The Handshake
VJ Day: The Day World War II Ended

August 14, 1945. Just another day at sea. I was sound asleep in my bunk on the destroyer USS Taylor. We were part of Task Force 38, the renowned US Navy fast-carrier assault group of warships that had played a major role in winning control of the Pacific Ocean from the formidable Imperial Japanese Navy. We were ninety miles off the coast of Japan in our sixth week of audacious carrier air strikes against Tokyo, major airfields and industrial targets. I was 21, the Taylor’s “boot” Ensign, her youngest officer.

I awoke abruptly when a shipmate sailed one of my shoes up against the ship’s hull twelve inches from my head, shouting “The war is over!” Having gotten my attention, he added that “Bull” Halsey was going on our voice radio in ten minutes with an important announcement.

I retrieved my shoes, dressed and hurried topside to the Combat Information Center just in time to hear the voice of Admiral William F. Halsey, Commander of the US Third Fleet:

“It now gives me great pleasure to order all units of Magnolia to cease fire. However, fire on all enemy planes and ships, not vindictively, but in a friendly sort of way.” “Magnolia” was the code name for Task Force 38.

There was no cheering, no clapping or back slapping. No hand shaking. Just stunned silence. Then one voice spoke for all: “I can’t believe it. But if it’s true, what’s next? Do we go home now?” Nobody thought the Japanese would surrender short of an overpowering land invasion of their homeland.

After four years of victory or death fighting over almost every island and every fathom of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Japan, the horrendous loss of life and devastation inflicted by two atom bombs dropped by the US Army Air Corps—one on Hiroshima on August 6 and the other on Nagasaki August 9—had apparently persuaded Japan, a nation that had never lost a war, to agree to surrender on US terms.

We have since learned that Emperor Hirohito wanted peace but had been virtually imprisoned in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo by a majority of the Imperial General Staff determined to continue the war. A secret recording by the Emperor was smuggled out of the cordoned palace. It was broadcast immediately. The Japanese people heard their Emperor’s voice for the first time. He urged unconditional surrender, adding:

“ . . . We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable . . . .”

After a while I went below to try to be alone, to think and maybe to pick up sleep where I left off. Instead, I unexpectedly sank to my knees by my bunk to thank God—something I had seldom done before in the Navy. Maybe it was because there was little privacy on a destroyer: 350 men on a ship 376 feet long and only 40 feet wide. More likely it was because discretionary kneeling wasn’t a particularly popular maneuver on a destroyer underway, no matter how pious your intentions. The deck had a habit of shifting out from under you. When you are not in the sack or sitting down with one arm wrapped around a stanchion or something else fastened to the deck, you needed both feet planted solidly under your “sea legs” and one hand available to grab anything stationary. I suspect there was more kneeling aboard the smooth-sailing big boys, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers . . . at least for expressing thanks for not having been assigned to destroyer duty.

Shortly before he was killed by machine-gun fire on Okinawa, Ernie Pyle wrote about destroyers: “They are rough and tumble little ships. They roll and they plunge. They buck and they twist. They shudder and they fall through space. They are in the air half the time, under water half the time. Their sailors say they should have flight pay and submarine pay both.”

Just before dawn several hours later I was awakened again, this time by the klaxon whoop of the ship’s General Quarters alarm signaling a probable enemy attack and sending all hands to their battle stations. So much for the cease fire!

During the next hour or so, 16 kamikazes, Japanese suicide planes, were reported shot down “in a friendly sort of way.” We were told that they were flown mostly by senior officers, student pilots and their instructors, all determined to seize one last opportunity to die honorably for their Emperor. They flew all sorts of aircraft, carrying a bomb and enough fuel for only one way.

We also learned later that these were not acts in defiance of the Emperor’s order to his people to accept defeat. The Japanese Imperial Staff’s reluctant cease-fire order to its soldiers and sailors everywhere did not go out until August 16.

Was the killing really over? Nobody knew for sure. But there was an overwhelming feeling of relief that there would be no invasion of Japan. The anticipated loss of many thousands of fighting Americans and millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians defending their homeland had been avoided.

