“So slowly it faded, leaving behind it a whole generation of men who would walk into history looking backwards, peering forever over their shoulders behind them, at their own lengthening shadows trailing across the earth. None of them would ever really get over it.” — James Jones, WWII: A Chronicle of Soldiering (1975)
Today marks the 70th anniversary of V-J (Victory over Japan) Day, the announcement that Japan would cease fighting and that WWII was effectively over. Few American households were unaffected by the experience of that conflict—and, despite the euphoria over its successful conclusion, From Here to Eternity author James Jones got it exactly right: The young men who fought to redress the catastrophic failures of two decades of diplomacy didn’t get over what they saw and experienced in the Pacific and Europe.
How could they? How could anybody?
All the more reason to honor their sacrifices—which, given the bright hopes of these youths going in, are far greater than we will ever be able to imagine.
(The image accompanying this post comes from The Best Years of Our Lives, the Oscar-winning 1946 postwar drama starring, from left to right, Harold Russell, Dana Andrews and Fredric March as veterans returning home as men changed utterly by the conflict, to a world that has altered just as significantly in their absence.)