75th Anniversary of End of WWII

Jap surrender MacArthur Wainwright
On September 2, 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay. Behind Gen. MacArthur are Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright and Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival.

“When the New Mexico pulled into Tokyo Harbor, the crew was ordered to be at General Quarters,” said James Wiegman. “The war might have been over, but we didn’t trust the Japanese.”

At age 19 Wiegman could little have imagined just a few days later he would have the unique opportunity of witnessing one of the most important military events in world history — that of the official signing of the surrender by the Japanese, ending the war.

Wiegman James-FW-Navy
James Wiegman, witness to signing of unconditional surrender aboard the USS Missouri, Sept 2, 1945.

Wiegman was aboard the battleship, USS New Mexico, anchored next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay during the signing. From his position at the top deck of the New Mexico, he could see the event below.

Seventy-five years ago, World War II came to its official close when the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed on September 2, 1945. The ceremony that officially ended WWII took place during a ceremony presided over by General Douglas MacArthur aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Today all around the world we commemorate the anniversary of that historic moment.

a Bk 2 TDI front + ribbon
They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans available on Amazon.

I had the privilege of interviewing Wiegman about this event. His complete story is told in my book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans (WWII Legacies: Book 2). It contains 34 stories of men/women from every branch who served.

Here is more excerpted from his story:

“On September 2, 1945, Wiegman stood on the fo’c’sle {short for forecastle, the front part of the ship’s upper deck} of the New Mexico in Tokyo Harbor. From this vantage point he could look down at the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, anchored barely 100 feet away.

Aboard the U.S.S. Missouri stood the following Allied naval officers: Admirals William ‘Bull’ Halsey {commander of the American Naval Third Fleet}, Chester Nimitz {commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Pacific Ocean Areas}, Generals Douglas MacArthur {Allied supreme commander, South West Pacific Area}, and Jonathan Wainwright {U.S. lieutenant general, forced to surrender the Philippines to Japan in 1942 and endure subsequent captivity}.

MacArthur was seated at a table while other Allied commanders — Australian Field Marshal Thomas Blamey {commander in chief, Australian Military Forces, and commander, Allied Land Forces, South West Pacific Area} and officers from Russia and New Zealand — stood nearby.

Hawaii PHA (79)
USS Missouri anchored at Pearl Harbor. Photo by author.

As the New Mexico was Admiral Halsey’s flagship, it had been chosen to anchor alongside the Missouri.

After the anchor dropped and all seemed secure, the crew of the New Mexico was released from their positions to move topside to watch the surrender proceedings. Armed marine guards stood on the fo’c’sle, as per military protocol.

Wiegman saw American seamen transport Japanese representatives via motor whaleboats from shore to the Missouri. “One Japanese officer appeared short and rotund,” he said. “All carried a stiff, military bearing.” The Japanese emperor was not among them.

They went up the steps assisted by American navy personnel. The formal treaty was laid on the table. “We aboard the New Mexico could not hear what was said, but we could see General MacArthur preside,” said Wiegman. He felt sorry for the crew of the Missouri. They were restricted from being on their quarterdeck and could not have a good view of the important event taking place on their own ship.

The ceremony took just a few minutes. Afterward, the New Mexico remained anchored at Tokyo Bay for two days. When no retaliation by the Japanese seemed imminent, the crew pulled anchor and headed to Pearl Harbor where they re-loaded with supplies and headed toward the U.S. through the Panama Canal.

“The signing of a peace treaty to end a war is something written about in history books and few people get to see,” said Wiegman. “I felt in awe of the opportunity to witness such an unusual event.”

 

I appreciated seeing General Wainwright in the photo. He was forced to surrender American troops at Bataan in the Philippines in early 1942. He and thousands of other Allies suffered atrocities at the hands of Japanese troops for three years as a prisoner of war.

I’m currently writing a book on World War II POW stories and appreciate more fully what they experienced with starvation, beatings and humiliation.

Remember to thank a veteran today for his / her service. We can never imagine what they have experienced on our behalf.

Our nation has been through some tough times, but we are tough people and will prevail!

God bless America!

 

 

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