Royal Canadian Navy marks 75th Anniversary of Victory in the Pacific Day

Navy News / August 14, 2020

Large crowds gathered across Canada on August 15, 1945 to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Victory in the Pacific Day was declared and brought to a close more than six long years of fighting across the globe.

Weeks earlier, as millions of people were celebrating the Victory in Europe, Canada was readying for the final push to end conflict in the Pacific, with important contributions from the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). Nearly 80,000 Canadians volunteered to join the Pacific forces, including 60 ships crewed by 13,500 men.

The first Canadian force to make its presence felt in the Pacific was the RCN, when the cruiser Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Uganda joined the British Pacific Fleet in time to participate in the Allied operations around Okinawa in the spring of 1945.

The auxiliary cruiser HMCS Prince Robert, which had helped transport Canada's troops to the ill-fated defence of Hong Kong in 1941, returned to the Pacific Theatre and had the satisfaction of assisting in the liberation of the prisoners of war in Hong Kong.

Of particular note was the service of Lieutenant Commander (LCdr) William Lore, the RCN’s first Chinese-Canadian officer and the first officer of Chinese descent to serve in any of the Royal navies of the British Commonwealth. LCdr Lore served in England, Sri Lanka and Myanmar during the Second World War, and helped liberate Canadian prisoners of war in Hong Kong. LCdr Lore was the first Allied officer to enter Hong Kong since its capture in 1941.

Canadian merchant seamen also served throughout this part of the world on ships of both Canadian and Allied registry. It may never be known how many Canadian merchant ships sailed into the Pacific Theatre carrying the troops and cargo which were essential to the successful conclusion of the war, however, their losses are known.

The Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance records the deaths of seamen from the Longueuil, Lianash and 14 other ships which suffered direct attack from the Japanese.

However, before Canadian naval forces could fully deploy into the Pacific Theatre, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan – the first on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945, destroying the port of Nagasaki. The Japanese government quickly sued for peace on August 10, and by August 14 had signed an unconditional surrender to the Allied forces.

Canadian ports also played central role

Canadian ports also played a crucial role in the Pacific theatre. The RCN had two war-time bases on the Pacific coast. The first was in Esquimalt, B.C., near Victoria, and the second was at Prince Rupert, close to 765 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

Prince Rupert had strategic importance in that it was the western terminus of the most northerly transcontinental railway in North America and was roughly 800 kilometres closer to the Aleutian Islands and Japan than were either Vancouver or Seattle.

The value of Prince Rupert in the defence of Alaska was immediately recognized by the United States, and 35 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the first United States army transport sailed from the port with men and supplies to bolster the slim northwestern defences of the continent. By February 1942, the United States Army had decided to use Prince Rupert as an embarkation base for troops, supplies, and equipment for Alaska.

Canadian land establishments were also threatened by the war. On the evening of June 20, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-26 shelled the remote lighthouse at Estevan Point on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Lieutenant-Commander M. Yokota's gunners were not very accurate: although they bracketed the lighthouse and broke windows in its tower, they did little damage to the facilities. This was the only occasion in either the First or Second World Wars when enemy shells fell on Canadian soil.

75th anniversary commemorations in 2020

Seventy-five years after the Second World War, HMC Ships Regina and Winnipeg along with their Cyclone helicopters, will commemorate the anniversary of Victory in the Pacific Day on Saturday, August 15 with an at-sea wreath laying ceremony. To commemorate the RCN’s contributions in the Second World War, throughout 2020, Regina has sported a war-era Admiralty Disruptive paint scheme.