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Birth of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, 1954

2022-09-19T17:58:11-05:00September 19, 2022|HH 2022|

Birth of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan,
September 21, 1954

Americans tend to ignore Japan as a nation, even less the men who have served there as Prime Minister in the post-WWII era. Unless a tsunami has wiped out a few thousand people or swamped a nuclear plant, Japan and its history are not on our contemporary concern list. The Second World War still ranks in first place in American historical interest regarding the Land of the Rising Sun, but of little consideration after the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. Ichiro Suzuki and Shohei Ohtani have name recognition because they lead the list of American Major League Baseball All-Star players from Japan. It is thus no surprise that athletes receive the most attention from Americans, who paid little mind to the recent assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe on July 8 this year. He was the greatest and most important prime minister of Japan, and the most politically conservative PM, since the end of WWII.

Shinzo Abe (1954-2022) was Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020 (the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history), and Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2005 to 2006

Born on September 21, 1954 to a prominent political family, his national and family heritage informed and molded Abe’s political ideology as he matured. His father had volunteered as a kamikaze pilot in the Second World War but the war ended before his training. As Providence would have it, he served in four national offices from 1958-1991, including minister of foreign affairs under Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, a close confidant of Ronald Reagan. Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobosuke Kishi, served in the cabinet of Hideki Tojo during the war, and was wrongly imprisoned as a suspected “Class-A” war criminal during the occupation. He helped found the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the 1950s and served three years as Prime Minister. PM Abe credited the influence of father and grandfather for his own political philosophy and success. Also, like them, he has had a favorable connection with the Unification Church, usually considered a heretical Christian-influenced cult led originally by Korean preacher, Sun Myung Moon, whose strong anti-communism stance and publication of the “conservative” Washington Times newspaper in the U.S., placed their political views on the right.

Shinzo as a young boy (center, seated in the lap of his grandfather, Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, who greatly influenced Shinzo’s beliefs), and surrounded by family

At the end of the War, a team of U.S. Army judge advocate generals under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur drafted the Constitution of Japan, mandating Japan renounce standing armed forces, eliminate the divine status of the emperor and give women the right to vote, thus weakening national identity and erasing centuries of tradition and honor. Young Abe’s respect for Grandfather Kishi’s continuing nationalism and respect for Japan’s cultural past, minus the militarism of the 1930s and 40s, motivated Abe to fight the cultural battles of the 1990s and 2000s as he rose in the political world. Not one to shy away from controversy, Abe pushed his conservative views forward, for instance opposing the left-wing party’s “excessive sexual and gender-free education” policies. He supported nationalist efforts to rid the country of its postwar pacifism, secularism, and dependence on the United States “security umbrella.” As a rising star within the LDP, Abe eventually secured the role of chief cabinet secretary of the prime minister in 2005. He served one year as prime minister in 2006 and revealed his antagonism to globalism.

Prime Minister Abe and his wife Akie hosting the 2017 Cherry Blossom Viewing Party— a celebration of strong, ancient, traditional Japanese culture

In the intervening five years before his return as PM, he “quietly built strong relations with Taiwan,” in the face of increasing Communist China’s ties with the U.S. In 2012 Abe became prime minister again and held on to the office for eight years, the longest in Japanese history. His nationalistic instincts met with general approval as he refused resettling Middle Eastern and African refugees and continued to promote Japan’s traditional cultural heritage, including Shinto values. He supported changing the use of “liberal Western-style” textbooks in schools. Abe was a vocal opponent of progressive efforts to allow women to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. He stopped apologizing to Korea and China for the Second World War and ended sending them billions in reparations.

Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe attending a memorial service for Japanese soldiers of WWI

The U.S. allowed Japan to create the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) during the Cold War, without calling it an army. With a quarter of a million active-duty personnel today, they are still restrained from over-seas military operations and they have a restricted budget. Abe had to fight against pacifist parties and the communist party who want the nation to eliminate the defense force altogether. In 2015, Abe was able to get new security legislation passed to allow Japan to participate in “collective self-defense,” enabling them to come to the aid of an ally attacked by Red China or North Korea. Having unified the LDP, his success as a reformer, a nationalist, and a revisionist in the face of international progressive influences on his country, he was able to return a “spark of patriotic life back to Japan.” He resigned in 2020 due to health issues.

