Although August 14th is not a date that pops out on the calendar as a major holiday or anniversary, it marks a key turning point in our nation’s history: the anniversary of the unofficial surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces in 1945, the end of the long, bloody conflict known as World War II, and National Navajo Code Talkers Day. Navajo soldiers used their native tongue to communicate strategic military information during this global conflict; thereby, thwarting our enemies’ efforts to decipher critical transmissions. In a rather ironic twist of fate (if you know the slightest bit about American history), our government honors the efforts and achievements of these brave Native Americans who helped to defend us against the Japanese.
September 2, 1945 commemorates the official denouement of the Second World War. On that day, aboard the Battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese Foreign Minister and General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, signed the official Surrender in accordance with the terms of the Potsdam Agreement.
Between those two historic dates — on August 10, 1945, to be exact — I boarded a troopship in San Francisco harbor and sailed with my comrades for the South Pacific. We were appointed as one segment of a gigantic task force committed, if things had gone the other way, to the invasion of Japan. Six days later, our ship’s captain announced the Japanese surrender; a month later, I landed with my fellows on Leyte, in the Philippine Islands. There, I was assigned to the 24th Signal Company on the island of Mindinao. In late September, we were ordered to secure the Islands of Japan. What began as an invasion ended up an occupation under the terms agreed to by Japan’s Prime Minister.
As part of the occupying forces, my mates and I then boarded the U.S.S. George S. Clymer: the lead ship of a giant convoy. Arriving on the island of Shikoko in early October, we anchored off the town of Matsuyama, which would become our home for the next few months. After our stay in Matsuyama, we then replaced His Majesty’s Royal Cameron Highlanders at Okayama on the island of Honshu. Our final move was to Kokura on the island of Kyushu, where we were relieved by other troops and finally sent home to the good old U.S.A.
To most Americans, VJ Day is just another day on the calendar. But for this old soldier, that date brings back so many vivid moments that will live in my mind and heart forever. My journey as an infantryman began with my initial training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, followed by reassignment to the Pacific theater after VE Day at Fort Mead, Maryland, and six subsequent weeks of jungle survival and combat training in Texas, which was followed by preparation, on the West Coast, for the invasion of Japan.
Sharp in my memory remain the images and emotions surrounding shipping out as part of that gigantic task force, hearing the ship’s Captain announce the Japanese surrender, and later, occupying Japan for a full year. These memories make me proud, grateful, and humble. I am proud to have been among those troops that facilitated the safe closure of World War II, and I am grateful and humbled that the Lord, in answer to my mother’s fervent prayers, spared me to enjoy a good, long life and to share my memories with the readers of this Site.