PEACE! ran across the top of the Sept. 2, 1945, edition of The Seattle Sunday Times.
Japan had surrendered. World War II was over. Peace, wrote a reporter from aboard a battleship, had formally come to the entire world after history’s most devastating war.
“Today, the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur said in his address after the formal Japanese surrender that ran on the front page of the newspaper 75 years ago this week.
After six years, the war that had been fought in Europe and the Pacific and felt everywhere else had concluded. An estimated 85 million people — members of the military and civilians — were killed worldwide, which includes millions killed in the Holocaust and hundreds of thousands in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 400,000 Americans were killed in the war, among them 3,589 service members from Washington state.
The war showcased Seattle’s potential — bombers produced by Boeing, men shipped off to combat, women who joined the workforce — and its shameful undercurrents: anti-Japanese sentiment and racism that led to the forced evacuations of thousands of Japanese Americans on the West Coast into incarceration camps.
By the end of the war, Seattle was no longer thought of as a provincial town of natural resources and ships but as a city in the middle of things. The population grew from about 360,000 in 1940 to 450,000 in 1945, with changing demographics: The number of Black residents increased nearly fivefold from 1940 to 1950.
Events before and after the war, like the Great Depression and the Cold War, also contributed to Seattle’s transformation. But it was World War II that was instrumental in creating the city we know now, said John Findlay, a University of Washington history professor.
“World War II is the most important event in modern Seattle history,” he said, “in terms of the changes it brings.”
To mark the 75th anniversary of the war’s end, The Seattle Times is profiling three people who lived through the conflict: A soldier who went to fight in Europe while his family was incarcerated in a camp for Japanese Americans. A Holocaust survivor whose family hid from the Nazis in a barn. And a teacher who spent her summers drilling holes into the wing panels of B-17 bombers.