Victory in the Pacific (VP) Day

The Japanese ceasefire took effect on 15 August 1945, following the threat of invasion and Allied bombings. The official surrender ceremony, however, took place on 2 September 1945 on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

31 January 2020

While Victory in Europe was declared in May 1945, fighting in the Pacific region continued until August 1945.

Following the official surrender ceremony, a number of other surrender ceremonies were held at locations throughout the Pacific, including Cape Wom, at Wewak in northern New Guinea; Rabaul on New Britain; Bougainville; Kuching, Balikpapan, Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), and Sandakan in Borneo; Hong Kong; Timor; and Nauru.

To mark Victory in the Pacific, the Australian Government gazetted a public holiday, declaring it Victory in the Pacific Day, or VP Day.

Some other nations, such as Britain, the United Stated and New Zealand declared it Victory in Japan, or VJ Day.

Australian involvement in the Pacific

Australian troops engaged with Japan in Papua New Guinea, Malaya, Bougainville and New Britain.

Australians are most well known for their efforts in the Pacific in the Papua New Guinea campaigns of 1942: Kokoda and Milne Bay.

However, Australians also supported the Allied cause in the Pacific towards the latter half of the Second World War. In total, six Australian divisions, supported by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), were in action against the Japanese throughout the Pacific.

In late 1944, the Australians took over former American bases in northern New Guinea, on Bougainville and on New Britain, with the aim of defeating the large number of Japanese forces that remained there.

The Japanese, despite being cut off from their supply base at Rabaul, and often having to rely on their own resources for survival, refused to concede defeat. They continued to engage in long and costly battles with the Australians.

In New Guinea, between November 1944 and August 1945, the 6th Division fought in the Aitape-Wewak region.

On Bougainville, the Australian 3rd Division, together with troops from the 11th and 13th Brigades, conducted demanding patrols interspersed with some sharp fighting. Costly battles were fought at Slater's Knoll in March and April in 1945.

Meanwhile, the 5th Division undertook difficult operations on the island of New Britain, pushing the Japanese back towards Rabaul.

In 1945, Australian forces launched three military actions against Japanese-held Borneo, at Tarakan; Labuan-Brunei Bay; and Balikpapan. These were the biggest Australian campaigns of the Second World War.

In these campaigns, more than 500 Australians died and more than 1,400 were wounded.

FAST FACTS

Australians who served

  • Australians served from each of the three services: Navy, Army and Air Force.

Casualties

  • More than 39,000 Australians died during the Second World War.
  • More than 17,000 Australians lost their lives in the war against Japan.

Some key battles across the Pacific

  • Kokoda (1942)
  • Milne Bay (1942)
  • Battle of Wau (1943)
  • Battle of the Bismarck Sea (1943)
  • Salamaua-Lae Campaign (1943)
  • Finisterre Range Campaign (1943–44)
  • Huon Peninsula Campaign (1943–44)
  • Bougainville Campaign (1943–45)
  • New Britain Campaign (1943–45)
  • Admiralty Islands Campaign (1944)
  • Battle of Leyte Gulf (1944)
  • Aitape-Wewak Campaign (1944-45)
  • Western New Guinea Campaign (1944–45)

Commemoration