Finally, the long nightmare comes to an end after six years of destruction and death (over 55 million people will lose their lives in the conflict) ... 9/1/1939 to 9/2/1945 ... WWII finishes on the deck of the American battleship, USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay, Japan (the Missouri is chosen as the site to negate naval anger that the ceremonies are going to be presided over by the Army when so much of the Pacific war was fought at sea ... and to honor the home state, Missouri, of the current President, Harry S. Truman).
Not wanting any more of the "OH SHIT" radioactive quitting time medicine dropped first on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, the Japanese agree to the signing of a written agreement between the parties concerned, bringing the conflict to an end ... a signing ceremony aboard the victorious Missouri.
Short and bittersweet, missing the malice often present when victor and loser come together, before an assemblage of dignitaries, the crew of the battleship, and over 200 newspapermen and photographers, the signing ceremony takes only brief twenty-three minutes to complete on a cool and grey morning. Representing the Emperor and his government, after the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (wearing yellow gloves and a formal silk top hat) and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, sign the surrender of Japan shortly after 9:00 in the morning (Umezu doesn't bother to sit when it comes his turn to autograph the document).
Japanese autographs obtained, the next person to put their John Hancock on the instrument of surrender is U.S. General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, the Commander in the Southwest Pacific and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Using six different pens (American General Jonathan Wainwright, who surrendered the Philippines, and British Lt. General Arthur Percival, who surrendered Singapore each get a pen, another pen goes to West Point, a MacArthur aide gets one, MacArthur keeps one, and the only pen that isn't black, but plum-colored, goes to MacArthur's wife), MacArthur signs the document at 9:08 a.m., then it is the turn of representatives of the Allied powers ... Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz signs for the United States, General Hsu Yung-chang follows for China, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser makes his marks for the United Kingdom, Lt. General Kuzma Derevyanko goes for the Soviet Union, General Sir Thomas Blamey signs in the name of Australia, Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave puts his name to paper for Canada, General de Corps d'Armee Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque (Can you see him going first and there being no more room for anyone else to sign?) represents the French, Lt. Admiral C. E. L. Helfrich signs for the Netherlands, and last but not least, Air Vice-Marshal Leonard M. Isitt closes things up before 9:30 in the morning by signing for New Zealand (the table used is battered felt-covered piece of furniture from the battleship's mess hall).
Instrument of Surrender - Japanese Copy
The West Point Pen
Overseeing the ceremony are two American flags. The large banner that flies from the Missouri's mast flew over the Capital in Washington D.C. on December 7, 1941, when the war starts for the United States with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And another special banner is also present for the ceremonies ... returning to Tokyo Bay from its honored spot at the Naval Academy Museum, for the surrender ceremony the Missouri also wears the same flag that Commodore Matthew Perry (and MacArthur is a direct descendant of the Perry Family, the Commodore being a distant cousin) bore on his flagship when he opened Japanese ports to foreign trade 92 years before (in photographs of the event it appears to be flying backwards because of the protective backing it is sewn on to to protect how fragile the flag is).
Perry Flag in Background
Signings gathered, MacArthur intones, "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed." But really, not quite. As the Japanese depart the Missouri, MacArthur turns to Admiral William "Bull" Halsey and asks, "Bill, where the hell are those airplanes?" And as if on cue, the clouds over Tokyo Bay parted and the sun came out for the first time in the day, illuminating Mt. Fuji in the distance ... and reflecting off the bodies of 1,900 Allied planes flying overhead in a massive victory salute. WWII is over!
The Flyover Begins
Looking Down on the USS Missouri
70 years ago today ... 9/2/1945 ... the guns go quiet!