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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.

Message From MCPON: Victory in the Pacific

by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell L. Smith | 02 September 2020

by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell L. Smith | 02 September 2020

In the dark days leading up to World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt was gradually gaining success in leading the country out of a devastating economic crisis known as the Great Depression.

At the same time, the United States was slowly awakening to the era of a great naval power competition among many of the nations of the Earth. Potential adversaries were committing vast resources in an unprecedented manner to develop the latest technologies, platforms and weapon systems that threatened our national security interests around the globe.

Early in the morning on December 7, 1941, war in the Pacific was thrust upon us. At the time the United States had 301,589 enlisted members in the entire Navy. Nine of those enlisted sailors manned the starboard 4-inch gun of the destroyer USS Ward, on routine patrol at the entrance of Pearl Harbor.

Spotting the conning tower of a midget submarine, the enlisted man in charge of the gun crew, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class R. H. Knapp, ordered his sailors to open fire. The gun crew scored a direct hit at the base of the submarine’s conning tower and the vessel sank.

In doing so, these nine enlisted men, working as a team, fired the first shot in defense of their country in the Pacific war. At 6:53 a.m., the commanding officer of the Ward passed the first of several messages to his command, including the unambiguous, “We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges upon submarine operating in the defensive sea area.” The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor did not commence until over an hour later at 7:55 a.m.

By the time victory in the Pacific was declared, the numbers of all ranks in the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard had risen from less than 400,000 to almost 4 million. America’s sustained commitment and teamwork ensured that our greatest advantage against our adversaries was our people. Not just in numbers but in quality.

Slowly, the United States Navy became ready for any fight. The best ships, aircraft, and technology of the day joined with the best trained and most capable men and women to serve the fleet. Ultimately victory in the Pacific was achieved when President Harry S. Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japan on Aug. 14, 1945.

The United States Navy remains committed to investing in the personnel and the systems that will sustain us should we ever again experience major maritime battles comparable to those of World War II.

Just as the crew of USS Ward did in 1941, it is our job to be ready if called upon to fight to preserve our freedom. It is our job to improve the fleet readiness of our enlisted sailors each and every day. It is our job to ensure we are fully prepared to fight. And finally, it is our job to win the ultimate victory as was done in the Pacific 75 years ago today.

Russell L. Smith

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy


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