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THIS ISSUE’S “War Letters” will be the last, and, appropriately enough, concludes with a pair of previously unpublished accounts of events surrounding the ceremony that marked the end of World War II. Captain Ed Clement, 25, navigator of the plane that carried General Douglas MacArthur to Japan for surrender formalities aboard the USS Missouri, writes beforehand to his wife, Dorothy, in Chicago. Rear Admiral John F. Shafroth Jr., 58, writes just afterward to his brother in Denver. Though far different in tone and angle, each letter clearly conveys a sense of awe at being present as history was being made. (The letters have been edited solely for length.)


August 31, 1945

Hello Honey,

I can’t believe that I’m in Japan. The plane 9027-C-54E left Manila on the 29 of August with General McArthur. I was chosen as navigator. We left at 0900 and arrived at Yontan field Okinawa at 1400. The General signed two short snorter bills for me. He was very friendly. He appears slightly older than his pictures. He was very restless and walked around on the plane as this surrender treaty to be signed on the 2nd Sunday was on his mind.

At Okinawa the crew stayed at Far East Air Force and we drew four cokes and two bottles of beer. We departed the next morning at 0900 for Atsugi aerodrome which is 17 miles from Tokyo.

I got several photographs of the general and the aeroplane 9027 named Bataan. We landed on Japan five hours later. The weather was good on the whole trip.

When we landed the General stepped out with sunglasses, braided cap and a long corn cob pipe. He is really an actor. There were all kinds of photographers and news reel men and honey you might see me in the newsreel if you look hard enough.

We had plenty of Jap trucks and civilian cars for our use. All along the road were Jap armed troops and they turned their backs to us. We were armed and had our 45s ready but had no trouble.

When we came to the outskirts of the town we were amazed at the destruction. Practically the whole city was burned to the ground. The roads and fireproof buildings were OK. There were a few streetcars running. The General and his staff stayed at the New Grand Hotel which compares with a second rate hotel in the states. We stay at the Helm House which has a private bath with cold water only. I put your pictures all over the dressing table and I can see you from any place in the room.

We eat all of our meals at the New Grand which is three blocks away. Last night we had Jap beer and some sort of ground meat. There was no dessert other than large blue grapes. When we finished four bottles of beer and our dinner it was dark and we walked to our hotel uneasy all the time. At our hotel was a Jap interpreter who told us that they moved 200 girls into an apartment building across the street. We didn’t take him up on it but we could see the girls and the rooms with grass mats and hear the music. There are very few troops here as yet but more damn brass hats than you can shake a stick at. The bed is a sort of a pallet with a pillow filled with straw and shaped like a cylinder. We threw them on the floor. It is very cool at night with a strong wind which blew furiously.

We got up at 0630 and went over for breakfast and passed the U.S. Embassy building. The shield and the U.S.A. are still there and it looked pretty good.

Lt. Col. [Weldon E.] Rhoades our pilot told us we’d have to go to the field this noon and help park 2 C54’s and bring the big shots in town (Russian + Chinese). I believe I’ll be here for at least a week before going back to Manila.

I may be pulled up here to start a briefing station or I may stay in Manila or I may be returned to the states (I hope I hope).

I say goodby now Dotty and I’ll write again soon.

Love, Ed

Jack Shafroth, who on July 14, 1945, led an eight-ship squadron that reduced military targets on the Japanese home islands, picks up the story the next day:

2 September 1945

Dear Morey,

Yesterday my Chief of Staff Joe Cronin and I, with my Flag Lieutenant, Bill Hussey, left on a destroyer for Tokyo to witness the formalities.

We arrived in Tokyo Bay early and I went over to the Missouri about 7:45 where I had a fine talk with Halsey. About eight o’clock the officers began to come aboard and it was like an old home week. Naturally we were all feeling very happy.

The surrender ceremonies took place on the platform deck outside of the Captain’s cabin where a table about 3’ X 9’ was set up, with two chairs on opposite sides of it. The representatives of the Allied Nations took station facing forward and the Japanese delegates took station facing aft. The other officers, Army, Navy and Marine, gathered in several lines facing outward and to starboard. I myself was in the front row well to the right next to Lieutenant General Geiger, USMC, and directly in front were Lieutenant General Wainwright and General Percival who was the British Commander at Singapore.

The Japanese party consisted of the foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshi Jiro Umezo, with three representatives of the civil government, three of the Army and three of the Navy, but only the first two actually signed the sur render terms. General MacArthur kept them waiting four or five minutes and then came down with Admiral Nimitz and made a brief address in which he stated that he hoped the document which was to be signed would commence an era of peace that might continue for all time.

The Japanese foreign minister who was somewhat lame and walked with a cane then came forward, set himself at the table, glanced over the terms of the agreement and signed his name. He was followed by General Umezo. They had brought forward certain documents.

Apparently they desired that the treaty be signed in both English and Japanese, but General MacArthur picked up the Japanese documents, pushed them to the side and then sat down and signed.

MacArthur called to his side General Wainwright and General Percival, the Commanders who had surrendered to the Japanese at Corregidor and Singapore, and he handed to each of them a pen which had been used in signing one of the duplicate texts. Admiral Nimitz then came forward and called Halsey and Forrest Sherman, his plans officer, to his side while he affixed his signature.

The representatives of the other nations then came forward: Australia, China, France, Great Britain, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Russia. Admiral Sir Bruce Frasier signed for the British, and they were in white shorts.

It was a time of great gravity. The Japanese stood perfectly expressionless. Their Lieutenant General Miyakazi who represented the Army General Headquarters looked hardly human, but more like a rat than a human being, and the others were only slightly better.

When the ceremony was completed, General MacArthur turned and proceeded to his quarters without any further word to the Japanese who stood there for a little while and then were taken down and sent over the side and set ashore. Neither General MacArthur nor Admiral Nimitz nor Admiral Halsey nor, so far as I know, any Flag Officer saw them over the side.

I saw many of my Army friends, some Marines and of course many of my Navy compatriots. Tom Hill, also on Admiral Nimitz’ staff, said he might go through Denver enroute to the East Coast and I told him that if he did to be sure and ring you up and tell you that you had instructions from me to take him to lunch at the Country Club.

With much love to you and all your family, I am,

Your devoted brother, Jack

P.S. According to the press one of the signed copies was in Japanese.

Ed Clement mustered out in 1946, got an MBA, and in 1948 rejoined the U.S. Air Force, serving until 1968. After, he worked in the California Department of Finance. He died in 1983. Jack Shafroth, a Navy Cross recipient, retired in 1949 as Vice Admiral and was president of the Naval Historical Foundation from 1961–67. He died in 1967.


Originally published in the August 2013 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.