On August 14, 1945, America received the news that WWII was over and the celebration of the “Victory over Japan” (V-J Day) began. The day is sometimes referred to as V-P Day (or) Victory in the Pacific. The date effectively marked the end of WWII. The commemoration of this epic event is also remembered on August 15th in Japan (the time zone denotes the difference for the date) and also on September 2, 1945 – the date Japan signed the documents agreeing to the terms of surrender aboard the USS Missouri.
One of the many impressive pieces on display at the AFHM can be found in the WWII US Navy Gallery where memorabilia from the USS Missouri is on display, including an inkwell that was used on the ship during the time period of the Japanese surrender.
The USS Missouri Prepares for the Signing
On August 29th, the USS Missouri arrived in Tokyo Bay in preparation for Japan’s signing the official documents outlining their unconditional surrender. On the morning of September 2nd, the Missouri was boarded by several high-ranking military officials, which included Chinese General Hsu Yung-Ch’ang, along with British Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser and the Soviet Lieutenant-General Kuzma Nikolaevich Derevvanko. High officials from Austria, France and New Zealand were also welcomed.
US Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz boarded the USS Missouri just after 8 AM that morning followed within the hour by US General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Shortly before 9 AM, representatives from Japan boarded, headed up by Japan’s Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu. At 9:02 AM, General Douglas MacArthur opened the signing ceremonies.
During the ceremony, the deck of the USS Missouri displayed a wood-box frame containing the 32-star American flag which had originally been taken ashore in Japan in 1853 by Commodore Matthew Perry. Commodore Perry and his group of “Black Ships” had sailed into the bay at Tokyo forcing Japan to open their ports to foreign trading. A second US flag was flown on the ship and some sources believe it was the same flag that was flying in Washington DC the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. According the commanding officer of the USS Missouri, however, the flag was simply a GI-issued, American flag.
By 9:30 AM, the Japanese had signed the surrender documents and disembarked from the USS Missouri. Four days later, the USS Missouri left port and headed toward her next destination – Pearl Harbor. Along the way, the ship picked up homebound passengers in Guam. The USS Missouri arrived safely in Pearl Harbor on September 20th and on September 28th, a reception was held aboard the ship.
The United Kingdom officially commemorates WWII V-J day on August 15th, while the United States has officially set aside September 2nd. Both dates accurately commemorate the statement made by General MacArthur in his opening speech during the peace treaty signing - “it is…the hope of all mankind…that a better world shall emerge…a world dedicated to the dignity of man…”
As news of Japan’s surrender spread, some report the US celebrations as being the release of joy that had previously been rationed throughout the war. Along with the celebrations, a moment captured in Times Square, the infamous kiss published by Life Magazine would forever be immortalized and associated with the day WWII ended – V-J Day.