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North Hills Monthly

What was the biggest celebration ever held in America?

Jun 30, 2015 09:43PM ● By Charles Reichblum
It was 70 years ago this summer that the biggest, wildest, most incredible celebration in American history happened. News announcer Bob Trout of CBS went on the air on all networks at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the evening of Aug. 14, 1945, and made the announcement that Japan had just surrendered, and World War II was over.

Celebrations erupted across America. The biggest war that the world had ever seen was over, and the nationwide celebrations in America that summer night were like those never seen before or since. In cities and towns throughout the nation, millions of people rushed into the streets, shouting with joy. Horns honked. People hugged total strangers. Happy, loud noise was heard everywhere. 

To show the extent of feeling in the country, the staid New York Times the next morning had a headline that read “END OF WAR!” using a rare exclamation point in its headline. Speaking of New York, police estimated that more than two million people jammed Times Square that evening to celebrate, with, as the Times said, “A din that was overwhelming.”

Life magazine, then a wide-circulation, influential weekly national publication, printed the still-famous of a male sailor in Times Square grabbing a female nurse and planting a big kiss on her lips. In normal times, he might have at least gotten a slap in the face, but not that night.

How giddy was President Harry Truman that the war was over? He quickly announced that there would be a two-day federal holiday, starting the next day, with no mail delivery and no federal offices open, so that everybody could forget about work and celebrate. Private businesses took their cue from Truman and most offices were closed to allow everyone a gleeful two-day holiday. 

There have been big celebrations in various cities and towns after a local team wins a sports championship, but the difference here was that this celebration was not confined to one locale. It was nationwide and it was the most gigantic celebration ever seen in this country.  

Dr. Knowledge is heard on KDKA and the CBS radio network with his “Knowledge in a Nutshell” feature, and is author of the “Knowledge in a Nutshell” book series. His website is