Sailors aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) watch the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay.

Sacrifice for Peace: Reflections on Sailors Who Helped Win World War II

by Adm. William K. Lescher, Vice Chief of Naval Operations | 02 September 2020

by Adm. William K. Lescher, Vice Chief of Naval Operations | 02 September 2020

Seventy-five years today, on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63) in Tokyo Bay, the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to the Allied force, bringing an end to hostilities and formally marking the end of World War II. The Nation and families of more than 1.3 million brave Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who were then stationed in the Pacific joined with millions of people all around the world in celebration of the tremendous achievement. 

The battle in the Pacific was a hard fought victory for the United States and its allies, and to be sure, the Navy’s role in the Pacific cannot be overstated. The war began with Pearl Harbor, where the Navy took the brunt of the attack, but the nation would rally, and the U.S. Navy would be called upon to be the major force in the Pacific.  American Naval forces were essential to victory, and it’s fitting that the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan took place aboard a U.S. Navy warship.

The fighting spirit and resiliency of the Sailors and Marines who fought to end tyranny in the Pacific will never be forgotten. From the very beginning, we witnessed them doing extraordinary things, from Pearl Harbor, to Coral Sea, to Midway; from Guadalcanal, to Tarawa, to Leyte Gulf; from Saipan, to Guam, and then Iwo Jima and Okinawa, our naval forces persisted and remained steadfast in the cause. They fought bravely and earned the hard fought peace the world has benefited from - a peace that has largely endured in the Pacific for 75 years. 

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signs the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan,  Sept. 2, 1945.
TOKYO (Sept. 2, 1945) Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signs the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945. Standing directly behind him are (left-to-right): General of the Army Douglas MacArthur; Admiral William F. Halsey, USN, and Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman, USN. In front row, background, are (left to right): Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, USN; Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, USN; Vice Admiral John S. McCain, USN; Vice Admiral John H. Towers, USN; Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN; Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN; General Walter C. Krueger, U.S. Army; General Robert L. Eichelberger, U.S. Army and General Carl A. Spaatz, USAAF. Others identified behind the front row include (in no order): Brigadier General Joseph H. Fellows, USMC; Captain Tom B. Hill, USN; Commodore J.C. Cronin, USN; Rear Admiral Ingram C. Sowell, USN; Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN; Rear Admiral Howard F. Kingman, USN; Rear Admiral Lloyd J. Wiltsie, USN; Rear Admiral J. Cary Jones, USN; Captain John S. Thach, USN and Commodore Joel T. Boone, USN(MC).
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signs the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan,  Sept. 2, 1945.
450902-N-NO101-175
TOKYO (Sept. 2, 1945) Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signs the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945. Standing directly behind him are (left-to-right): General of the Army Douglas MacArthur; Admiral William F. Halsey, USN, and Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman, USN. In front row, background, are (left to right): Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, USN; Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, USN; Vice Admiral John S. McCain, USN; Vice Admiral John H. Towers, USN; Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN; Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN; General Walter C. Krueger, U.S. Army; General Robert L. Eichelberger, U.S. Army and General Carl A. Spaatz, USAAF. Others identified behind the front row include (in no order): Brigadier General Joseph H. Fellows, USMC; Captain Tom B. Hill, USN; Commodore J.C. Cronin, USN; Rear Admiral Ingram C. Sowell, USN; Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN; Rear Admiral Howard F. Kingman, USN; Rear Admiral Lloyd J. Wiltsie, USN; Rear Admiral J. Cary Jones, USN; Captain John S. Thach, USN and Commodore Joel T. Boone, USN(MC).
Photo By: U.S. Navy photo
VIRIN: 450902-N-NO101-175
Sailors aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) watch the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay.
TOKYO (Sept. 2, 1945) Sailors aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) watch the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay. Japanese Foreign Ministry representatives Katsuo Okazaki and Toshikazu Kase, and Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, correcting an error on the Japanese copy of the Instrument of Surrender, at the conclusion of the surrender ceremonies. Photographed looking forward from USS Missouri's superstructure. Note the relaxed stance of most of those around the surrender table. The larger ship in the right distance is USS Ancon (AGC-4). (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives)
Sailors aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) watch the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay.
450902-N-NO101-176
TOKYO (Sept. 2, 1945) Sailors aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) watch the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay. Japanese Foreign Ministry representatives Katsuo Okazaki and Toshikazu Kase, and Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, correcting an error on the Japanese copy of the Instrument of Surrender, at the conclusion of the surrender ceremonies. Photographed looking forward from USS Missouri's superstructure. Note the relaxed stance of most of those around the surrender table. The larger ship in the right distance is USS Ancon (AGC-4). (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives)
Photo By: U.S. National Archives
VIRIN: 450902-N-NO101-176
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signs the signs the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945.
TOKYO (Sept. 2, 1945) General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signs the signs the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945. Behind him are Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, U.S. Army, and Lieutenant General Sir Arthur E. Percival, British Army, both of whom had just been released from Japanese prison camps. Officers in the front row, from Percival on, are (left to right): Vice Admiral John S. McCain, USN; Vice Admiral John H. Towers, USN; Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN; Admiral William F. Halsey, USN; Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN; Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman, USN; General Walter C. Krueger, U.S. Army; General Robert L. Eichelberger, U.S. Army; General Carl A. Spaatz, USAAF and General George C. Kenney, USAAF. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives)
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signs the signs the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945.
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TOKYO (Sept. 2, 1945) General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signs the signs the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945. Behind him are Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, U.S. Army, and Lieutenant General Sir Arthur E. Percival, British Army, both of whom had just been released from Japanese prison camps. Officers in the front row, from Percival on, are (left to right): Vice Admiral John S. McCain, USN; Vice Admiral John H. Towers, USN; Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN; Admiral William F. Halsey, USN; Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN; Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman, USN; General Walter C. Krueger, U.S. Army; General Robert L. Eichelberger, U.S. Army; General Carl A. Spaatz, USAAF and General George C. Kenney, USAAF. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives)
Photo By: U.S. National Archives
VIRIN: 450902-N-NO101-177

This anniversary is an important opportunity for us to reflect on the service and sacrifice of the millions of brave service members who fought in the Pacific Theater. The peace and prosperity of today are the hallmarks of their deeds in World War II; we should all take a moment to remember the sacrifice and truly reflect on the stunning achievement of the Greatest Generation.

Yet, on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we once again face great power competition in the Pacific and elsewhere. It is now our responsibility to pick up that mantle and carry forth their spirit. Inspired by the immeasurable sacrifice of the thousands of service members and families during World War II, let’s recommit ourselves to the service of the nation, the defense of democracy, and the preservation of freedom wherever it is threatened.

Let us take time today to offer our appreciation for our shipmates who served our nation so well during World War II and to use their example of service, sacrifice, and valor to inspire us to become a better Navy in the future. I stand proud of the values of our past and proud of you, the Sailors who will lead us into our future.

 William K. Lescher

Vice Chief of Naval Operations

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