President Trump and PM Abe in 2017 with a set of autographed MAGA-style hats that read “Donald & Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater”

On the 8th of July this year, 67-year-old Abe was assassinated during a political rally by a gunman with a homemade weapon. He was shot in the heart at close range. The murderer claimed Abe’s association with the Unification Church warranted the act. The result has been that “his party has coalesced around his vision” and Abe’s reputation is more popular than ever. Some believe he will become a legend for people to revere in Japan for generations, a Samurai who died in battle.

Resources for Further Study

For further information outside of the internet resources, see the article Remembering Shinzo Abe in the September issue of Chronicles Magazine.

Duke of Marlborough Wins at Malplaquet, 1709

2022-09-13T10:49:52-05:00September 13, 2022|HH 2022|

Duke of Marlborough Wins at Malplaquet,
September 11, 1709

Sir Winston Churchill, MP (1620-1688) fathered eleven legitimate children, fought for Charles I in the English Civil War, paid a huge fine for serving on the losing side, and died the year his beloved patron James II lost the throne of England to William and Mary. He served as a Colonel, fighting against Oliver Cromwell, who never lost a battle in which he commanded. John (1650-1722), the eldest son of Sir Winston, served as the highest ranking General of Great Britain in a war that changed the face and destiny of Europe, ironically becoming the second of the two English generals in history who never lost a battle. As the most illustrious ancestor of the 20th Century Winston Churchill, his accomplishments, if not his full title, distinguished him above all his peers: John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough, marquess of Blandford, earl of Marlborough, Baron Churchill of Sandridge, Lord Churchill of Eyemouth, Reichsfurst (Imperial prince).

General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of Nellenburg, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, KG, PC (1650-1722)

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, Princess of Mindelheim, Countess of Nellenburg (née Jenyns, spelt Jennings in most modern references) (1660-1744)

John Churchill, duke of Marlborough had “married for love” a woman without enormous wealth, and thus against his father’s wishes. He was forced to maintain his fortune and livelihood through effort, a man with the character and perseverance to do just that. He found time to father seven children with Sarah Churchill, the (now) Duchess of Marlborough. His descendant Winston Churchill was forced to make his own way in the world also, although for different reasons; his parents were spendthrifts who wasted their fortune on entertainments, (but he also married for love).

Winston and Clementine Churchill, shortly before their marriage in 1908

James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch (1649-1685) commanding the English against the Dutch in 1672

John Churchill began his military service with a commission in the foot guards in 1667. In the third Dutch War (1672-74) he earned a promotion to Captain, and then served with distinction under the Duke of Monmouth, steering clear of association when the duke attempted a clandestine and tragically failed overthrow of his step-brother James II. That monarch made Churchill a lieutenant general and a peer of the realm. When James was expelled from the English throne for his Roman Catholicism, Churchill deftly landed in the camp of the new Protestant monarch, King William of Orange, who awarded Sir John the earldom of Marlborough and membership in the Privy Council. He served in effective command in both Ireland and Flanders. Falsely implicated in plots to restore James II to the throne, Churchill spent time in the Tower of London in 1691. Although eventually released, he experienced three more years out of favor for leading a “substantial faction” opposed to William’s favoring his Dutch associates over English.

James II (of England and Ireland) and VII (of Scotland), (1633-1701)

William III “of Orange” (1650-1702)

Louis XIV of France—the longest serving monarch in European history (reigning more than seventy-two years, beginning in 1643)—had advanced French interests through war and diplomacy, allied with England for five years then against England for the next hundred and forty. Upon the death of William III (the new English monarch), Queen Anne (the last of the Stuart line), confirmed Marlborough’s appointment as supreme commander of English and Dutch troops on the continent, initiated by William in the year of his own death, to oppose Louis’s ambitions of conquest. Marlborough crossed to Holland and undertook the first of ten successful campaigns against France. The English commander proved a genius at deception and maneuver, and master of both strategy and tactics. He also put his considerable diplomatic skills to use as he created and maintained “The Grand Alliance” of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Descendant Winston paid close attention to his illustrious ancestor.

Louis XIV of France (1638-1715)

Queen Anne of England, Scotland and Ireland (1665-1714)

That war, known by some military historians as “the first world war of modern times,” lasted thirteen years and resulted in battles in Spain, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, Italy, America, Austria, and on the high seas, as well as trade wars in India and South America. The war concerned who would succeed to the throne of Spain; France wanted an heir to the Bourbons, and Austria to the Hapsburgs. Combined with the most complex political maneuverings by all the countries in Europe, the Grand Alliance was again assembled against France. England’s goal was to maintain the balance of power in Europe and protect her trade routes around the world.

