The movie "Emperor," starring Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur, is currently playing in theaters and tells the story of the final days of World War II and the U.S. occupation of Japan. For an Ohio perspective on these events, we turn to the War Era Story Project.
Ruth Hergenrather, age 86, of Brookville, Ohio, shared with us her husband's story. Bob was a U.S. Marine and was witness to the signing of the peace treaty with Japan on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. Here is his experience, in his own words.
"On the day of the 2nd, at 9:00 a.m., dignitaries from all the Allied Nations were assembled on the 0-1 level, where a table from the mess hall had been brought in. It was covered with a green cloth. The Japanese delegation came up the gangway right in front of us, the Marines. I think I could have reached out and touched one man, he came that close to me. There were 11 of them. Three were in top hats and tails, six were in full military dress, and the others were in civilian suits. We did not salute them, and we did not wear our dress uniforms. They were still the enemy. They came aboard and took their places in front of the table.
"Only two chairs were there, one on each side of the table. The Japanese men stood for a couple of minutes before General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, approached the table and faced them. He made a few remarks without the microphone, then asked them to place their signatures on the official surrender documents. Standing by General MacArthur was General Jonathan Wainwright and British General A.E. Percival, who were heroes of the Battan march on Corrigidor. As General MacArthur signed his name for the Allied Powers, he used five pens. The first one he gave to General Wainwright and the second to General Percival. Both men had been prisoners of Japan until the surrender on August 14th.
"When the signing was completed, General MacArthur gave the Japanese delegation their copy of the document. He told them it would be his purpose to see to it the terms of the surrender were carried out, then told them the ceremonies were complete. The Japanese delegation then turned and went down the gangway onto a destroyer that would return them to shore. General MacArthur then made a few remarks into a microphone in order for the men who could not actually see the happenings to at least hear his voice as he related to them what had just taken place. There were men hanging from every possible spot all over the ship to watch or catch a glimpse of that event, and I had the privilege of standing close enough to see and hear the entire proceedings. What a gift I had been given. Then General MacArthur asked the ship's Chaplain to close in prayer."
Judy Cupp, age 75, of Greenville, shared the experiences of her uncle, Donald Kincaid, who served in the Army. He was a Military Police guard who had a very personal connection to the end of the war.
"As a Military Police guard, Uncle Donald had a very unusual experience. He was one of the guards for a very famous prisoner: Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo. (Uncle Don) was on duty, Sept. 9, 1945, the night Tojo was to be executed. Tojo's dress uniform was brought to him. He called his interpreter over, pulled his ribbon bar off his tunic, indicated that it should be given to Kincaid as a souvenir, and then personally handed the bar to my uncle, who was startled. Surprisingly, Uncle Donald was allowed to keep them. The interpreter wrote a letter of authenticity. The Army flew the metals home to my grandparents."
Mr. Kincaid kept the ribbon bar his entire life. After his passing, the family contacted several museums about the unique keepsake. It currently is on loan to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL.
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