On August 23 our destroyer and sister ships, Nicholas and O’Bannon, were selected by Admiral Halsey to escort his flagship, the battleship Missouri, into Japan to test the cease-fire. We left Task Force 38, formed a protective anti-submarine screen a mile or two in front of the “Mighty Mo” and headed straight for Tokyo. The remainder of TF 38 would follow later except for the aircraft carriers. They would remain at sea in order to launch aircraft on a moment’s notice if we were attacked.

The crusty admiral was taking no chances on another Pearl Harbor. He chose our three “tin cans” because they were the only ships of Destroyer Squadron 21 remaining on the battle line. A fabled unit, DesRon 21 in 1942 and 1943 fought with him in the early ferocious and costly sea battles in the “Slot” at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands campaign in the South Pacific.(1)

The ship’s log of the Missouri on August 27, 1945, records: “0721 All hands to battle stations as a precaution against possible Jap treachery and to afford maximum watertight integrity for the trip through mine-laden approach to Sagami Wan.”

With a place of honor escorting the Missouri, our three destroyers became the first US ships to enter inland Imperial Japanese waters since the attack on Pearl Harbor almost four years earlier (see Pearl Harbor Epilogue by this writer).

As we passed the island, O Shima, sentinel to the outer bay, Sagami Wan, and the inner harbor, Tokyo Bay, our skipper, Lieutenant Commander Henry H. deLauréal, asked me to put my binoculars on the mainland coast to see if there was any activity. It reportedly was armed with 110 shore batteries whose sole function was to destroy any enemy vessel attempting to enter the bay. The Japanese artillerymen manning the guns had been instructed to train away from the water, open the gun breeches and stand clear of the gun mounts. Our Captain understandably did not want the Taylor to be the first ship to discover that the order had been disobeyed.

I stepped out on the port wing of the bridge and scanned the shore. Soon after, several Navy fighter planes from our carriers appeared and swept low over the shoreline. They got a closer look than I had and reported on our VHF voice radio that the shore batteries were trained away and there was no one to be seen in their immediate vicinity. As the ship’s Fighter Director Officer, my job was to direct carrier fighter planes by radio and radar to intercept Japanese kamikazes when we were on radar picket duty. Assuming I had called in the planes to make the coast inspection, the Captain remarked, “Good work, Mac. You sure got fast service from the flat tops.” Glowing from the undeserved praise, I continued to study the coast line. Suddenly, a familiar sight filled my lens. I exclaimed “Wow, there she is! Just like their postage stamps!” Asked what I saw, I replied “Fujiyama.” When I was a kid I collected stamps as a hobby. The Japanese stamps had a beautiful view of their sacred mountain, snow-capped and perfectly symmetrical. There she is for real!”

Now I had personal proof that we had arrived in that distant, powerful, mysterious and hostile land of warriors that dominated all of Asia, and my life, for the past four years.

I was shaken from my reverie by another transmission from the aircraft. They had just seen “Pappy is here!” painted on the roof of a building. “Pappy” was our leading Marine ace fighter pilot (28 kills), Major Gregory Boyington. The leader of the infamous “Black Sheep Squadron” of problem Marine fighter pilots had been shot down by enemy fighter planes in January, 1944, and was presumed dead. The world had just learned that he had survived and was a prisoner of war in Japan. He had crash landed in the open sea and was captured by a Japanese submarine.

Four months later I met “Pappy” on the street in Long Beach, California. I told him how I learned he was alive. He replied, “Thank you, son. Thanks a lot. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Can I buy you a drink?” I said, “You bet, Sir.” And he did. He wore only two of his many service ribbons, the Purple Heart and Congressional Medal of Honor.

After we anchored in Japanese waters, the first ship after the Missouri to do so, we remained at general quarters with a darkened ship. It was the first time our propellers were silent since leaving the Philippines almost two months earlier. I remember trying to get some sleep that night. Were we actually at anchor in Japan? The reality would not let me relax. And without the deep hum of our engines, the ocean sounds and swells and a pitching deck, sleep was out of the question. I was relieved when midnight arrived and it was my watch.

Our work was not over. The formal surrender of Japan was set for a week later, September 2, 1945, aboard the Missouri, then anchored in the middle of Tokyo Bay.

Again, Admiral Halsey called on the Taylor for a major role: Taxi duty between Yokohama and the Missouri. The day before we moved from our anchorage in the bay to the Customs House dock at Yokohama.