An Anglo-Dutch squadron captures a Spanish treasure fleet in 1702,
during the War of Spanish Succession

Defending the Dutch Republic was key to the strategy. In his first campaign, Marlborough captured Kaiserswerth in 1702 and cleared the territory between the Rhine and Meuse Rivers, for which triumphs he was created Duke of Marlborough. In order to assist Austria—whose armies were engaged in Italy and along the Rhine—Marlborough attacked along the Moselle River and feinted toward Alsace to draw off Bavarian forces that had been committed to the French. In August of 1704, the Anglo-Dutch army fought the great battle of Blenheim, in which he lost 12,000 men but inflicted more than 36,000 casualties on the French. After a full year of one success after another, the other coalition countries sat back on their laurels, against the offensive strategies planned by Marlborough.

The Duke of Marlborough writing the Blenheim despatch to his wife, Sarah, after the Battle of Blenheim

The French attacked on all fronts to win back territory and probably sue for peace. At Ramillies, Marlborough very nearly lost his life but in the end, inflicted an enormous defeat of the French, who lost five times the number of troops. As the years passed and the war engulfed more men, and expanded around the world’s oceans, Marlborough’s political enemies increased their numbers in Parliament and called for negotiated settlement along Whig lines, rather than the Tories, who had brought the war on and demanded ultimate victory on the battlefield. Peace talks collapsed in 1708 as the Allies invaded France, looking for that killer blow that would end the war.

The Battle of Ramillies between the French and the English, 1706

On September 11, 1709 one of the bloodiest battles of the century was fought at Malplaquet, another Marlborough victory, but at too steep a cost. The French commander, the Duke of Villars, under desperate orders from King Louis and motivated by the potential loss of Mons and a final capitulation of the war, fought an inspired battle from good defensive positions. Although the Allies lost more than 20,000 and the French, 11,000, Marlborough prevailed. The battle featured Swiss mercenaries on both sides and the Irish Brigade took large casualties on behalf of France. Nonetheless, the French left the field, their honor restored, and significant negotiating power in hand.

Claude Louis Hector de Villars, Prince de Martigues, Marquis then Duc de Villars, Vicomte de Melun (1653-1734) was a French military commander and an illustrious general of Louis XIV of France

The Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene entering the French entrenchments at the Battle of Malplaquet, 1709

Although the war dragged on for five more years, featuring more Marlborough triumphs before ending with the Treaty of Utrecht, the government had lost all interest in keeping Marlborough in charge. Whig allies were all defeated at home and the Tories in power, and the Queen turned against him, the Great General was replaced and retired to the continent. He died in 1722 after suffering four strokes in three years. Once again, he had kept his feet in two political camps as needed—when Queen Anne died, he joined the Hanover succession, but kept a keen eye on the Jacobite (Stuart) cause while it lasted. Following the shifting political winds did not die with John Churchill. When Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, said that he was an ancestor, not a descendant, he was not including the duke, perhaps because he thought he himself was a reincarnation of Marlborough.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was a direct descendant of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and a renowned British statesman, soldier and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955, as well as serving as MP for many decades

Sickness Plagues the Niger Expedition, 1841

2022-09-05T15:09:27-05:00September 5, 2022|HH 2022|

“For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” —Acts 18:10

Sickness Plagues the Niger Expedition,
September 4, 1841

West Africa has long been known as “the white man’s graveyard,” and for obvious and deadly reasons—fatal tropical diseases have plagued Europeans along those coasts for five hundred years. Until modern times, to visit a trading post, fort, naval port of call, or missions station along the central African Atlantic shore, risked acquiring fevers, parasites, hostile natives, and diseases for which the white man had neither immunity nor reliable cure. Nevertheless, Europeans were willing to risk all to acquire slaves for the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English colonies in the Americas.

