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Sweat it out: Arrangements for the Formal Surrender of Japan Aboard the Battleship USS Missouri

by Nov 17, 2019

Colonel Hervey Bennett Whipple was Logistics Officer at MacArthur’s headquarters in Manila when word was received of Japan’s acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration.

Over the hectic days that followed, Whipple gradually became known as ‘the Surrender man’, working closely with General MacArthur, day and night, on arrangements for the formal surrender of Japan aboard the battleship USS Missouri.

Twenty years later he wrote his memoirs of those critical days at war’s end, jogged by notes he’d taken on the flight back to Manila after the Surrender Ceremony.

He had discovered, even after all the final “I’s” had been dotted and “T’s” crossed, that there remained the unexpected.

Whipple recalled the early morning of September 2, 1945:

“At 5 A.M. I was awakened by the terrible information that the Colonel assigned to make the final contact with the Japanese delegation had been unable to reach anyone. There had been no reply to Sutherland’s message.

Suppose something had gone wrong within the Japanese government?

Had I messed up on the arrangements?

I got dressed and hurried to the Customs House jetty where “my” four U.S. destroyers were waiting to ferry everyone – the Japanese included – out to the USS Missouri.

Everything was in order - but what about the Japanese?

It was sheer terror for me.

Here was the biggest thing in my life and I was beginning to think that the Japanese had decided not to surrender.

I decided there was nothing I could do, nothing anyone could do, but wait it out and sweat it out.

At exactly 6:45 A.M., precisely on schedule, the Japanese arrived.

As I said then, had they arrived just five minutes earlier they could have saved me a great many grey hairs.”

Image: Members of the Japanese delegation board the destroyer USS Nicholas at pier-side, before crossing over to the USS Lansdowne moored outboard of the Nicholas, at the Customs House pier at Yokohama on September 2, 1945.