During World War II, Dean Ashton, a Hopewell journalist, wrote the Hopewell News, a newsletter of hometown news for distribution to service members around the world. After almost two and a half years, and in his 43rd issue, Ashton finally was able to share the news of celebrating V-J Day in Hopewell on August 14, 1945:
“Victory! Peace! Wonderful peace — too wonderful to accept as a reality.
Supreme joy that changed to tears at thoughts of the sacrifice of life and the wounds borne; … deafening noises to ring out a note of triumph and an awful hush in homes where a brave lad went out and will not return …”
Ashton’s report on that day in Hopewell is transcribed below – the suspense of the wait for the official word, the disappointment of false alarms, and then, at last, the final announcement – followed by an explosion of noise that lasted into the night with a spontaneous parade of cars and fire trucks winding through the streets of the town.
The Hopewell News provides a powerful day-by-day view of the sacrifices and losses of the hometowns and families during the war, and David Blackwell’s histories of Hopewell and Pennington boroughs provide an additional perspective on the times.
But to put the war in personal terms – the people who joined the armed services from our local area – Blackwell reports that “When the war ended in 1945, 7 of the 250 Penningtonians who had served had lost their lives.”
And the Hopewell Borough Honor Roll, photographed that October and expanded with two extra side pieces, listed some 165 names of people in the service from Hopewell Borough alone. [Does anyone have a better image of this, or know if it still exists somewhere?]
Ashton also reports the individual stories of the people who were injured and killed in the war effort. He describes how local barber Harry Cox “felt especially close to the fellows in military service, for he had seen most of them grow up from the time when they came in for their first haircut and squirmed through fear that they would not live through the ordeal. By actual count, more than 100 of the shop’s customers were in the armed forces during the war.”
V-J Day in Hopewell by Dean Ashton
Transcribed from the Hopewell News – Vol. III, No. 12 – Aug. 24, 1945 – 43rd issue
DAY OF VICTORY
Victory! Peace! Wonderful peace — too wonderful to accept as a reality. And with it, the prospect of joyous home-comings, a civilian suit of clothes, a job and a return to normal living. Yes, it’s really true — all that and much more.
August 14, 1945 — a date that you’ll remember as long as you live, the day when Japan capitulated, little more than three months after Nazi Germany was overwhelmed.
Supreme joy that changed to tears at thoughts of the sacrifice of life and the wounds borne; hilarious shouts of joy and solemn prayers that world brotherhood be firmly established and maintained; deafening noises to ring out a note of triumph and an awful hush in homes where a brave lad went out and will not return; war, ghastly and leaving its scar upon nations and men — then peace, to be permanent and as wonderful as it seemed in the first hours after President Truman proclaimed Japan’s surrender, only if individuals decide that their daily lives will be based on Christian ideals put into every-day practice.
Peace — hard-won, but peace — may we cherish it dearly.
As throughout the world, the suspense in Hopewell during the final hours before the full surrender was announced, became terrific. Clustered around radios, the chief question was “Is this really IT!” But finally there came the word that released all the pent-up emotions — and the big celebration was under way.
However, Hopewell had its fair share of premature “flashes.” About 8 A.M. on Friday, the 10th, the fire siren and church bells signaled that it was all over — but it was all a mistake. Again on Sunday night, about 10 P.M., the fire siren set up its wail. In a moment of uncertainty as to whether it was a fire alarm or a signal of peace, one Junior Fireman appeared in his pajamas.
But Tuesday night was something else! When the President’s announcement was flashed at 7 o’clock, the fire siren, church bells and every auto horn and noise-maker in town joined in a terrific din that lasted well into the night. Immediately the streets filled with cars and people, A parade started like a spontaneous combustion. Flags appeared everywhere. The two fire trucks joined cars — estimated as numbering 100 or more — and the parade winded its way, up and down practically every street in the Borough. Every car was jammed with occupants; shouting, ringing bells and blowing horns. Spectators on the corners waved flags, shouted, and some cried. Pots and pans really took a banging that night. One old Ford coupe contained two fellows seated on the lowered top and shooting off a shotgun. The empty shells were picked up by those along the curb as souvenirs of the occasion. Boys riding the fire trucks put on over-sized fire hats and tried to look dignified. Fire crackers appeared from somewhere and added to the din. The fire siren had eased off, but a group of men and boys took turns pounding the old iron wheel on the Borough Hall grounds — used years ago as a fire alarm signal. When one tired, another took his place and that continued far into the night.