At 4:30 AM I was awakened abruptly as the brass rings suspending the curtain were swept aside. “McCarthy, hit the deck! Meet me on the quarterdeck in fifteen minutes!” The voice belonged to our Executive Officer, Lieutenant J. F. Gustaferro, the ship’s second in command. He added, “Bring a sidearm,” then disappeared.

As I joined the “Exec” on deck, strapping a Colt .45 automatic around my waist, I asked groggily, “What’s up, Gus? Are we going to take Yokohama? Just the two of us?”

“Very funny”, he replied with a noticeable edge to his voice. I figured somebody had also interrupted his sleep. “Follow me,” he added.

In total darkness, we descended the gangway to the dock, walked a short distance, then entered a building with a single dim light hanging in the center. A US Marine officer appeared. “This is your man, Colonel,” Gus said, and turning to me, “He will give you your instructions,” and left.

We shook hands. “Ensign,” he said, “We have an assignment for you. You are to take charge of the only Japanese news reporters we are permitting to cover the surrender ceremony this morning on the Missouri.” He motioned to some figures in the darkness. Four men stepped forward, three dressed in typical Japanese Army fatigues down to the peaked caps that appeared too small. The fourth was in Western dress, white suit, shirt, tie and Panama straw hat. They were flanked by two big US Marines. “They are not to be let out of your sight. After the ceremony, they are to be returned to the dock here in Yokohama and released from your custody.”

He paused, then added “Do you know how to use that sidearm?”

“Yes, Sir,” I responded, with what must have sounded like a lilt of indignation. Actually, my experience with the revolver was limited to target practice on flying fish from the bow of the Taylor. I never hit one that I was aware of.

“Have they been searched, Sir?”, I asked.

“Of course,” he responded, with what sounded to me like a slightly indignant tone, considering my question.

“Do you mind if I search them myself, Sir?” I asked.

“Go right ahead,” he replied, now definitely annoyed by my impertinence.

I had never searched anyone before, but I had seen it done in movies. I confirmed that they had nothing metallic with them, not even cameras. Only small writing tablets and pencils. I reasoned that the greatest danger from them was seizing my automatic. While escorting them back to the ship I checked the safety catch to make sure it was on and fastened the gun securely in its holster.

We had begun to take on Allied war correspondents from all over the world, 231 in all. They included the famous, such as Richard Tregaskis, author of Guadalcanal Diary, and many others who with the advent of television became household names. They set up their portable typewriters anywhere there was an available square foot.

I took my charges below to my stateroom for the 45-minute run out to the Missouri. It had an upper and lower bunk and a chair. With five people, it was very cramped. They sat on the lower bunk. The one in civilian clothes was Masuo Kato. He and two others were with Domei, the principal news agency in Japan. The fourth was with Japan’s largest newspaper, Asahi Simbun. Kato spoke excellent English, the others remained silent the entire trip.

After we were underway and things had settled down I was startled by a long arm reaching over my shoulder. An American voice exclaimed, “Masuo! How the hell are you? Long time, no see!” The journalists shook hands. As they exchanged greetings, asking about each other’s wife and children, I learned that they had become good friends before the war when they had served in the same foreign assignments at the same time. But when Japan struck Pearl Harbor and war declared, the American was stationed in Tokyo and Kato in Washington, DC. Each was interned by the “enemy” and later exchanged through repatriation. Each continued his work covering the war for his country.

The durable friendship formed through their professional respect for each other had survived the horrors of war they had witnessed and written about for the past four years. I remember thinking such personal relationships between national leaders should be possible now that the atom bomb made major wars in the future unthinkable. It was something to work on when we all returned home.

About 7 AM we went topside as we approached the port side of the Missouri to disembark the correspondents. And she was huge! She towered over us like Hoover Dam. (2)

I decided it would be appropriate to let the Allied correspondents disembark first. That decision permitted an incident to take place that almost out-shone the surrender itself. While waiting near our gangway, our ship’s mascot, Subic, appeared. A small dirty-white mongrel with floppy ears and uncertain ancestry, he had been taken aboard several months earlier at Subic Bay in the Philippines. The word was that several of our ship’s crew had rescued him from cruel and incanine treatment by his Japanese captors. Now, with four Japanese encroaching on his territory, vengeful memories inflamed him. With a snarl, Subic leaped forward and clamped his jaws on the lower leg of one of my charges. Instantly, I grabbed him and pulled him off, expecting to be rewarded with a similar attack. Instead, he looked at me with a pained expression, clearly confused as to why I would spoil his last chance to be a hero before the war ended.

