75th Anniversary of the Surrender of Japan, Ending WWII

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.


 

The 75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima, Japan

By Guest Author, Tara Ross

On this day in 1945, Americans drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bombing came not too long after Japan had rejected a final opportunity to surrender.

The so-called Potsdam Declaration was issued through a combined statement of the United States, Great Britain, and China.

“The time has come,” these Allies declared, “for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.”

Unconditional surrender was necessary. The alternative was “prompt and utter destruction.”

Japan rejected the ultimatum. Presumably, no one in Japan really knew what was coming. But you have to wonder whether anyone in America truly understood what was coming, either?

Captain William Parsons of the Manhattan Project briefed the crew of the Enola Gay (and others) before they departed on their historic mission: “The bomb you are going to drop,” he told them, “is something new in the history of warfare. It is the most destructive weapon ever produced. We think it will knock out everything within a three mile area.”

Well, yes, it did. But it also shattered glass in suburbs that were twelve miles away from the detonation site.

Later that day, President Harry S. Truman made a statement:

“The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. . . . We are now prepared to obliterate . . . every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city,” he stated. “We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.”

Unfortunately, the Japanese did not surrender that day. A second bomb would be dropped on Nagasaki mere days later.

It was a hard day in world history, but it was also the beginning of the end of World War II.


History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting. #TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

 

Another Momentous Day in the US Navy

 

Today is a momentous day in the US Navy.   It was on this day, August 3, 1945, that the last of the survivors of the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35), were pulled from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  They had floated there since the sinking of their ship, four days before on July 30, 1945, by a Japanese submarine.

The INDIANAPOLIS had been on a secret mission to deliver the parts for Little Boy, the first atomic bomb, to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean.  The bomb would be dropped on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan, leading to the unconditional surrender of the Japanese and the end of World War II.

After delivering the bomb parts, the ship departed for Guam and then on to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, but was sunk en route.  Of the 1,200 Sailors aboard the INDIANAPOLIS, about 900 survived the initial torpedoes and went into the water.  Of those 900 men only 316 Sailors would survive the next four days, floating in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific before being rescued.

Here is Texas historian and author Tara Ross’ account of the rescue of these brave men as the last survivors are pulled from the water at dusk on August 3, 1945.  May they all Rest In Peace.

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By Tara Ross (c)

On this day in 1945, the last survivors of the USS Indianapolis are pulled from the Pacific Ocean. They’d been there since a Japanese submarine had torpedoed and sunk Indianapolis on July 30.

They had just finished delivering parts for the Little Boy atomic bomb to American bombers! Now, because of communication gaffes, their ship was missing, but no one knew it. (See July 29 history post.)

Survivors were waiting for a rescue that was not coming.

The men were floating in small groups, strewn out across the last miles of Indianapolis’s journey. Survivors were covered in oil. Some were wounded. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Haynes, tried to care for his boys as best he could, but he knew some would not make it. Some hadn’t even survived the initial disaster.

As dead men were found in the water, Haynes later reported, “[w]e would then laboriously take off their life jacket and give it to men who didn’t have jackets. In the beginning I took off their dogtags, said The Lord’s Prayer, and let them go. Eventually, I got such an armful of dogtags I couldn’t hold them any longer. Even today, when I try to say The Lord’s Prayer or hear it, I simply lose it.”

Shark attacks were another problem. “They were continually there, mostly feeding off the dead bodies,” survivor Loel Cox later reported. But then the sharks began attacking men who were still alive. “We were losing three or four each night and day,” Cox said. “You were constantly in fear because you’d see ‘em all the time. Every few minutes you’d see their fins—a dozen to two dozen fins in the water.”

As the days wore on, the men became dehydrated. Some of them began to hallucinate. “[T]hey were goin bezerk,” survivor Woody Eugene James later testified. “They’d tell you big stories about the Indianapolis is not sunk, its’ just right there under the surface. I was just down there and had a drink of water . . . .” At other times, the hallucinations caused hysteria and fighting. Haynes spoke of men who would think “[t]here’s a Jap here and he’s trying to kill me.’ And then everybody started to fight. They were totally out of their minds.”

When help finally arrived, it was completely by chance.

