USS Missouri B-63
From William Manchester: American Caesar:
At 5:00AM they had assembled at the half-burned official residence of the new prime minister. The diplomats…wore tall silk hats, ascots, and cutaways. Even the emperor (Hirohito) had been unable to persuade Admiral Toyoda to attend, however. Toyoda had ordered his operations officers, Sadatoshi Tomioka, to take his place. “You lost the war,” he told him. “so you go.” Tomioka obeyed, but vowed to commit seppuku upon his return.
Before they left for Yokohama, the officers unbuckled their sabers and flags were removed form he hoods of the battered cars of their motorcade…”Diplomats without flag and soldiers without sword—sullen and silent we continued the journey until we reached the quay”. Then they mounted the pier and beheld the gleaming Allied armada, the greatest ever assembled, “lines on lines of gray battleships, “ a Japanese wrote afterward….anchored in majestic array.
At 8:55 A.M. the delegation reached the Missouri. Shigemitsu was first up the ladder, leading heavily on his walking stick. Commander Bird stepped down and extended his hand; the foreign minister, his face wooden, shook it off and the briefly accepted it. ..Bird showed the Japanese where to stand, in four ranks. …Actually only four minutes passed before he chaplain’s invocation and the recorded playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” over the ship’s public address system. Then MacArthur appeared , walked briskly between Nimitz and Halsey, whose flagship this was. The two admirals peeled off to take their place in the U, and the General stepped straight to the microphone. He later wrote that he had “received no instructions as to what to say or what to do. I was on my own, standing on the quarterdeck with only God and my own conscience to guide me.” His chest. Unlike those of the other officers, was bare of medals .
His stance was a portrait of soldierly poise. Only his hand trembled slightly as he held a single sheet before him and said: “We are gathered here, representative of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.” It would, he continue, be inappropriate to discuss here “different ideals and ideologies” or to meet “in a spirit of distrust, malice or hatred.” Instead, both the conquerors and he conquered must rise “to the higher dignity which alone benefits the sacred purposes we are her to serve” It was his “earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind’ that “a better world shall emerge,” one “founded upon faith and understanding – a world dedicated to t the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish – for freedom, tolerance and justice.” AT the end he said “As Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers I announce it my firm purpose, in the tradition of the countries I represent, to proceed in the discharge of my responsibilities….while taking all necessary dispositions to insure that the terms of surrender are full, promptly, an faithfully complied with.”
Listening to the mellifluous, sonorous voice, Lt. General Nagai marveled at MacArthur’s youthful bearing….Tomioka was struck by the General’s lack of vindictiveness. But the diminutive Kase was enraptured. He thought “Here is a victor announcing the verdict to the prostrate enemy. He can exact his pound of flesh if she chooses. He can impose a humiliating penalty if he so desires. And yet he pleads for freedom, tolerance, and justice. For me, who expected worst humialtion, this was a complete surprise. ..It seemed to Kase that “MacArthur’s words sallied on wings,” that this ”this narrow quarterdeck was now transformed into an altar of peace.”
Two copies of the instrument of capitulation lay on the table, one bound in leather for the Allies, the other canvas-bound for the Japanese. As cameras clicked and whirred, the signing began….One Japanese, watching the representatives of nine great Allied nations parade to the green baize, could not help wondering “how it was that Japan, a poor country, had had the temerity to wage war against the combination of so many powerful nations. “
Not everything went well in this historic transaction. A drunken Allied delegate , not an American, made rude faces at the Japanese. The Canadian emissary wrote on the wrong line. .
At the end of the eighteen-minute ritual MacArthur sat, pulled five fountain pens from his pocket, and affixed his own signature with them . Rising at 9:25 A. M. he said in a steely voice “These proceedings are now closed.” The Japanese were led away, he put an arm around Halsey’s shoulders and said, “Bill, where the hell are those airplanes?” As if on signal, a cloud of planes – B-29s and navy fighters –roared across the sky from the south. They joined, Kennedy wrote, “in al long sweeping majestic turn as they disappeared toward the mists hiding the sacred mountain of Fujiyama.”
In that instant, World War II ended.