I spent most of a hot Thai day putting together a long article for A Stamp A Day all about the Victory in Europe that came about 75 years ago this week. We celebrate it in the US as V-E Day and there are different names for the celebration in various other countries as well.
So many of the younger generation have no idea about history (or geography, for that matter). I was born in 1965, some twenty years following the end of World War II, but I am quite knowledgeable about it and am always learning more. It is one of the few interests I hold that were NOT a result of my collecting stamps (although I have enriched my fascination of this period through philately). I grew up on stories of the war (my grandfather was once the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet…Cribbage Champion so the legend goes) and watched my share of related movies. To this day, if stuck for something to watch, I will turn first to movies like “The Great Escape” or “Patton”.
One of my biggest regrets in life is that I did NOT visit any of the great European sites that recall, mark, honor events during World War II. Now that I live in Thailand, which was occupied by the Japanese from 8 December 1941 until mid-September 1945, I am completely amazed (and disappointed) that there are almost no reminders of the war here. The only major site in the entire country that people visit is Kanchanaburi, the (faked) location of the famed River Kwai Bridge. Both Malaysia and Singapore have some interesting museums and other sites as do other countries in the region. They could easily build a small museum right here on Phuket or at least erect small markers around the island showing the locations of the Japanese Army and POW camps, where the foreigners escaped the island from (via submarine), and pointing out the spots offshore where ships were sunk during several battles (including one which preceded what would have been one of the largest invasions of the last year of the war had the Japanese not surrendered on 2 September 1945).
In recent years, I have become fascinated with the German occupation of the British Channel Islands from 1940 to 1945, particularly that of Jersey. I have most of the stamps issued during the occupations (Guernsey and Jersey both issued sets) and am now working on non-philatelic postal history pieces sent by German Feldpost or the Red Cross. BTW, the stamps both places are issuing for this year’s anniversary are quite colorful. You can find about these and other World War II stamps released in 2020 by following my stamp blog, Philatelic Pursuits.
Thus, I tend to overlook 8 May as VE Day and think about 9 May (and 10 and 16) as Liberation Day. Or, the Russian side of me (German-Russian, is that White Russian?) wants to visit Moscow for a 9 May Victory Day celebration with its parade of tanks. Unfortunately, most (if not all) planned commemorations this year have been cancelled (in the UK, they are suggesting “Celebrate At Home”).
Given my current locale, I may try to visit Kanchanaburi again at some point during this 75th anniversary year if the current Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis lifts and the ensuing school year allows any time at all for such a trip (currently set for 1 July 2020 until 30 April 2021 without a break between the terms — the three-day New Year’s break seems the only likely long holiday). At the very least, I will commemorate VJ Day in some manner, probably with a local post stamp design. Time will tell.
As for today, I realize that many of us are still under some sort of self-isolation or lockdown because of the virus. We are unable to be with out loved ones on this, or any other holidays, during this point in time. So many of us are prevented from traveling even as far as the neighborhood mini-mart much less being able to hop on a plane to leave the country (or province, as the case may be). Many are taking to the “old fashioned” method of writing letters to keep in touch but so many postal systems around the world have halted operations in one form or another, international mail can be a time-consuming endeavor.
This has also made me realize that the words sung by Miss Vera Lynn, whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during the Second World War and is still very much alive at 103, are just as relevant during our current situations as they were 75 and more years ago.
So, happy end of World War II anniversary, whatever you want to call it….