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The War Correspondents

by Nov 30, 2019

We tend to overlook them, those who were also present aboard Missouri on September 2, 1945 as General MacArthur stepped to the microphone to begin proceedings to formally end World War II.

They were the war correspondents, 170 of them onboard according to ship’s records, who arrived early, and readied with notepads and cameras in hand, to document this defining moment in modern history.

Among copies of documents provided to us by The MacArthur Memorial archivist, Jim Zobel, are two untitled pages with more than 80 correspondent names listed. Those listed represent news sources of the day such as Associated Press and Reuters, and Time and NBC and LIFE magazine. Among their names are Carl Mydans, who we know to have been aboard Missouri on September 2, 1945.

Carl Mydans began his career photo-documenting the Great Depression before being hired by LIFE magazine in 1936. There he met Shelley Smith and the couple were married in 1938. Together the photographer/reporter team covered the Sino-Japanese War, and WWII in Europe and in Asia and the Pacific.

They were in Manila, in the Philippines as Japanese forces captured the city. They were captured, spending nearly two years as POWs before their release in a prisoner exchange.

Carl Mydans returned to Europe after their release, covering the Allied liberation of Italy and France before receiving assignment to MacArthur’s command in the Pacific. There he witnessed the General’s iconic wade ashore during the reconquest of the Philippines. And, Carl Mydans was aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, to witness, and photograph, the end of World War II. (We are working to confirm whether Shelley Mydans was also aboard Missouri.)

In this photograph taken by Carl Mydans after the ceremony has concluded, Katsuo Okazaki, of Japan’s Foreign Ministry, discusses the misplaced signatures of Allied representatives on the Japanese copy of the documents with Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu.

After the war, Mydans was appointed Bureau Chief for Time-LIFE in Tokyo. He later covered conflicts in Korea, Yugoslavia, and Vietnam during a globe-trotting career that spanned more than forty years. Carl Mydans passed away in 2004, preceded by his wife.

Mydans in Vietnam in 1968.

A selection of photographs taken during his career can be viewed at the International Center for Photography website: