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Historical Happenings in September 2023



School is in full swing, and so are these monumental moments! We’ve compiled a list of major events from world and American history and resources to help you easily plan your lessons!


History at a Glance:

September 2, 1945: V-J Day/End of WWII

After years of combat resulting in the deaths of millions of people worldwide, the deadliest war in history finally ended on September 2, 1945.[1] Known as Victory over Japan Day, or simply V-J Day, this victorious moment came at a devastating cost to soldiers and civilians alike.


Even though Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 8, 1945 (known as V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day), the conflict still raged on in the Pacific Theatre.[2] To end the war, the Allies began strategizing ways to defeat Japan. “Operation Downfall” was their solution and involved invading the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Honshu.[3] However, “Operation Downfall” was predicted to have high casualties of soldiers.


The “Big Three” (U.S. President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin) met from July 17, 1945 to August 2, 1945, during the Potsdam Conference in Potsdam, Germany, to discuss the terms for Japan’s surrender. These terms became the “Potsdam Declaration.”[4] As stated in the Declaration, if Japan refused the terms, the nation would be met with “prompt and utter destruction.”


Following the successful testing of an atomic bomb in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, the U.S. decided to bomb Japan if the Japanese government did not accept the terms for surrender as outlined in the “Potsdam Declaration.” This decision was made because President Truman believed that it would prevent more Allied casualties and end the war sooner.[5]


When no surrender came, the atomic bomb codenamed “Little Boy” was dropped on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan. The devastation was immediate and catastrophic; 12.5 kilotons of TNT exploded, decimating the city and killing over 120,000 people in four days from the sudden impact and later from injuries and exposure to radiation.[6] Three days later, the bomb “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, killing between 70,000-73,000 people.[7]


The Japanese Government accepted the Allies’ terms for unconditional surrender on August 15 (August 14 in the U.S.). In his speech to his people, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender on Radio Tokyo.[8]


“Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”[9] - Japanese Emperor Hirohito

President Truman announced the Allies’ victory on August 14, and celebrations erupted across the nation as Americans marked the end of the war with parades, patriotic decorations, and marching bands.[10] V-J Day was also unofficially declared on this day, but the official end of the war came weeks later when Japanese officials signed the official surrender document, the Instrument of Surrender, on September 2, 1945.


The Instrument of Surrender was signed while aboard the USS Missouri, which was docked in Tokyo Bay. The surrender ceremony lasted for 30 minutes and included an invocation by a Navy chaplain, the national anthem, and demonstrations by hundreds of U.S. airplanes.

Delegates from China, the U.K., the Soviet Union, France, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand were present for the ceremony.[11] With the ceremony completed and the Instrument of Surrender signed, WWII officially ended.



The impact WWII had on the world and the devastation it caused in the deaths of an estimated 45-60 million people around the globe is profound. We understand the sensitivity needed when it comes to explaining these concepts — especially the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and have put together a few resources that can help with your lesson plans while honoring the people whose lives were lost in the war. For more resources, you can also explore our WWII titles.


Teacher Resources:


  • “Voices from Japan” by Atomic Heritage Foundation: Listen to the stories of the hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombs, with your students. These powerful and moving interviews provide your students with eyewitness accounts of this horrific historical moment and its effects on survivors. As hibakusha Keiko Ogura says, “But by and by, survivors thought, ‘No, there must be a meaning to survive.’ That is to tell our story. This is what we can do to tell our story to the younger generations…Every day, we see people, young people, coming to the city. They are like our vitamin or remedy to cure our sadness, because we feel like, ‘Before I died, I could tell my story to those young people.’ Then, finally, we found telling our story is the best way to cure our heart.”

September 15 – October 15, 2023: Hispanic Heritage Month


Every year, Hispanic and Latino Americans' history, culture, and contributions are celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month began as a week-long celebration in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. It was extended to a month-long observance (September 15 – October 15) in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan and was enacted into law under Public Law 100–402.[12]


September 15 – October 15 was chosen as the dates for Hispanic Heritage Month to coincide with the dates that many North, Central, and South American countries gained or declared their independence. They are:


  • Mexico: September 16, 1810

  • Chile: September 18, 1810

  • Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua: September 15, 1821

  • Belize: September 21, 1981


From teaching your students about the pioneers in medicine and space exploration to the artists who incorporate their heritage into their music and paintings, there are so many ways your class can learn about Hispanic and Latino Americans during this month and year round! For a deeper dive into Hispanic Heritage Month and more ways you can celebrate with your students, read our “Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month” blog and check out our Hispanic Heritage supplemental resources.


Teacher Resources:


  • “Teaching with Places: Hispanic American/Latino American History” by the National Park Service: Travel back in time and across the nation using these lesson plans with your class. Each lesson plan incorporates a historic building or monument with its cultural significance in American history.



