First class . . .
I swore to myself that this Veteran’s Day, I would not write of War or of our men and women, flung around the world, but here at the last moment, I sit at my screen and do just that. And it is right. And good that I do so.
I grew up with Mom and Dad making references to WW 1, but as a child, those words meant nothing to me. But then there was one serene Sunday morning, when I was in Gram’s upstairs east bedroom, that I remember. And recall so vividly that it’s part of what I write today.
I was a young woman, no children, and lazily reading and listening to the Tabernacle Choir and then, a program came on about war and of planes bombing ships and it all became an unwanted program so I turned it OFF and wandered downstairs.
There I found Gram working on the day’s dinner, but I saw she was crying. I was too young and shy to ask why she cried, but then Jake came through the doorway, lightly rapped my shoulders and said, “Well, Ole, (his nickname for me), looks like this time it’s for me.”
I didn’t know what he meant, either. Of course, I soon found out that I had been listening to the reports of Japan bombing Pearl Harbor and destroying almost all our Battleships and Air Force, which had been nestled there in the Pacific, to be safe from Hitler’s attacks in the Atlantic..
The world saw our Flag that day, ragged and floating in bloody waters, amid our sunken warships and planes, and we never knew how badly we had been battered until years later when the tables had been turned and we had driven the Japanese from all those eastern islands, skies and seas.
And then . . . my memory leaps forward and urges me to tell of General Douglas MacArthur, dressed in casual fatigues, while sitting on the open, sun-splashed deck of our Battleship Missouri. No tie, wearing no citations or medals, just everyday work clothes for doing ordinary, every day tasks.
But then some important looking ship approached carrying the Japanese Flag at half mast, and soon leaving that ship, to board The Missouri, was Hirohito, The Emperor of Japan, in his full brightly colored regalia of Emperor, and accompanied by men, whose every stitch of clothing told that they, too were dressed for an important occasion.
And what met Hirohito and his men?
Hirohito was met by a commonplace, work-a-day scene with men swabbing the deck, others laughing and talking as they strolled back and forth or leaned against the railing, enjoying the calm sea. Just an ordinary work day aboard a Battleship. And Old Glory, our Flag was high in the sky, billowing beautifully for all to see, and MacArthur, had his desk and everyday work, taken to the sunny deck to accomplish..
Before Hirohito and his men, was America’s Commanding Officer General Douglas MacArthur in ‘work clothes’ with not even a tie, and offering not a single formality. There was no music, no drum roll, and no one stood in greeting. Unescorted and alone, the Emperor approached the General and MacArthur raised his eyes, nodded and (I don’t remember the details), but there were NO formalities on our side..
And MacArthur, still sitting at his work-cluttered desk, casually pushed some Papers and pen, toward the gorgeously dressed Emperor, and Hirohito, treated as a casual messenger, signed those papers that stated his country was giving Unconditional Surrender, with no if’s, and’s. or but’s. And MacArthur nodded his thanks, still not rising, and that was that. Over. Done with, and utterly humiliating to Hirohito, but that’s what Japan should have thought of before they started the war, and finally learned what Unconditional Surrender meant.
There was no ceremony, no handshakes, no ceremonial wines or such to exchange. It was absolute surrender and that was all. We, and the world watched every Japanese there, in full uniform bow in humility before our Banner. Nothing more was needed, and Hirohito turned and, with no American escort, his men took him to his ship and back to Japan.
MacArthur was ostensibly busy with his day’s work and that Surrender we had fought for, and men had died for, was signed, sealed, right there on the deck of the Missouri. I never cared much for MacArthur with his seemingly egotistical manner, but this was once I applauded him. After our horror of Pearl Harbor, he had won The War in the Pacific, brought Japan to its knees, and had them begging us to stop. They, who began the big mess, now wanted no more of it.
Yes, for about two years Japan thought they had conquered us, but they learned to know the strength, bravery and power of the United States of America. Our flag, had been shot from the skies into muddy, bloody waters, but we did not ask for that war, as we also did not ask for Okinawa, Midway, and on the other side of the world, the Battle of the Bulge, and Normandy Beach, but we finished every one of them, and those enemies all bowed in Unconditional Surrender. That was class. Real First Class.