As fate would have it, a reporter from the Saturday Evening Post, a popular news magazine in the US, saw the action. I gave him Subic’s puppyhood history. To our surprise Subic became the subject of an article in the Post on October 27, 1945, entitled The Jap’s Last Bite by William L. Worden:

“When Subic was found in the wrecked Jap camp months before, he was a cringing puppy, obviously remembering beatings and expecting more. Here on the Taylor he knew his secure place in the world, overseeing the proceedings with dignity, his head high and his eyes bright.

“The Taylor came alongside . . . and newsmen poured off across a gangplank, single file, all hurrying. Last of all were the Japanese. Subic still waited while they approached the gangplank. But when the last was just about to step on the gangplank, Subic moved very fast across the deck.

“He got in one good bite. It may well have been the last really overt act in the most terrible war in history.”

Our glory-seeking mascot got his wish for notoriety.

On the Missouri we were directed to a space for correspondents that afforded a good view of the proceedings. The following is excerpted from the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume XIV, by Samuel Eliot Morison, with additions from my memory of the events that became known as V-J Day.

“At 0856 the Japanese delegation [of eleven], lifted from Yokohama in destroyer Lansdowne, mounted the starboard gangway. They were headed by the Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, who, having lost a leg to an assassin’s bomb many years before, negotiated the ladder with difficulty. He was followed by General Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the Army general staff, to sign on behalf of Imperial General Headquarters. It was reported that the General, who had consistently opposed surrender, turned white with rage when he learned that he was being considered for this part and threatened to commit hara-kiri; but after personal intervention by the Emperor he consented to carry it off . . . The civilians were in formal morning dress with top hats, in contrast to the ill-fitting uniforms of the military members and to the khaki uniforms with open-necked shirts worn by the United States Navy and Army officers.

“Side boys were stationed and the Japanese delegation [was] piped on board. As they arrived on deck, their faces expressing no emotion, complete silence fell over the assembled multitude . . .

“The Japanese were not asked to present their formal credentials. As translated into English, these began:

HIROHITO, by the Grace of Heaven, Emperor of Japan, seated on the Throne occupied by the same Dynasty changeless through ages eternal, To all to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting! . . .

“The Instrument of Surrender . . . contained these pregnant paragraphs:

We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated . . .

We hereby command all civil, military and naval officials to obey and enforce all proclamations, orders and directives [issued] by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers [General of the Army Douglas MacArthur] . . .

The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender . . .

“The atmosphere was frigid. The Japanese, performing an act unprecedented in their country’s history, preserved their dignity . . . After three or four minutes had elapsed, General MacArthur appeared with Admirals Nimitz and Halsey . . . At his side also were Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, USA, who had surrendered the Philippines in 1942, and British Lieutenant General Sir Arthur E. Percival, who had surrendered Singapore the same year. Both had been flown from prison camps in Manchuria. General MacArthur made a short speech stating the purpose of the occasion, concluding with a ringing expression of hope for the future:

It is my earnest hope—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 founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.

“Toshikazu Kase [a member of the Japanese Foreign Office], was profoundly moved by the General’s speech. It transformed the battleship’s quarterdeck, he recorded, ‘into an altar of peace.’

“The General now pointed to a chair at the other side of the table, and motioned to the Japanese delegates to come forward and sign. Mr. Shigemitsu fumbled with his hat, gloves and cane and seemed puzzled as to which paper he was supposed to sign. It was a tense moment; some of the onlookers suspected the Foreign Minister of stalling, but what really bothered him was pain from his ill-fitting artificial leg. MacArthur’s voice punctuated the dead silence with a crisp order to his chief of staff, “Sutherland, show him where to sign.” Sutherland did, and Shigemitsu signed the instrument of surrender at 0904, thus officially ending the war [in the Pacific], which had lasted exactly 1,364 days, 5 hours and 44 minutes. He was immediately followed as signatory by General Umezu.

“General of the Army MacArthur then signed the acceptance of the surrender for all Allied powers [followed by representatives of the individual countries present].

“After all had signed, General MacArthur spoke a final word:

Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are now closed.

[After six years and 55 million killed, World War II, the costliest war in history, was over].

