Today is not another “exact” date in military history, but missed it by only two days.
Today is not another "exact" date in military history, but missed it by only two days. And since the event happened 68 years ago Monday, two days don't seem to make much of a difference.
It was a glorious day the war-weary world had been waiting for six long, bloody, deadly years. The date of Sept. 2, 1945 entered the history books as "V-J Day," for Victory over Japan, the day that officially ended WW II.
Japan had surrendered and shooting stopped on Aug. 14 when its leaders accepted the Allied terms of unconditional surrender. But to make it official, signatures had to be affixed to official surrender documents, which was done on Sept. 2, 1945. Since a military veteran of an earlier war, one that now became known as WW I, was president of the United States and commander in chief of the Armed Forces, he could decide details about the surrender.
And since he was a proud son of Missouri, President Harry S. Truman decreed that the surrender would take place on the deck of the venerable USS Missouri, which sailed into Tokyo Bay for the occasion.
Two weeks after the Japanese announced acceptance of surrender terms, U.S. forces moved into Japan to begin occupation duty.
The emperor broadcast to the Japanese people that he desired that the occupation be accepted with good grace and with no untoward incidents. His wishes were carried out.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was named as head of the occupation forces. Several years ago I met a young lieutenant assigned to Fort Leavenworth who was very interested in history. After I got to know him he said his father from Pennsylvania was coming for a visit, and asked if I would show him through the Frontier Army Museum and around the fort. Glad to, I said.
When I met the dad I was impressed by how physically fit he was to have snowy white hair. I was even more impressed when he said that at the end of WW II he'd been chosen to be part of the security force that protected MacArthur in Japan.
Several years ago at a now departed antique shop across the river I saw an old frame with a black and white photo taken aboard a large ship. When I looked at it I was amazed to find an original photo of the signing aboard the USS Missouri.
The person signing the document was a U.S. admiral, and he'd autographed the photo to a Navy captain. It was signed "Chester Nimitz, Admiral, U.S. Navy." I couldn't believe I'd found such a treasure for a military history buff, but for many years it was in a historical display at the fort's Navy Ball. Alas, I haven't been invited to one in several years, so the unexpected treasure goes unseen, except by me.
The only Leavenworth connection to the occupation of Japan I can remember meeting is John Ochs, who was too young for the war, but when he finished high school in Leavenworth he joined the Marine Corps and was stationed in Japan as part of the occupation force.
When he used to go to Veterans Salutes across the river he wore a vintage Marine Corps uniform, which had many photos taken of it.
Hope he starts returning to the Salutes, and Oct. 19 at Smithville would be a good time for that.
As an ending, the definitive Treaty of Peace wasn't signed until Sept. 8, 1951, in San Francisco, with 49 nations that participated in WW II signing. But the Cold War had already begun, and the Soviet Union, Poland, and Czechoslovakia refused to sign, and India and Burma did not send representatives to the conference.
By then, the next shooting war had already begun.