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Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog

by Nov 17, 2019

General MacArthur, Lt. General Sutherland, General Marshall, and staff arrive at the Custom House Pier at Yokohama to board the destroyer USS Buchanan for transport to the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay for the formal surrender ceremony and end of World War II, September 2, 1945.

At 0600, it was overcast and calm, and they were waiting, the four decorated veterans of the war in the Pacific, moored along the Custom House Pier at Yokohama.

Their years of war finally at an end, the four unbowed, battle-weary US Navy destroyers were there to ferry those attending the formal Surrender Ceremony, out to the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, where peace would be restored.

The destroyer Nicholas (DD-449) was moored just ahead of Buchanan (DD-484), with Taylor (DD 468) moored outboard of Buchanan, and Lansdowne (DD 486) moored outboard of Nicholas.

Large white placards with the letters A, B, C and D had been secured to the superstructure of each destroyer to offer easy identification to those arriving and soon to board.

Taylor was designated A, Lansdowne was B, Nicholas, C, and Buchanan was designated D.

There is inconsistency among the various official records and individual accounts regards timing of arrivals, boarding and departures from the Custom House Pier that Sunday morning, as well as arrivals alongside, or in proximity to USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

To provide an example of the difficulty in sorting out what did occur, by what means, and when, we reference Missouri’s own September 2, 1945 Deck Log and War Diary entries specific to the destroyer USS Buchanan.

Missouri’s Deck Log records Allied Representatives and high-ranking officers and staff arriving alongside Missouri aboard Buchanan at 0803, whereas Missouri’s War Diary documents 170 war correspondents arriving alongside Missouri aboard that same vessel, at 0700.

Both of those official records are incorrect.

Buchanan transported Generals MacArthur, Sutherland and Marshall, and staff, arriving alongside and boarding Missouri between 0842 and 0843.

According to the planned schedule of arrivals, Taylor, designated “DD Able” was the first DD scheduled to depart the Custom House Pier, scheduled to arrive alongside Missouri at 0730 with “Army and Foreign Press”.

Records and individual accounts generally agree that approximately 170 war correspondents boarded USS Taylor shortly after 0600, departing the pier at 0630 or soon after, and arriving alongside Missouri to port at 0707, and casting off at 0733, according to Missouri’s Deck Log.

The Schedule of Arrivals indicates FADM Nimitz was due to arrive aboard Missouri at 0800, via small boat from the USS South Dakota. Missouri’s Deck Log confirms his arrival at 0805, with his flag broken at the main upon boarding.

USS Lansdowne and Nicholas were both scheduled to arrive at their destination at 0815.

According to various records and individual accounts, the Japanese delegation arrived at the Custom House Pier and boarded Nicholas as late as 0645, then crossed over to board the USS Lansdowne which departed the pier soon after.

The Japanese delegation was scheduled to arrive in proximity to Missouri by 0815 where they were to transfer to a boat and “to lie off starboard gangway” of Missouri awaiting signal from the Officer of the Deck to “transfer to Missouri”.

Boarding of the USS Nicholas by Allied Representatives and high-ranking officers and their staff, began sometime after 0600, according to various records and individual accounts, with all aboard and the vessel departing the Custom House Pier at approximately 0715.

Nicholas was scheduled to arrive alongside Missouri to port at 0815 for direct transfer of Allied representatives and high-ranking officers and staff to Missouri, “to be unloaded expeditiously and cleared”, according to Missouri’s Plan of the Day. (in anticipation of the arrival of Buchanan alongside at 0840)

Nicholas arrived alongside Missouri at 0803, according to Missouri’s Deck Log (though incorrectly identified as Buchanan in the Log), casting off at 0824.

We are fortunate to have access to the wartime diary of Buchanan’s commanding officer, LCdr. Daniel E. Henry, providing this account of what occurred at the Custom House Pier that morning, as well as specifics relating to Buchanan. (Be advised: inappropriate language contemporary to the times is used in this brief account):

[Sept 2]: “0500 cloudy but not raining. No wind, thank God. The press started crossing our ship to get on the Taylor at 0600. Chinese. Aussies. Negroes, even 4 Domei correspondents. The band is already on the dock. 0630 General Stilwell and a little later General Doolittle are on the dock. Taylor clears our side. Jap envoys embark on Lansdowne and she leaves. Three are in frock coats and top hats one in white linen and the rest are in army uniform. Some allied dignitaries arrive and at 0715 the Nicholas leaves with them. 0730 General MacArthur, Generals Southerland and Marshall and several others of his staff are piped aboard the Buchanan and we break out the 5-star red general’s flag before an army guard of the 11th Airborne and the army band. We stayed around for a few minutes on the general’s orders so the band could play and feel their efforts were appreciated. 0735 underway with no trouble and we headed for the Missouri under orders to arrive in such time that General MacArthur could step aboard at 0845. He stepped aboard at 0842 and we cleared the side.”

According to Missouri’s Deck Log, USS Taylor, arrived alongside earlier than scheduled, arriving to port at 0707 with 170 Press aboard, disembarked and casting off at 0733.

According to the planned Schedule of Arrivals, Navy Press were due to arrive aboard Missouri via the Ancon (AGC 4) via the starboard gangway at 0730. Missouri’s Deck Log doesn’t confirm whether that occurred. Ancon was an amphibious force communications and command ship, a veteran of the European theater including the Normandy invasion, providing communications support during the ceremony, moored in proximity to Missouri.

At 0840, according to Missouri’s Plan of the Day, “Destroyer trip DOG” [Buchanan] would be “alongside to port with the Supreme Commander Allied Powers, General Southerland, Major General Marshall and two aides.”

Between 0842 and 0843, the USS Buchanan [DD Dog] came alongside to port of USS Missouri to disembark General MacArthur and his staff including Lt. General Sutherland, Major General Marshall and two aides, according to Missouri’s Deck Log, War Diary, and LCdr Henry’s, Buchanan’s CO, personal diary.

According to the MacArthur Report, Volume II, Part II, between 0855 and 0856, the Japanese delegation began to disembark from the whaleboat - borrowed from the USS Iowa – and to begin climbing up the accommodation ladder secured to the starboard side of Missouri.

Boat carrying Japanese delegation approaches Missouri as Allied representatives and war correspondents gather aboard

According to Missouri’s Plan of the Day, “Between 0840 – 0900 Japanese representatives will come aboard and proceed directly to the ceremony position.”

According to Missouri’s Deck Log, War Diary, and the MacArthur Report Vol. II, Part II, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu stepped onto Missouri’s main deck at 0856.

According to Missouri’s Plan of the Day, at 0900 “(Or as directed by the Supreme Commander Allied Powers.) The Surrender Ceremonies will commence.”

According to Missouri’s War Diary and Deck Log, General MacArthur stepped before the microphones and the ceremony commenced at 0902.

Foreign Minister Shigemitsu’s signature is recorded on both copies of the Instrument of Surrender, at 0904.