USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pearl Harbor -- USS Battleship Missouri Memorial – The ceremony to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II began with the National Anthem and the raising of Old Glory aboard the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, Sept. 2, 2017, exactly 72 years from the event that occurred aboard this historic vessel.
The remembrance ceremony began at precisely 9:02am, the same time the original surrender ceremony began. Today’s ceremony featured Lt. Gen. David H. Berger as the keynote speaker. Berger is the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
“They stood tall, they held the line, and set the course to peace,” said Berger as he expressed the importance of this anniversary from a Marine’s perspective. He was referring to the theme of this year’s commemoration, remembering the battle for Guadalcanal.
August 7, 1942, was the beginning of Operation Watchtower, better known as the battle of Guadalcanal, the first Marine amphibious landing of WWII, and the first major offensive operation by the allied forces against the Empire of Japan. The battle lasted six months and led to a series of allied victories in the Pacific. Ultimately, that battle proved to be the turning point of the war. During his remarks, Berger reflected upon his recent trip there.
“We went to Guadalcanal the first week of this month, it was humbling. It was humbling to be in a place where 75 years earlier so much devastation happened. We went up on Edson’s ridge. This is where Lieutenant Colonel Merritt Edson and his Marine Raiders made a last stand. Edson was told to hold the line. There could be no more advance. And they were outnumbered three to one, but they were Marines and they were gonna hold the line,” said Berger.
“We had the privilege of walking the hills of Guadalcanal where legendary heroes fought: Sergeant ‘Manila’ John Basilone, Sergeant Mitch Paige, Corporal Anthony Casamento, and Major Ken Baily. They all fought there and we could go to each position where these leaders led their Marines in battle.”
Gallantry and courage from that battle and many others that followed eventually led to the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, which set the course to peace and security for the future. The Mighty Mo was later decommissioned and subsequently donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association, becoming the popular museum ship it is today.
Berger also reflected on why ceremonies such as this morning’s should continue to be held. He spoke of 2001, when there was another solemn ceremony at which members of the Makin Raiders were sent home for burial 59 years after the fell in combat. There, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, former U.S. senator from Hawaii, said, “Ceremonies such as these are living proof that there is no statute of limitations on honor.”
The Mighty Mo hosts this anniversary to commemorate the service members who fought in WWII. But to Berger, it isn’t just about the lives lost, it’s also about the alliances gained.
“All those who served in World War II, they weren’t just fighting to defeat an enemy. I think it was a lot more than that. I think they knew they were fighting to secure a better world for themselves. They knew they were fighting for a better world for their families and generations to follow. They stood tall. They held the line. They set the course for peace. In 1945, Japan was our enemy. Today, 75 years later, our staunchest ally,” said Berger.
Today, the U.S. and Japan stand together, showcasing an alliance of peace forged between our two nations.