September 17, 1787: Constitution Day and Citizenship Day


Sign on the dotted line because it’s Constitution Day! The U.S. Constitution is “the world’s longest surviving written charter of government,” according to Senate.gov. However, it’s not America’s first written constitution— that would be the Articles of Confederation! The Articles of Confederation served as the governing legislation for the new nation since its ratification on March 1, 1781, until it was replaced by the Constitution in 1789. The reason for this change was that the Articles of Confederation were criticized for not creating a strong central government.[13]


To rectify these issues and strengthen the Articles, Congress authorized delegates to meet to discuss changes and make suggestions. What they came up with was an entirely new document: the Constitution. The delegates signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, during the Constitutional Convention (then referred to as the Philadelphia Convention).[14]



Before the Consitution could go into effect, it needed the approval of nine states. It received the necessary votes, with New Hampshire being the ninth state to ratify the Constitution on June 21, 1788. The Constitution was now ready to replace the Articles of Confederation, and it was decided by the Confederation Congress that the Consitution would go into effect on March 4, 1789.[15]


The Constitution does a lot! It establishes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. In addition, the Constitution creates checks and balances that prevent these branches from exerting more power than others.[16] The three branches of government are laid out in Articles I, II, and III.[17] Over the years, 27 amendments have been added to the Constitution. The first ten amendments are the Bill of Rights, which was ratified on December 15, 1791.[18]


In 1956, Congress established Constitution Week (September 17 – September 23).[19] In 2004, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia advocated for September 17 to be selected as Constitution Day and for a requirement to be in put in place for public schools to teach about the Constitution.[20] There are tons of resources available to help you do just that! Check out our Constitutuon titles, plus discover the teacher resources below.


Teacher Resources:



  • “Constitutional Compromise” by iCivics: We tested out this interactive game, and we have to say, it’s pretty cool! Perfect for elementary and middle schoolers, this game walks students through the events that happened at the Constitutional Convention and the concerns (like what the roles and responsibilities of the government should be) that were addressed. Students are asked to create compromises after listening to the delegates debate these key issues. At the end of the game, they’ll find out if their answers matched the compromises the delegates reached at the end of the Convention in 1787!


For more historical tidbits, lesson plan ideas, and free activities, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, be sure to check out our other blogs for even more resources!


 

Sources:


[2] “World War II in the Pacific.” National Geographic, https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/world-war-ii-pacific/. Accessed 24 August 2023.

[3] “‘Downfall’ The Plan for the Invasion of Japan.” U.S. Army Center of Military History, 20 June 2006, https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/macarthur%20reports/macarthur%20v1/ch13.htm. Accessed 24 August 2023.

[4] “The Potsdam Conference, 1945.” Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute | United States Department of State, https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/potsdam-conf#:~:text=The%20Big%20Three%E2%80%94Soviet%20leader,end%20of%20World%20War%20II. Accessed 24 August 2023.

[5] “The Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb.” Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/us-wwii/a/the-manhattan-project-and-the-atomic-bomb. Accessed 25 August 2023.

[6] “The Atomic Bombs That Ended the Second World War.” Imperial War Museums. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-atomic-bombs-that-ended-the-second-world-war. Accessed 23 August 2023.

[7] “V-J Day.” The National WWII Museum, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/v-j-day. Accessed 22 August 2023.

[8] “Victory Over Japan Day: End of WWII.” U.S. Department of Defense, https://www.defense.gov/Multimedia/Experience/VJ-Day/. Accessed 22 August 2023.

[9] History.com Editors. “V-J Day.” HISTORY, 18 July 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/v-j-day. Accessed 22 August 2023.

[10] “V-J Day.” The National WWII Museum, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/v-j-day. Accessed 22 August 2023.

[11] “Victory Over Japan Day: End of WWII.” U.S. Department of Defense, https://www.defense.gov/Multimedia/Experience/VJ-Day/. Accessed 22 August 2023.

[12] “About National Hispanic Heritage Month.” National Hispanic Heriage Month, https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about.html. Accessed 24 August 2023.

[14] “Constitution FAQs.” National Constitution Center, https://constitutioncenter.org/education/constitution-faqs. Accessed 23 August 2023.

[15] “Constitution FAQs.” National Constitution Center, https://constitutioncenter.org/education/constitution-faqs. Accessed 23 August 2023.

[16] “Constitution FAQs.” National Constitution Center, https://constitutioncenter.org/education/constitution-faqs. Accessed 23 August 2023.

[17] “Constitution Day.” United States Senate, https://www.senate.gov/about/origins-foundations/senate-and-constitution/constitution-day.htm. Accessed 23 August 2023.

[19] “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day - September 17.” Lehman College, https://libguides.lehman.edu/constitution-and-citizenship-day#:~:text=Congress%20requested%2C%20on%20August%202,year%20as%20%22Constitution%20Week%22. Accessed 28 August 2023.

[20] “Constitution Day.” United States Senate, https://www.senate.gov/about/origins-foundations/senate-and-constitution/constitution-day.htm. Accessed 23 August 2023.

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