Essay : August 14, 1945 - V-J Day - the whole world celebrated, and Vineyarders joined the fun
Neal Gray is 85 and lives in Scituate. He works at the Scituate Harbor Yacht Club, where he is "Mr. Fix-it." That's his description.
At 6:10 pm EDT, August 14, 1945, the United States learned that Japanese Emperor Hirohito had surrendered. The Second World War was over at last, and Neal Gray, a Navy second class petty officer stationed on Martha's Vineyard, realized that he would not be joining the invasion force for which he was preparing.
For Mr. Neal, his fellow servicemen, and many Martha's Vineyard residents, Victory in Japan, or V-J Day, quickly became the occasion for a consuming celebration.
Neal Gray remembers the celebration in happy detail, as follows.
I was in the US Navy in WWII, but in the summer of 1945, I was living the good life on Martha's Vineyard, training to go to a carrier in the Pacific. We were training for full nighttime carrier operations.
On the base, although I was only a second-class petty officer, I was a Senior Aviation Ordnanceman. I had devised a safer way to launch aerial targets pulled by a plane. I also had removed, reinstalled and bore-sighted guns on a Marine's F4U Corsair. None of the other guys said they could do it.
My 11 months on the Vineyard were my happiest days in the service; even though I knew (until the war ended) that there were probably tough days ahead. The USO in Vineyard Haven was our favorite of any in the world. We felt like family to Islanders.
On trips back to the mainland, if I had the weekend off, I usually found Pat O'Brien (movie star) on the boat, and he bought drinks for any sailors on board the ferry. My folks skimped on gas (gas was rationed) so I'd have enough to commute to my house in Scituate on those weekends.
I have many experiences I can relate - the people in Hart Haven who included membership in the East Chop Beach Club in the summer. Skinny-dipping with the waitress girls who worked at the inn on West Chop.
Seeing Betty Davis's mansion and the giant guard dogs.
The news arrives
Well, on the day that became VJ-Day, we were all sitting around with our ears glued to the radio. I guessed peace was going to happen, and I cut out to go into Vineyard Haven to see how the town would take the news. Just after I left the base, my car radio said peace had come.
Vineyard Haven was a nut house. Everyone was out in the streets shouting and dancing. I had the top down and picked up a couple of friends, and we headed for Oak Bluffs.
Some guy in Oak Bluffs had made his own aerial bombs (fireworks) and was firing one every minute - he did this at least until midnight. You could set your watch by them. One minute BOOM! One more minute BOOM! and so on all night. At Oak Bluffs, I picked up more people. By this time there were several people on or in the car I didn't know. We were all cheering and singing patriotic songs. As we approached Edgartown, I was now sitting on top of the seat so I could see over the 26 people who were on/in the car and steering with my feet. The car, of course, was moving slow at idle maybe one or two miles an hour.
It's a parade
We had become part of an impromptu parade. I do recall singing the National Anthem at least three times. We stopped in the middle of town for more singing, some speeches, and I got the people off the car, as I was afraid the tires would go flat. The rest of the evening is a blur as we were receiving free drinks, and I had to watch it as I was driving. I got back to the base somehow and found they had closed the gate as soon as peace was announced. No one got into town after that.
We could still hear BOOM! every minute.
I am lucky to have these memories.