These Proceedings Are Closed
September 2, 1945
World War II Ends
Frank G. Peiffer
“These proceedings are closed.” Thus, General Douglas MacArthur’s words ended the greatest war in history. After Pearl Harbor America was now at war, a truly global war. It was said that Churchill remarked that after hearing the news it led to the best night’s sleep he had in some time.
The U.S. was in it. Things did not go well for the U.S. immediately after Pearl Harbor. Wake Island fell after a heroic defense by Marines. The Philippines fell with General MacArthur being evacuated by PT boat on orders from the President of the United States. Command of the Philippines passed to General Wainwright. The largest surrender of U.S. troops in our history took place on the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942. Some 70,000 American and Filipino troops entered captivity. Corregidor Island, the guardian of Manila Bay, fell in May 1942. No help came.
The Japanese threatened the great British naval base at Singapore. Two major fleet units, Battle Cruiser Repulse and the new Battleship Prince of Wales were sent to deter the Japanese. Both ships were sunk in about four hours on December 10, 1941 by torpedo planes largely due to the lack of air cover. Admiral Tom Phillips went down with Prince of Wales. This ended the belief that a battleship would not be sunk at sea under way. On February 15, 1942 General Percival surrenders British forces. Some 170,000 local, British, Indian, and Australian troops enter captivity.
A hastily assembled naval force was put together by the Americans, British, Dutch, and Australia (ABDA) to counter Japanese advance on the Dutch Indies (Indonesia) which were the source for rubber and oil. This force suffered a terrible defeat at the Battle of the Java Sea February 1942. Commander of the task force, Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman, went down on the cruiser De Ruyter. U.S.S. Houston and HMAS Perth escaped and made a run for the Indian Ocean. They were sunk two days later in what is known as the Battle of Sunda Strait.
It seemed the Japanese Navy was unstoppable. As predicted by Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese Navy would control the Pacific for six months. Then the great naval battles of the Coral Sea and Midway turned things around, as had the Marines in the hell named Guadalcanal, Island of Death. The war continued for four and half years. Many battles but fortunately more wins than losses. Tough battles raged in North Africa and Italy and finally the June landings at Normandy. It ended in Europe in May 1945 with the surrender documents signed at Rheims.
Horrific battles took place on Iwo Jima and Okinawa where kamikaze suicide planes took a terrible toll on ships. These islands provided the springboard for the B-29 raids on Japan. The Pacific war ended August 1945 after the dropping of two atomic bombs. We and the Japanese were spared the dreaded invasion of the Japanese home islands.
And now the end takes place-September 2, 1945 on the teak decks of the U.S.S. Missouri anchored some 18 miles out in Tokyo Bay. Hundreds of ships were anchored and 1,900 airplanes flew over (1,500 fighters 400 bombers). MacArthur wanted what we now call theater. The German surrender in May 1945 took place at Rheims in a small school house. This was to be a statement of U.S. power.
General MacArthur in his role of Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP) invites the allies to sign and then the Japanese delegation. Among the witnesses were General Wainwright and British General Percival, both recently released from a prison camp in Manchuria. Fleet Admiral, Chester Nimitz, signs for the United States. The surrender ceremony ends with MacArthur saying: “Let us pray that peace now be restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed.” Seventy years ago on the decks of the U.S.S. Missouri.
HMS Prince of Wales participated in the great battle with KMS Bismarck in May 1941. Her consort, HMS Hood, was sunk. Bismarck in turn was sunk by British ships. She brought Churchill to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in August 1941 to meet with Roosevelt. The Atlantic Charter is forged.
U.S.S. Houston-The Navy and Indonesia announced in August 2014 that a ship wreck has been found in the Java Sea and confirmed it is the Houston. This is the final resting place for over 700 U.S. sailors and Marines. Lost was Captain Albert Rooks who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
The selection of Missouri was made by James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy. This must have been pleasing to President Harry S. Truman who succeeded Franklin Roosevelt upon his death in April 1945. Truman was from Missouri and his daughter Margaret, christened Missouri. The ship is now moored at Pearl Harbor. Fitting, USS Arizona, a memorial to the beginning of the war, is close to the Missouri where it ended. Sister ship USS New Jersey is a memorial berthed in Camden, New Jersey.
A huge THANKS to Frank for writing this up for us. Frank is a new member that came to visit the ship a month ago and left a new member who loves history and is a great writer. Wonderful info to read as we go into our weekend event to celebrate the end of the war and Maryland's contributions to the war and home front.
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