“In this firm and stern setting, Japan acknowledged her defeat in a war forced upon her by an ambitious and reckless military clique. The ceremony was conducted in an atmosphere of cold formality: no pageantry, no roll of drums, no handing over of swords or colors, not even a handshake; nothing to recall historic surrenders such as those of Saratoga, Yorktown and Appomattox.”

“ . . . General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz entertained a feeling of compassion toward the fallen foe; Nimitz revoked an order from Halsey to the [Commanding Officer] of destroyer Lansdowne not to offer coffee, cigarettes or other courtesies to the Japanese delegation. The Japanese delegates received customary honors as they approached the gangway in order to symbolize the fact that they were no longer enemies.

“As the formalities came to a close at 0925, the sun broke through, and a flight of 450 carrier aircraft, together with several hundred of the Army Air Force, swept over Missouri and her sister ships.”

The Taylor had returned alongside and the correspondents hurriedly boarded her for the return trip to Yokohama. A number of US Army and Air Corps Generals came aboard also for the early trip back to shore. One of the correspondents asked me if we could make faster time than the trip out. He explained that it was important for them to send off their stories as quickly as possible. The Navy correspondents had a time advantage because they had only to go to the battleship Iowa anchored less than 500 yards from the Missouri. I sent him up to the bridge to talk to the Captain. Within several minutes at 9:38 AM the Taylor surged away from the “Mighty Mo.” She ripped through Tokyo Bay at over 30 knots (35 miles per hour), her bow waves and wake upending more than one sampan.

Everywhere reporters were writing or typing furiously to have their stories ready the minute they were ashore and could find a telephone that worked.

I asked Masuo Kato what his impressions were of the surrender ceremony. He replied simply, “It was the end.” I said “But it is also a new beginning for Japan, is it not?” He said “Yes. We have begun to understand the past that we know. But we do not know what the future holds for the Japanese people.”

Now, as I write this almost sixty years later, I wonder if he and other Japanese have written about the extraordinary transformation Japan has made from a defeated and devastated military aggressor to a vibrant, productive, peaceful world leader among nations.

If so, I wonder also if they have acknowledged that not the least deserving among Japan’s benefactors are the people of the United States of America and our Allies, who paid such a high price to liberate the Japanese from their self-inflicted militarism. We lost 408,000 Americans killed and over 600,000 wounded in the war. Sixteen million who served and survived were robbed of several years of our lives . . . and most of our youth.

We docked in Yokohama at 10:12 AM, seventeen minutes faster than the trip out. Our passengers poured off the ship in a single-file stream. As we moved toward the gangway, Masuo Kato extended his right hand. I paused a moment, then grasped it firmly and shook hands. He said “Thank you”, bowed slightly from the waist, turned and followed his three comrades off the ship. They disappeared quickly among the hundreds of people milling about the dock.

Gus appeared. “Mac, you have the deck for the rest of the morning watch. The Lansdowne is coming alongside to discharge the Japanese surrender party. In fifteen minutes they will cross our quarterdeck to the dock. Better set up for their passage.”

Giving me the “deck” meant I was Officer of the Deck until noon. Technically in charge of the entire ship, a junior officer is usually the OD of a warship only at anchor or alongside the dock, seldom underway. Still, they did not teach me in midshipman school how to deal with the top military and civilian leaders of a defeated enemy.

I decided three members of our crew and I would be enough to do the job. I picked three who were wearing dress whites. I noticed that six large brown 1930s touring sedans had lined up on the other side of the dock. The canvas top was folded down behind the back seat. Standing alongside each were two of the tallest Japanese soldiers I had seen. Each was over six feet, expressionless in infantry fatigues, boots and the familiar small caps. Each had a huge samurai sword hanging from his waist, almost touching the ground. The honor guard was an awesome sight, as I’m sure it was intended to be.

I handed my side arm to one of my men and asked him to clear a large semi-circle and path to the automobiles among the dozens of photographers, newsmen and spectators assembled on the dock. We decided to stand at attention on our quarterdeck on either side of the gangway, close enough to give assistance to the Japanese Foreign Minister should he need it. We would not salute. I then sent one of the men to the other side of the ship to escort the Japanese from the Lansdowne to our gangway.

Everything went smoothly. On the dock two of the officials took their places in the back seat of each car. Two guards seated themselves above and behind them on the folded canvas top with their arms crossed and swords across their laps. The motorized column started their engines and roared off.

