On this date, 64 years ago, Imperial Japan and the Allied Powers signed the Japan Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri signaling the end of World War II.
Veterans, active-duty military personnel, tourists and Hawaii residents gathered aboard the USS Missouri to commemorate the anniversary of the war’s end and pay homage to thousands of lives lost in the conflict, Sept. 2.
Attendees were entertained with music by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band with special guests from the Australian Navy Band. A Navy and Marine Corps color guard presented the national colors and Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 24, Marine Corps Base, Hawaii-Kaneohe Bay performed a rifle volley.
Speeches were delivered by key Hawaii government and military officials.
Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer George Bennett, a WWII veteran, also attended.
Bennett clearly recalls the morning of December 7, 1941 as he and his buddies awaited liberty call at Ford Island. He can still see the Japanese bombers flying low past his barracks as bombs burst over Pearl Harbor. He can remember the emotions that ran high among the men as casualties piled all around them.
“It still gets me every time,” said Bennett. “The world was changed in just a few hours.”
The signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender signified more than the silence of weapons for those present during WWII.
“[The day the war ended] was filled with such excitement and celebration,” said Bennett. “Thousands of lives were lost, but this is the best thing we can do in their honor - celebrate a new beginning and create a world that’s strongly united.”
Edward Borucki, who was stationed aboard the USS Helena during the attacks, tries to visit Pearl Harbor as often as possible.
“This has been a sentimental journey for me. Thirty-three of my shipmates were killed on Dec. 7, and 168 more died later in other battles along with thousands of other men,” Borucki said. “Every year there are less and less survivors. I consider myself lucky and am honored to be here to remember the heroes who aren’t with us today.”
“It’s important for us to remember how far we’ve come over the last 60 years,” said Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson Jr. “The U.S. and Japan, two former enemies, are now two thriving and prosperous democracies.”
A recording of then Allied Commander General Douglas MacArthur concluded the ceremony.
“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past – a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”