August 10, 1945. The day started hopeful. News that Japan had accepted the surrender terms and that World War 2 was over. But that turned out to be a rumor, unsubstantiated; a misinterpreted translation of the Tokyo Radio broadcast. But for hours into the morning it was a scramble to find out if the rumor was true and if the Emperor had accepted the surrender terms and that Japan had unconditionally quit the war.
Bulletins ran over news-wires and were breathlessly read on the air to anxious listeners, who had now dropped everything and stayed glued to their radios. Every other minute was a different report – a contradiction to the previous report. It was a day of nail-biting and apprehension – except of course, if you were a kid. You were concerned, and you listened to the radio – but it was Summer and it was New York and it was hot – and the sound of the fire hydrant sent a signal you couldn’t ignore. And so while everyone else was sitting in front of their radios, or dragging radios out to window-sills and broadcasting to the neighborhood, you were dodging a geyser of water and cooling off – until somebody came by and turned it off – long enough for the next hydrant to spring to life.
But August 10, 1945 was a day the war didn’t end; not officially anyway – and in every city, town, truckstop, bus and train station across America, people waited patiently – waiting for the official word. Everyone knew it was coming, but nobody knew exactly when. So the listening to every report and dissecting every analysis continued well into the night and into the next morning and the next until finally the news came four days later.
To give you a sample of what August 10th sounded like in 1945 – here is a two-hour snippet of broadcasts, as they happened, from 11:45 in the morning until 1:45 in the afternoon – a two hour slice of the day – the day that almost was, but not quite.