World War II ended fifty-five years ago tonight - early on Sept. 2 in Japan - when Japanese officials signed articles of surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Military and civilian deaths numbered at least 35 million, and perhaps 60 million: The Soviet Union lost at least 18 million men and women; Poland, 5.8 million, including victims of the Nazis' concentration camps; Germany, 4.2 million; Japan, 1.9 million; the United States, 298,000.
No period brought so much havoc to so many, or so rapidly advanced the technology of killing - from the death camps in Europe to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
"The thoughts and hopes of all America - indeed of all the civilized world - are centered tonight on the battleship Missouri," President Harry S. Truman said in a radio address. "There on that small piece of American soil anchored in Tokyo harbor the Japanese have just officially laid down their arms. They have signed terms of unconditional surrender.
"Four years ago the thoughts and fears of the whole civilized world were centered on another piece of American soil - Pearl Harbor. The mighty threat to civilization which began there is now laid at rest. It was a long road to Tokyo - and a bloody one.
"We shall not forget Pearl Harbor.
"The Japanese militarists will not forget the USS Missouri. ...
"Our first thoughts, of course - thoughts of gratefulness and deep obligations - go out to those of our loved ones who have been killed or maimed in this terrible war. On land and sea and in the air, American men and women have given their lives so that this day of ultimate victory might come back and assure the survival of a civilized world. No victory can make good their loss. ...
"Only the knowledge that the victory, which these sacrifices have made possible, will be wisely used can give [us] any comfort. It is our responsibility - ours, the living - to see to it that this victory shall be a monument worthy of the dead who died to win it."