“I was there.”


Sixty-seven years ago, the Emperor of Japan announced to the Japanese people that their country would surrender unconditionally to the Allies. It was the first time most of them had ever heard his voice. The actual signing of surrender documents would take place two weeks later aboard USS MISSOURI (BB 63).

About a quarter century ago I got the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to ride MISSOURI for a short trip from San Francisco to Monterey Bay. At the time, no one knew that the Battleships were soon destined to return to their inactive status (that decision was made in the early 1990s), nor that one day MISSOURI would join USS ARIZONA in Pearl Harbor as historical symbols of the beginning and end of World War II.

As we sailed under the Golden Gate bridge, I stood on the quarterdeck looking down at a plastic bubble protecting a plaque laid on the spot where the surrender took place in Tokyo Harbor.

(Naval Historical Center)

I had not noticed an elderly gentleman standing near me until he said, “I was there.”

“You were there? Did you see the surrender?”

“Hell no,” he responded. According to his account, there was so much brass on board that the crew was relegated to other parts of the ship. The good seats were reserved for the higher ranking officers.

The Naval Historical Center lists the names of the men in the photo at the top of the page, watching Admiral Nimitz sign the surrender documents.

Standing directly behind (Nimitz) are (left-to-right):
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur;
Admiral William F. Halsey, USN, and
Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman, USN.
In front row, background, are (left to right):
Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, USN;
Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, USN;
Vice Admiral John S. McCain, USN;
Vice Admiral John H. Towers, USN;
Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN;
Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN;
General Walter C. Krueger, U.S. Army;
General Robert L. Eichelberger, U.S. Army and
General Carl A. Spaatz, USAAF.
Others identified behind the front row include (in no order):
Brigadier General Joseph H. Fellows, USMC;
Captain Tom B. Hill, USN;
Commodore J.C. Cronin, USN;
Rear Admiral Ingram C. Sowell, USN;
Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN;
Rear Admiral Howard F. Kingman, USN;
Rear Admiral Lloyd J. Wiltsie, USN;
Rear Admiral J. Cary Jones, USN;
Captain John S. Thach, USN and
Commodore Joel T. Boone, USN(MC).

He had a point.

To the men and women of the Greatest Generation, on the anniversary of the Japanese announcement of unconditional surrender, thank you for what you did to win the war and preserve the liberties we still hold so dear. You are our heroes of the week.


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