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V-E Day OK But V-J Day No Longer PC

March 22, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton, under attack for deciding to go to Moscow for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, also is drawing fire for his plans for observing the end of the war against Japan.

Observances to mark what traditionally is known as ``V-J Day,″ for Victory Over Japan, have been renamed the ``End of the Pacific War″ in recent administration pronouncements. Furthermore, a planned ceremony at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii has been scaled back, reportedly at the behest of the Japanese government.

Critics suggest the government is bowing _ even kowtowing _ to Japan.

``He has spent so much time doing crossword puzzles and reading mystery novels that he shows no knowledge of the torture and abuse of our prisoners of war at the hands of Japan,″ Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif., said of Clinton. ``The only aggressor in the Pacific was Japan. `V-J Day’ is honorable shorthand.″

It is not the first time the White House has stirred controversy for appearing to appease Japanese sensitivities in terms of how the 50th anniversary of the end of the war is to be observed.

In December, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta intervened to block a Postal Service plan to issue a first-class stamp showing a mushroom-shaped atomic cloud to commemorate the end of the war with Japan.

The stamp was to be one of 10 focusing on war themes to be issued later this year, but it is to be replaced by a stamp depicting President Truman preparing to announce the end of the war.

The White House intervention pleased Japanese officials but angered veterans’ groups.

The administration initially had contemplated a big ceremony at Pearl Harbor on Sept. 2 _ the 50th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender _ that would include heads of state from all the nations that fought in the Pacific, including Japan.

However, the size of the planned observance was reduced. A ceremony is still planned for Honolulu, and Clinton is expected to attend. But leaders of other nations aren’t being invited.

Critics complained after reports that the administration had modified its plans so as not to embarrass Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

The overall subject, including the controversy over the V-J Day phrase, is a sensitive one for the White House, since several conservative commentators and lawmakers have cited it as a sign of Clinton’s clumsiness on military issues _ and insensitivity to U.S. veterans of the Pacific.

The term V-J Day does not appear in material on end-of-war observances.

``The Defense Department’s World War II Commemorative Committee is planning an end of the Pacific War commemoration in Honolulu for Sept. 1-3, 1995. These ceremonies will also mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II,″ one official announcement said.

Nor have spokesmen used the V-J Day phrase from the lecterns of the State Department, White House or Pentagon. By contrast, the term ``V-E Day,″ for Victory in Europe, has been uttered freely.

``I’m not aware of any policy″ that expressly rules out using the phrase V-J Day, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Tuesday.

Still, he added, ``There are sensitivities here. ... There is a way in which you can address these things that match the spirit of reconciliation that now exists between the United States and Japan. We are not into gloating.″

Political fallout has accompanied Clinton’s plans for end-of-war anniversary ceremonies in Europe too.

He plans to celebrate the anniversary of the victory over Hitler’s Germany _ V-E Day _ in the United States on May 8 and then again in Moscow on May 9. That decision drew suggestions that he was slighting other U.S. allies, principally Britain, which had invited him to celebrations in London.

And Republicans in Congress strongly criticized Clinton for agreeing to see Russian President Boris Yeltsin at a time when Russia is continuing its assault on the breakaway region of Chechnya.

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