. Otherwise the proclamation declared, Japan would face “prompt and utter destruction”. It did not state that this destruction would be brought about by a new weapon – the atomic bomb.
The rest is history as they say – and after the two atomic bomb attacks, on 14 August 1945, the Japanese cabinet acceded to the Imperial will, that of the Emperor, and Japan surrendered unconditionally. In Australia, 15 August 1945 was gazetted as VP Day: “Victory in the Pacific Day”.
At the time, Australians enjoyed what Prime Minister Ben Chifley simply called “this glorious moment”.
And it remains a glorious moment, one that we commemorate each year here the Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch. Of course, the high hopes that were on show in the immediate aftermath of the second world war have in many cases not materialised. The Cold War was a war that never was, but it blunted our hopes for a better world. There was no declaration of war, no employment of troops in vast and bloody attacks, no Blitzkriegs and no armistice or formal surrender, but the Iron Curtain most certainly was real. In our region unrest abounded and it can be attributed to a variety of factors: the success of the Communists in China, which is a worsening problem today, the crumbling of colonial empires, the desire for self-determination. The Japanese had proved to the people of Asia that the ruling Europeans could be defeated. Was it possible to emulate them? The Malaysian Campaigns, riots in Singapore, the confrontation with Indonesia, the issue of West Papua, the French defeat in Vietnam amongst many other occurrences arose from the Second World War.
For us today, was does it mean, 78 years on? I have spoken previously on the United Nations and the legacy of the generation that fought in the Second World War and then who forged the peace and grew this country have left us. By population we are the 53rd largest country at just 0.3% of the world’s population, but economically we are the 12th largest by GDP. A truly multi-cultural and democratic country in the world’s most dynamic region and surrounded by the world’s three largest oceans, with the security and potential wealth that this brings us and future generations.
Just behind me on the other side of the hedge are three plaques, one of which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. It is dedicated to those who served and to those who paid the supreme sacrifice “We Will Remember them” is inscribed on it. One of the plaques also has the nominal roll of World War II Avalon enlistments. On that plaque is listed the names of 28 men and 2 women. That at a time when the permanent population of this lovely suburb must have only been in the low 100s at the most.
Accordingly, as we sit here today, let us consider the sacrifice of everyone who served in World War II and also those who remained at home, supporting the war effort, working for our country and keeping family life going. They are our parents and grandparents, our uncles and aunts. It is personal for all of us. In my case I had both parents, four uncles and an aunt and all of them served in the Navy, Air Force or in my dad’s case, the British Merchant Navy. Many of our loved ones are commemorated with memorial plaques in this, our beautiful and poignant memorial.
As we move towards the part of today’s service that involves the laying of wreaths, flowers, poppies or sprigs of rosemary on the memorial, and in our 75th year as an RSL Sub Branch, let us remember what preserving peace and defending our country really is about. World War II affected an entire generation not just during the war itself but the effects and tragedy for so many lasted their entire lifetime.
Today is unfortunately a time when our strategic situation is more dangerous and unpredictable than it has been since 1945. Remember two Australians are locked up in communist China on spurious charges. Individuals from Canada have also been victims very recently of this sort of action. That country has also practised political and economic coercion against us and also is interfering in the peaceful Pacific islands.
Beyond China, more broadly human rights abuses are prevalent in so many countries and societies. The basic problem that no government of ours can change, whether Liberal or Labor, is that fundamentally communist, fascist and fundamental religious state systems do not believe in the right of individuals to free thought, expression, movement or religion, nor do they hold that each life truly is precious.
The global governance system put in place by those who fought in World War II is not in any way perfect, but it is essentially all we have under international law to limit the impact of these regimes. Therefore, inevitably we are in for a hard time moving forward.
Taiwan is a fact, as is what is happening in Hong Kong and the South China Sea. As with previous generations we must be prepared, but for today let us remember that sacrifice is personal, that friends really matter and that being a loving and gracious community, committed to a free and democratic society, is really what those who have gone before us would want us to be.
So, after today’s service and luncheon, hug a loved one or phone a friend, and treasure today and what those before us have bequeathed us.
Cdre. Richard Menhinick AM CSC, President of the Avalon Beach Sub Branch