The Niger Expedition of 1841: the SoudanAlbert and Wilberforce

Protestant missionaries began tentative evangelistic efforts among the tribes of West Africa beginning in the early 19th Century, and suffered the same hardships and diseases long endured by the traders and military men who docked along the Atlantic seaboard of the Dark Continent. When the movement in England to put an end to the slave trade finally reached fruition—primarily under the direction of aggressive and influential Christians and the organizations they formed for the purpose—practical steps were taken to make good the new policies of the British government. In 1840, three streams of Christian British concern, established missionary endeavor, humanitarian relief and reform, and abolition of the slave trade came together in an unprecedented expedition up the Niger River, sponsored and financed by the English government in conjunction with private ministries and interests.

The expedition was the brainchild of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845), 1st Baronet, Member of Parliament, brewer, abolitionist, and reformer. Buxton had succeeded William Wilberforce in the House of Commons as leader of the abolition of the slavery in the British colonies. As head of the Church Missionary Society and also the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade, and then through his book The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy, Buxton inspired the British government to send the expedition to the Niger River delta in 1841.

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845)

Boats along the Niger River

The grandiose plan of the enterprise was to establish trade connections, anti-slavery trade treaties, and a missionary headquarters, with the tribes along the Niger River, the main river of western Africa and third largest on the continent. It traverses about 2,600 miles and drains more than 800,000 square miles; the river begins in the highlands of Guinea and flows through current nations of Benin, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. The first successful exploration of the Niger River had been led by an outspoken Christian Scottish physician/botanist, Mungo Park, in 1796 and 1803. He drowned while being attacked by natives, after rowing more than a thousand miles up the river. This new work would build on the knowledge acquired by Park and those who followed him, such as his son who died of fever searching for his father.

Mungo Park (1771-1806)

The Exeter Hall Meeting of June 1, 1840

The expedition was “put into motion” on June 1, 1840 at the “Exeter Hall Meeting”, chaired by none other than Prince Albert himself, husband of the Queen. About 4,000 people attended and were addressed by Sir Robert Peel, soon to become Prime Minister. William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, the current PM, was not entirely pleased with the project but used government funds to purchase an island from Spain, strategic to the coastal trade of Africa, to use as the launching pad for the expedition.

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850)

William Lamb (1779-1848)

Three state-of-the-art iron steamers were laid in the docks of Laird in Liverpool for the project: AlbertWilberforce, and Soudan. Liberated slave interpreters joined the expedition in Sierra Leone, for they were going to come in contact with many different tribes in a country with more than five hundred languages (although their official language today is English!). They purchased land for a mission and trade station at Lokaja, at the confluence of the Niger and the Benue Rivers, a center of trade and settlement to at least four major tribes, today home to 90,000 people out of about 218 million in Nigeria. All of Britain followed the expedition in the press.

The Benue River

The officials on board were able to sign anti-slave trade agreements at three cities along the route before being swept by disease, especially malaria. One hundred fifty Europeans were on board for the expedition, including two missionaries, J.F. Schon and Samuel Crowther. They arrived on the river in mid-August, but on September 4, the chief physician Dr. McWilliams recorded that “fever of a most malignant character” had broken out, and the sick had to be loaded on the Soudan followed by the Wilberforce, returning to the coast. There were 130 fever cases, and forty-two died quickly. The Albert forged ahead, full of sick men, some of whom threw themselves into the river in their delirium. The missionaries buried them in the muddy banks. The missionaries ended up steering the ship and carrying the survivors back to the coast.

Rev. Samuel Crowther (1769-1829), missionary to Niger

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c. 1809-1891)—pictured with his son Dandeson Crowther (1844–1938)—took this name at his baptism in honor of the missionary

In a little known outcome, often overlooked by modern historians, a group of Baptist missionaries awaited the expedition on the island of Fernando Po, which had been purchased by the government. They missed the rendezvous but decided to remain, evangelizing that island and all those around it. Other missionaries established a base at Fourah Bay where liberated slaves were evangelized and trained as missionaries, to return to their tribes with the Gospel. Some have noted that when civil governments subsidize activities rightly belonging to the Church, controls and tragedy often follow. In this case God used the expedition to plant the Gospel along the Niger River for future successful endeavors unconnected to government partnership. The Kingdom of God marches on in difficult and unlikely places, sometimes with significant casualties along the way.

