We walked round Washington growling at the WWII memorial saying the conflict was from 1941-45, imagine my surprise when I discovered the war ended in 1946!

The attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the Second World War – but when did it officially end?

This isn’t one of those mystery stories about a Japanese soldier stumbling out of the jungle in the late 1940s to discover that the war had been over for several years, nor a rehashed version of the fact that Berwick-upon-Tweed was at war with Russia long after the Paris Treaty at the end of the Crimean War. However, it does start with the mild irritation of walking around The Mall in Washington DC.

History tells us that the war ended with the fall of Berlin with VE day on May 8th 1945 or more accurately with the end of the war with Japan on September 2nd 1945. But the actual end of the war with both of these countries came much later following a Presidential Proclamation, 2714, on this day 31st December 1946.

It is, in fact, the reason that US veterans from that war are defined up until that date.

Arguably the war technically ended in 1951, when Congress passed a resolution ending the declaration of war on Germany. This may seem odd, as we all generally accept that the war ended in 1945.But, because of the on-going occupation of Germany and Japan by US forces, as well as those of the victorious powers. It also allowed the Nuremberg Trials to go ahead as a military court rather than a civilian process.

So, should the memorial in the Washington Mall really say 1941-1951?

Leave a comment


  1. Very interesting. I wasn’t aware of these facts. Much like everybody else I thought the war officially ended with the surrender of Japan. The more you know…

  2. Tern

     /  January 4, 2012

    It even ended in 1990, as I remember was on the radio 4 news quiz then, as recognised in the east-west treaty on German reunification which was when the 4-powers’ powers in Germany ended.
    More literally in terms of real action, WW2 certainly began in 1937, Japan-China. WW1 certainly continued until 1921, because the war in Russia was a continuous continuation of WW1 and at no point separable from it. The dates conventionally used reflecting whether anything was happening in western Europe ignore parts of both wars so are not actually the correct dates treating all parts of the world equally.


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