VJ Day, 1945

By Marilyn Zuckerman

V-J Day in Times Square photograph in LIFE Magazine ©Alfred Eisenstaedt

V-J Day in Times Square (LIFE Magazine ©Alfred Eisenstaedt)

“I should have burned my fingers before I sent it!”
—Einstein, about a letter sent to FDR requesting the atom project

Broadway and 42nd Street
the ecstatic mob
hilarious with relief,
a sailor grabs a girl
out of the crowd
kissing her so soundly
they bend back in a graceful arc –
a famous photograph,
historic as the tearful Frenchman
greeting GI’s after D-Day.
Suddenly, out of the carnival swarm,
the street littered in confetti,
ticker tape and torn newspapers,
my father appears.
He greets me solemnly.
No kissing, no embrace.
The nightmare will never
be over for him –
he still hears the guns over Belleau Wood,
smells the stench of the corpses
stacked along the firewall,
the day he was gassed
wounded by shrapnel
waiting all day to be taken to the field hospital
until after they cleared away the dead –
there were so many.

Yet on that August day
the triumphant host
neither I nor they giving a thought
to the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
the charred flesh
the incinerated found in the ruins
under scorched timbers,
or what the world would be like after.

·    ·    ·

Hiroshima Aftermath

All the events in the poem above actually occurred including Einstein’s regret at encouraging the atom bomb.

A-Bomb exploding over Nagasaki 1945

From my book, In the Ninth Decade, Red Dragonfly Press.


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5 thoughts on “VJ Day, 1945

  1. Although I was not alive when any of this took place, I came on the scene very shortly thereafter, and it became part of the fabric of my childhood. Thank you, Marilyn, for your poem that touches a deep part of me.

    • I agree, Liz. Though this was my parents’ generation, these WWII images and stories form as much a part of my kidhood memories as many others that I actually participated in!

  2. The images conveyed in “VJ Day 1945” are powerful on so many levels. After reading the poem, a part of me wanted to quickly run back to the hum drum of my busy 2013 life, but I decided to sit with my feelings awhile in order to reflect on the unimaginable loss that took place shortly before I was born. Thanks, Marilyn– once again your concise use of words has created images that are vivid and accessible — even if disturbing.

  3. Pingback: VJ Day, 1945 - Marilyn Zuckerman Marilyn Zuckerman

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