The Island of Fernando Po (now known as Bioko)

Visigoths Take Rome, A.D. 410

2022-08-29T16:37:38-05:00August 29, 2022|HH 2022|

“Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” —Daniel 2:35

Visigoths Take Rome, A.D. 410

Empires and tribes come and go throughout history. The prophet Daniel boldly predicted the rise of the following few empires, each of which would succumb to a stronger foe. The last of his imperial forecast is generally accepted as the Roman Empire, led by the “Eternal City” of Rome. When the Roman legions expanded their empire by conquest through Gaul, they came into contact with a variety of tribes who supplied Rome’s enemies with weapons, raided across the Rhine River against Roman strongholds, and refused to submit to Roman rule. Julius Caesar in the 1st Century BC referred to those people as the Germani. He bridged the Rhine and carried out punitive expeditions against them; Augustus tried to establish Roman hegemony in Germania Antiqua in 7 BC. In 9 AD, a Roman-trained German ally named Arminius led a Roman army under General Varus into a huge ambush, which wiped out the VII, VIII, and XIX Legions in the Teutoburg Forest (probably in Lower Saxony), killing 15,000-20,000 Romans and auxiliaries.

Germanic troops under Arminius attack and decisively defeat Roman troops under Varus at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD

Revenge campaigns into Germania recovered the lost Roman Standards in succeeding years, but the Rhine remained the important dividing line between Roman Territory and the German tribes across that river and the Elbe. From the first to the fourth century, trade flourished between Rome and Germania, with occasional clashes between certain tribes and Romans. In the fourth and fifth centuries, a nomadic German people known as the Goths fought against Roman rule. A breakaway tribe, the Visigoths, under pressure from a central Asian nomadic people, known as the Huns, forced them off their land. With permission from Valens, the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Visigoths settled across the Danube River in Roman territory. The taxes levied by the Romans with the duplicitous treatment they endured, caused the Germanic settlers to revolt and plunder the Balkan provinces of Rome. The Visigoths faced the Roman army on the plains of Adrianople in 378, where they slaughtered the Romans and killed the emperor in battle.

Roman Emperor Valens (328-378)

An elaborate relief depicting a battle between Roman and Germanic peoples

For several more years the Visigoths wandered in search of a land in which to live. The new Emperor offered them the province of Moesia, where they settled and converted to Arianism, a heresy that denied the deity of Christ but accepted most other Christian beliefs. Roman Emperor Theodosius welcomed Visigoth leader Alaric into an alliance in which the latter led an army against the Franks who had risen against the Romans again. Although a Roman citizen, Alaric did not receive the recognition and reward that he deserved for his military successes. With the death of the Roman emperor and the breakdown of the Roman field forces, Alaric returned to Moesia as “king of the Visigoths.” In 408, Alaric laid siege to Rome with 30,000 men. After negotiation with the Senate, the starving Romans paid a large ransom and Alaric left, but not till he also liberated 40,000 Gothic slaves.

Theodosius I (347-395) was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395

Alaric I (c. 370-410) was the first king of the Visigoths, from 395 to 410

The first decade of the fifth century had already proven disastrous for the Roman Empire. Vandals, Sueves, and Alans crossed the Rhine into Gaul. Britain rose in rebellion. Alaric took the occasion to invade Noricum (modern Austria) and demanded 4,000 pounds in gold to not invade Italy again. General Stillicho—ruling regent of the western empire—paid the shake-down money, perhaps hoping to use Alaric against his multiplying enemies. A bureaucrat of the emperor betrayed and murdered General Stillicho, thus eliminating Alaric as an ally. Olympius, the same bureaucrat, had tens of thousands of Goth wives and children of Gothic soldiers serving in the Roman army put to death. 30,000 Gothic soldiers defected to Alaric. Denied recognition by Emperor Honorius, acceptance of the Visigoths within the empire, and perhaps, thwarted for imperial office, Alaric marched into Rome on August 24, A.D. 410, and turned his soldiers loose for three days to sack the Eternal City. Imperial Rome had finally fallen to “barbarians.”