Lt. Chuck Gwinn happened to be patrolling the area from the air, looking for Japanese submarines. He saw an oil slick! He thought perhaps it was a disabled Japanese submarine, so he prepared for a bombing run. As he got closer, he realized that there were people in the water. They needed help.

He still didn’t know if these people were friend or foe, but he began dropping life vests out of his plane. He radioed a message back to his base. It was then 11:25 a.m. on August 2.

The ordeal was far from over. Official rescue efforts were beginning, but it was a slow process.

Fortunately, a quick-thinking pilot with access to an amphibious plane heard one of Gwinn’s radio messages. Acting on his own initiative, Lt. Adrian Marks took off for Gwinn’s location. When he and his crew arrived hours later, he could see sharks circling in the water. The crew watched as multiple men were attacked, right in front of their eyes. They had to act!

Marks decided to act against standing orders. He would attempt a dangerous open sea landing. He knew that his plane could capsize, but he had to try.

Thankfully, he made it, and his crew began pulling survivors out of the water. They even tied survivors to the plane’s wings so they could get more people aboard! By nightfall, Marks had rescued 56 men from the water.

The first rescue ship arrived hours later, just before midnight.

The last men wouldn’t be found and pulled from the water until dusk on August 3. These men had been in the water for 112 hours, and they’d drifted more than 120 miles from Indianapolis’s original location.

The Little Boy bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima only 3 days later. Most of the heroes aboard Indianapolis would never know that they helped bring an end to World War II.

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Editor’s Note:  I was privileged to know one of these survivors: the late LT (Junior Grade) Charles McKissick.  Mr. McKissick was a retired optician, living in McKinney, Texas, when I met him there in 1991.  Every year, he would travel to Indianapolis, IN, to attend the USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion there.  He was a fascinating man who collected USS Indianapolis memorabilia and talked of that tragedy as if it was yesterday.  May he and his other Shipmates Rest In Peace.  

 

 

The End of the Battle of Okinawa

Raising_the_flag_on_Okinawa

On this day in history, the American flag was finally raised over the island of Okinawa, June 22, 1945, following one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

Here is historian Tara Ross’ account of the end of the Battle of Okinawa.

by Tara Ross

On this day in 1945, Americans raise a flag over the Japanese island of Okinawa. The nearly three-month battle to capture the island was finally over. The Battle of Okinawa would prove to be one of the bloodiest in the Pacific during World War II.

The war in the Pacific had been a grueling one. Americans employed a strategy of “island-hopping,” systematically taking Japanese islands, one at a time. Okinawa was the last and toughest of these. However, once it was captured, Allied forces would have a base of operations from which to attack mainland Japan.

The attack began on April 1 when more than 60,000 Marines and soldiers landed on one of Okinawa’s beaches. The American landing was barely contested, but American forces surely knew what that easy landing meant: The Japanese were hunkered down elsewhere, prepared to fight.

And that is exactly what happened for the better part of three months. The battle that followed was brutal, with hundreds of thousands of combatants facing off against each other. In the end, Americans lost 12,520 men (killed or missing), and more than 36,000 wounded. By contrast, about 110,000 Japanese died, and many civilians got caught in the crossfire. The Japanese culture rejected the idea of surrender. Thus, ritual suicide and kamikaze attacks were not at all uncommon during this period. Sometimes, the Japanese soldiers even killed their own citizens or encouraged civilians to commit suicide with the soldiers.

Indeed, as organized resistance finally came to an end on June 21, the Japanese commander, Mitsuru Ushijima, was already preparing for his own suicide. He wrote his last reports to his superiors, and he directly ordered one officer NOT to commit suicide! “If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa,” he told Major Yahara. “Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order of your Army commander.”

Early on June 22, Ushijima committed ritual suicide, as did his second-in-command, General Isamu Cho.

Later that same morning, Americans raised the United States flag over Okinawa as a band played “The Star Spangled Banner.”

In the end, Americans never used Okinawa as a base from which to attack mainland Japan. The battle to capture the island had been so bloody and horrific that Harry S. Truman was pushed toward his decision to drop atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the toll at Okinawa had been high, the price of invading mainland Japan would surely be even higher.

Those bombings, of course, prompted the Japanese emperor to announce his intent to surrender in August 1945. That surrender became official on September 2.

At that point, it had been nearly 4 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the war was finally over.

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