by HB Auld, Jr.
Today is the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, the day remembered as the Victory over Japan day and the effective end of World War II. War would not “officially” end until the Treaty of San Francisco, signed almost seven years later on April 28, 1952.
On September 2, 1945, members of the Supreme Allied Forces and the Government of Japan gathered on the teak deck of the USS MISSOURI (BB 63) to sign the formal declaration of surrender by the Japanese Empire. Hostilities leading to the United States’ entrance into World War II had begun almost four years earlier with a surprise attack on naval forces at Pearl Harbor, HI. Now, the “Rising Sun” empire would cease the fighting in the Pacific and China, with the primary condition of surrender being the preservation of the life of Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
Japanese Foreign Minister Shigemitsu signed for the Japanese government, while Japanese General Umezu signed for the Japanese armed forces. General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur and Navy Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signed for the United States. US Forces officers dressed in their daily khaki work uniforms for the auspicious ceremony. MacArthur is said to have ordered that he and his men would wear that working uniform, implying that this was just another “day at the office.” On the bulkhead behind the signatories that day was the “Perry Flag,” the US flag that flew over USS POWHATAN commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry on the first of his two expeditions to Japan in 1853, forcing the Japanese to open their country to trade with America.
That Perry flag was retrieved from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, especially for the ceremony. Admiral Bull Halsey wanted the flag for the ceremony, so a young naval officer, LT. John K. Bremyer, was tasked with rushing it 9,000 miles in record time from Annapolis to the Pacific. He was told to “get there any way you can” and that he did, hitching rides and going without sleep and sometimes meals as he traveled on his mission. He carried the flag in a box inside a courier bag and he slept with it, ate with it, even carried it to the bathroom with him, never letting it out of his sight. He held a Top Secret Clearance and was a member of the elite Courier Force whose job it was to ferry documents in military wartime. God bless LT John K. Bremyer.
My dad, HB Auld, Sr., fought in the Pacific in New Guinea; my father-in-law, JB Kattes, served in Alaska; and my uncle, Ross Wilton Hargis, was a pilot in Germany…all during World War II. Truly, they were members of The Greatest Generation.