Flavius Stilicho (c. 359-408) was a military commander in the Roman army who, for a time, became the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire

The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busento River

Japan Formally Surrenders in WWII, 1945

2022-08-29T15:40:53-05:00August 29, 2022|HH 2022|

“For indeed, a person does not know his time: like fish that are caught in a treacherous net and birds caught in a snare, so the sons of mankind are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.” —Ecclesiastes 9:12

Japan Formally Surrenders in WWII,
September 2, 1945

On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the “instrument of surrender” to the Allied forces, aboard the battleship USS Missouri. The United States hoped that the war would have drawn to a close after the eighty-two day battle of Okinawa April through June, which had cost Japan about 110,000 killed and the destruction of more than 1,400 aircraft and sixteen naval warships, compared to some 20,000 American dead, 763 aircraft lost and twenty-three ships sunk. A post-war Japanese memorial on Okinawa contains the names of 240,734 dead, which includes more than 40,000 civilians who died in the campaign. While the Americans planned the invasion of the main Japanese islands over the next two months, and conducted a “conventional” firebombing campaign against Japanese cities, almost obliterating forty-two of them, they also explored diplomatic means to end the war with the unconditional surrender of Japan.

American military personnel gather in Paris on August 15, 1945 to celebrate the unconditional surrender of the Japanese

The Americans were aware that Japanese Emperor Hirohito was interested in finding a diplomatic solution to end the war. The Joint Chiefs in Washington, D.C. remained unconvinced that the more hard-line military leaders of Japan were not determined to fight it out to the last Japanese standing. While the atomic bombs that were developed over the previous three years were on their way to Tinian Island in the Marianas, the decision makers at the Pentagon weighed the issues attendant to using such imprecise weapons that would kill many more civilians than military personnel, regardless of the military value of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the other potential targets.

Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) was the 33rd president of the United States, serving from 1945 to 1953

Emperor Shōwa (1901-1989)—commonly known in English-speaking countries by his personal name Hirohito—was the 124th emperor of Japan, ruling from 1926 until his death in 1989

In the end, President Harry “the buck stops here” Truman gave the go-ahead to drop the bombs, accepting responsibility for the consequences. Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the navigator of the Enola Gay (the B-29 Superfortress that carried the nuclear bomb “Little Boy,”) told me personally that he had no qualms whatsoever, then or now, dropping the weapon on Hiroshima on that fatal day, which killed immediately upwards of 66,000 Japanese, mostly civilians, mostly women and children. Probably more than 20,000 more died lingering deaths from the nuclear fallout. His rationale was that it saved many more American lives by preventing the necessity of invading mainland Japan, a sentiment shared by every World War II veteran I have ever met. Nonetheless, the “pragmatic” decision has become, over the years, one of the most controversial in all military history.

The Enola Gay and some of her crew—Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk is third from left

After the second bomb was delivered on Nagasaki, Japan agreed to the American terms of surrender. The President, a Missouri native, chose the USS Missouri, one of the newest American battleships, as the site for the formal signing of the surrender documents. Lieutenant Commander James Starnes—at age 24, the youngest navigator of a capitol ship in the U.S. Navy—through a series of providential circumstances held that position when the Missouri entered Tokyo Bay. He discovered that among his duties was Officer of the Deck, responsible for ceremonial occasions from 8:00 to 12:00 Noon! He told me in an interview in 2007 that he searched out the tallest and biggest men in the Missouri crew to form an honorary guard gauntlet for the Japanese dignitaries (typically slight in stature), generals and diplomats, to walk between as they were piped on deck; a not-so-subtle message for the former enemies to witness. A flyover by hundreds of bombers and fighter planes “that darkened the sky at three hundred feet,” reinforced the impression of American military might.

A Japanese delegation arrives aboard the USS Missouri as her crew looks on.

General Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and representatives of nine Allied Nations awaited General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Japanese Army General Staff, and Foreign Minister Mamora Shigamitsu, and their entourage, who signed the surrender document, now housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It was last displayed in public in 2015. The ceremony aboard the battleship lasted 23 minutes and was broadcast throughout the world. The flag that flew on the Missouri is at the United States Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. The USS Missouri is anchored at Brown’s Island at Pearl Harbor and is a floating historic site that tells the story of the ship’s service in the Second World War, and especially, the surrender ceremony that made it one of the most famous ships in history. “Dutch” Van Kirk died in 2014, age 93 and Jim Starnes followed him in 2016, age 95, both living out their final years in peace at Stone Mountain, Georgia.

The USS Missouri watching over the sunken USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, poignant representations of the beginning and the end of WWII for the USA

An aerial view of Pearl Harbor, showing the Battleship Missouri Memorial on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the Waianae Mountains

Resources for Further Study

  • For a detailed description of the surrender aboard the USS Missouri, see Surrender, September 2, 1945 by Lt Cmdr James L. Starnes, a short account of his service, based on interviews.

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