On Sept. 2, 2016 we will he remembering a very important event in our nation’s and the world’s history, but most likely it will come and go with most Americans completely unaware of its significance to them.
In the middle of the 20th century, the entire world was engulfed in the most destructive and widespread war in human history. For almost a decade the forces of Nazi fascism and Japanese Imperialism brought death, destruction and tyranny to wide swaths of the world. America’s direct involvement with the Allied Forces in the effort to stop Germany and Japan began with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The estimates of the number of people who were killed during WWII around the world vary between 50 and 80 million people, or about 3 percent of the entire world population at that time.
That war would finally come to an end on the battleship USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, on September 2, 1945.
I was born two years after the end of the war. It was still fresh in the immediate memories of my parents and relatives, many of whom had fought in the war, or worked in the civilian effort to build and supply the war effort. Gold Star families, those who had lost a father or a son in the war efforts overseas, either in Europe or the in the Pacific, lived on every block, in every neighborhood, in every city, town, village and hamlet in America. The costs were even greater in Europe, in China, and in the South Pacific.
Germany officially began WWII in Europe on Sept. 1, 1939 by invading Poland. The European part of the war would come to an end with the surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945, but the war raged on in the Pacific theater.
The Japanese invaded China on July 7, 1937. They would soon invade Indochina, and eventually the Philippines and the countless islands of the South Pacific. After their attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, American military forces became directly engaged in the war effort with the Allies both in Europe and in the Pacific.
The efforts to defeat the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan would come at unimaginable costs in lives and treasure to nations and peoples around the world.
Some of the bloodiest battles of the WWII would be fought on the many small islands that dot the huge expanse of the South Pacific. With great courage, skill and determination the American and allied forces fought against fierce and often fanatical Japanese defenses on island after island along their difficult and bloody way to Tokyo. The largest sea battles in history took place over the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean as well, with huge losses of ships, material and men.
Then, on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Within days the Japanese sued for peace. The Instrument of Surrender was signed by the Japanese aboard the Battleship, USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, to the great relief of the world.
Commander of the Allied Forces, Gen. Douglas MacArthur would lead the delegation aboard the USS Missouri. MacArthur gave a short speech and the signing of the Instrument of Surrender began at 9:05 a.m., exactly ten minutes after the arrival of the Japanese delegation. Japanese Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the Instrument of Surrender first as the representative of the Imperial Japanese government. Then General Yoshijiro Umezu stepped forward to sign the Instrument for the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces.
Gen. MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender and signed the document as the Supreme Allied Commander. His signature was followed by the following Allied representatives:
- Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz for the United States,
- General Hsu Yung-chang for the Republic of China,
- Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser for the United Kingdom,
- Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko for the Soviet Union,
- General Sir Thomas Blamey for Australia,
- Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave for Canada,
- Général de Corps d’Armée Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque for France,
- Lieutenant Admiral C. E. L. Helfrich for the Netherlands, and
- Air Vice-Marshal Leonard M. Isitt for New Zealand.
With the signing of the Instrument of Surrender complete, the horror of WWII came to a quiet end.
General Douglas MacArthur would go on to administer the occupation of Japan after the war and would be instrumental in rebuilding and in creating the modern democracy that still rules in Japan.
The Veterans Site honors those who served during WWII. Your courage and determination in defense of freedom, against tyrannical forces of Nazism and Japanese Imperialism can never be thanked enough. You truly were the Greatest Generation.