Over 50 years later, at a reunion of my shipmates, I discovered a small two by three-inch, out-of-focus snapshot of Foreign Minister Shigemitsu and me as he passed over our quarterdeck and stepped onto the gangway. I showed a copy to my golf buddies and asked if they recognized me in the photo. One responded, “Of course, but why are you wearing a top hat and tails?”

After another trip to the Missouri in the afternoon to pick up more Allied top brass and deliver them to Yokohama, we moved away from the dock to our anchorage in Tokyo Bay. Captain deLauréal then addressed all the crew on the ship’s loudspeakers, expressing his thanks to them for doing their jobs on a difficult but momentous day in the history of the Taylor and our country. He gave them a heartfelt “Well done” and expressed his opinion that it would not be long before we received orders to return to the United States.

The Captain then assembled all the officers in the wardroom and thanked us. However, he added, there was one incident that required his attention. One of the ship’s officers had been placed on report by a passenger of heroic national stature, General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz. Four-star General Spaatz was in charge of the US Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific. He supervised the final bombing of Japan by our B-29 superfortresses, including the two atomic bomb missions. Earlier he had commanded the U.S. Eighth Air Force, the fleet of thousands of airmen, bombers and fighter planes stationed in England that brought Germany to its knees by destroying its industrial capacity and its awesome Air Force, the Luftwaffe.

The skipper said the General told him he saw the officer shaking hands with the enemy. He wanted him disciplined for conduct unbecoming an officer.

The room fell silent.

I knew the General was referring to me. I was devastated.

The Captain continued. “I looked into the incident. It took place after the formal surrender. The war is over. The Japanese was a non-combatant newsman. Now we have to make the peace work. And as Captain of this ship I do not take orders from passengers, even if he is a General of the United States Army Air Corps.” He turned to me, reached across the table and shook my hand. “You did a fine job today, Mac. Now let’s all have some dinner and write a letter home or see a movie on the fo’c’sle. Then get a good night’s sleep for a change.”

Did I really hear a chorus of “Aye, Aye, Sir?” Or was it only my imagination?

(1) Naval Historian David McComb qualifies as the most knowledgeable source of information on Destroyer Squadron 21. He writes: “The record of the squadron, twelve of the most battle tested ships in United States naval history, reflected the conduct of the entire war in the Pacific from Guadalcanal in late 1942 through the Allied victory and repatriation of prisoners-of-war in 1945.”

The ships of DesRon 21 achieved a remarkable record, sharing in the sinking of a Japanese battleship, several cruisers, a half dozen destroyers and dozens of aircraft. They were credited with sinking ten submarines, three by the Taylor. Because of strict debris evidence requirements, it is believed many more Japanese subs were in fact destroyed. DesRon 21 ships participated in countless shore bombardments, rescued 1,800 sailors and downed airmen and earned a record 119 battle stars during WW II. But the Japanese sank three ships of our squadron in the sea battles over the air field on Guadalcanal that could control the South Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand. They damaged six more with aircraft, mines and shore fire in our struggles two years later in Japan’s neighborhood to retake the Philippines. 372 sailors were killed, many more wounded. Miraculously, the Taylor alone sustained no deaths or injuries from enemy action during the war.

(2) We had been alongside at sea to take on fuel, passengers, mail, etc., but seldom closer than half a football field. Also, ocean swells would lift us up and lower the battleship like two large elevators passing one another. But coming really close alongside at anchor dispelled any fleeting thoughts I had of comparative size and power.

The battleship USS Missouri is now permanently berthed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, not far from the somber yet extremely popular World War II memorial over the remains of the USS Arizona, the battleship sunk by Japanese torpedo planes on December 7, 1941. She rests upright with the bodies of 1,100 of her crew still entombed within. Placing the majestic symbol of our ultimate victory in the Pacific near the shrine of the sunken battleship marking our fateful entry into the war is a fitting epilogue to the dominant world conflict of the 20th century, perhaps all history. One symbolizes the heroic accomplishments of which our nation is capable when we are united in a just cause. The other, a tragic reminder of what can happen when we are not.

It is my prayerful hope that future generations of Americans will understand and remember the difference. Our role of world leadership requires no less. Conflicts since World War II are not reassuring.