Aug. 14 doesn't have the ring of Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor) or June 6 (D-Day) in the annals of World War II history, but on that summer day in 1945 Japan surrendered to the United States and its allies, ending the deadliest conflict in human history.
It's a date etched in the memories of three centenarians featured by Willard Scott on NBC's "Today" show.
"We kept the radio on," Winifred Jeeves, 100, said in a recent interview. "We didn't have television in those days. When the word came through, we were whooping it up and being so happy and relieved. You never knew what was going to happen until then."
|Win Jeeves and family, circa 1941|
Three and a half years earlier, Win, her husband, their 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter had been on the last ship out of Manila before the Japanese invaded the Philippine capital in December of 1941.
"We were scared right out of our wits," she said. "We knew they were going to get into Manila because they were already in the [Philippine] islands. So we knew the next stop would be Manila, and we were on that boat out of there."
Despite the war, Win's ship made scheduled stops in Hong Kong and Honolulu on its way to San Francisco. The voyage took three harrowing weeks.
"We were very fortunate," Win said. "We got back without any unpleasant incidents."
Win and her family settled in Grosse Pointe, Mich., where they were living at war's end. Today, Win lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
Bob Perkinson, also 100, was serving with the U.S. Army in Europe when Japan surrendered.
|Bob Perkinson during World War II|
"I was just thankful," Bob remembers. "We got hold of some liquor and drank it, and I will say this, it was the only time in my life I've ever been drunk."
Bob had spent the war chasing Germans across Europe, and one night his unit actually drove right past them.
"It was moonlight, and we drove into a spot with German military vehicles on both sides of the road," he said. "We just had to keep moving, and I wondered when they were going to start shooting at us, but they didn't. We never saw a sign of a German. We got through all right, but if everyone's heart was where mine was, it was right in their teeth."
Bob figured the Germans had gone into a nearby house, possibly to sleep.
"But the racket we made should have woken them up, and they should have had guards out, anyway," he said. "They must have thought we were bait, that if they showed up they'd be shot at, but it sure scared us."
Bob came home to Peoria, Ill., in October of 1945, and he has lived there ever since.
Fannie Brown, 101, was serving as a Red Cross volunteer in Carteret, N.J., on Aug. 14, 1945.
"Oh, there was dancing in the street, and everyone was hollering, and we were very happy," Fannie remembers. "We were having a wonderful time."
|Fannie Brown in 1945|
Fannie had spent the war knitting sweaters, rolling bandages and sending packages to the troops.
"Some of the boys said they were the best dressed men in the Army," Fannie said. "We went to the hospitals, we helped feed people, we went all over. Wherever they needed us, we went, during the blackouts and everything."
Fannie, who now lives in Las Vegas, Nev., also loved to sing songs during the war. There was one song she wasn't supposed to sing, but she sang it anyway:
"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy.
I wouldn't put a musket on his shoulder.
He'll kill another mother's boy."
On a personal note, my late mother wrote a description in 1945 of the war's end in Washington, D.C., for her infant sons.
"A blur of excitement - laughter and tears, back-thumping and leg of lamb on mint jelly, neighbors and martinis, and a bottle of champagne that had been hopefully put on ice days before," she wrote.
America's "Greatest Generation" not only knew how to win a war, but also how to celebrate the peace.
If you know of any centenarians who've had a brush with history over the past century, please tell us a little bit about them in the comments section below and be sure to fill in your return e-mail address so we can get back to you for more details