WELLSBURG The Brooke County Public Library marked the 65th anniversary of V-J Day with comments from two local men who had very personal reasons to celebrate it and a display of military equipment and memorabilia from throughout World War II.
V-J Day marks the surrender of Japan to the U.S. and its allies, bringing World War II to a close, and is traditionally observed on Aug. 14, when Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender, though it formally didn't occur until Sept. 2.
Dr. Fernando Manalac of Steubenville, a retired psychiatrist and former lieutenant colonel in the Army Medical Corps, related his experiences as a teen living in the Philippine Islands when the Japanese invaded.
MILITARY?DISPLAY — Father and son Mark and Thomas Kyanko of Wellsburg survey several military rifles used during World War II, which were part of an assortment of military gear and memorabilia displayed by Tony Ankrom of Proctor, W.Va. during a program Saturday at the Brooke County Public Library marking the 65th anniversary of V-J Day. -Warren Scott
Born in Manila, Manalac said before the war, the U.S. governed the islands and he and other Filippinos were heavily influenced by America's ideals and way of life.
Faced with the threat of Nazi Germany, U.S. and Philippine officials had anticipated the war several months before the Japanese' attack on Pearl Harbor, he said.
The public participated in blackout exercises and Boy Scouts, like himself, received training in deciphering Morse Code and other skills that might be helpful to the war effort, Manalac recalled.
Not long after Pearl Harbor, Manalac's high school principal announced the school would be closed until further notice. He watched as Japanese residents were transported by school buses to internment camps.
As American and Philippine troops were concentrated elsewhere, the Japanese invaded Manila. Japanese soldiers directing traffic on city streets became a common sight, Manalac said.
"We knew then we were a conquered people," he said. He added tales of Japanese massacres in China in years past instilled great fear.
But he learned the Japanese hoped to convert them to their cause, staging contests and bringing in Japanese clergy in an effort to sway them.
Manalac said their conquerors didn't realize that "even though we were in Asia, we were American at heart and in our minds."
He recalled at one of a number of victory parades staged by the Japanese, a Filippino brass band slipped in a rendition of "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Though the joke wasn't lost on many Filippinos, among the Japanese "no one was the wiser," Manalac said.
But fear of the invaders remained. Manalac recalled the company where his father was chief accountant was investigated because it was suspected of supporting the many guerrillas who had organized against their oppressors.
Many of Manalac's cousins were guerrillas and he once left the city with plans to aid the Allied troops, though he had no weapons. It was then that he witnessed the many injuries and casualties sustained by the troops.
He watched as three volunteer Filippino nurses tended to the wounded, one "cradling a GI like a mother," and soldiers were carried away on stretchers.
Manalac said though the Allied troops suffered many losses, their determination over a 5-month battle prevented the Japanese from invading Australia and Hawaii.
When the fighting spread to Manila and the Quezon Bridge, just six blocks from their home, was destroyed with explosives by the Japanese from their home, Manalac and his family joined many others in seeking refuge in an elementary school.
Manalac said upon hearing of the Japanese' surrender, "Manila was so joyful. Everyone was singing and dancing. All of the American warships in Manila Bay began shooting rockets. It was a happy affair. No one really slept."
Visitors to the library Saturday also had an opportunity to view a variety of military gear, helmets and badges and other memorabilia collected by Tony Ankrom of Proctor, W.Va.
Dubbed "Lest We Forget," the display included two machine guns and several rifles used during the war and local newspapers with front page stories announcing major developments, including the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ankrom said he acquired many of the items at yard sales and flea markets, quite possibly rescuing many from being dumped in the trash.
Often he's accompanied by friends who own military vehicles from the period, and he himself is restoring a former Army jeep.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)