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Where’s the Original Plaque?

by Nov 30, 2019

Our visitors ask that question every day.

The Answer, via Navy Curator Frank Thompson:

“It’s still here at the Washington Navy Yard in the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.”

The NHHC artifact description for that original plaque is as follows:

Title: Plaque, Commemorative, Japanese Surrender onboard USS Missouri (BB-63)

Accession #: NHHC 1989-170-A

Circa: 1945 Size: 19" Medium: Brass

Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command

One plaque commemorating the surrender ceremony from the USS Missouri (BB-63). Round brass disk with worn but legible raised lettering. Plaque reads, "Over This Spot / On 2 September 1945 / The Instrument / Of Formal Surrender / Of Japan To The Allied Powers / Was Signed / Thus Bringing To A Close / The Second World War / The Ship At That Time / Was At Anchor / In Tokyo Bay". Lettering around the perimeter of the plaque reads, "U.S.S. Missouri / Latitude 35 (degrees) 21' 17" North - Longitude 139 (degrees) 45' 36" East."

Word of the Japanese surrender was announced by President Harry Truman 15 August 1945. The surrender ceremony was to take place onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor. On 2 September 1945, the official surrender of Japan was broadcast to the world. A plaque to commemorate the signing of the surrender agreement to be placed onboard the Missouri was requested by ADM Nimitz in a letter dated 11 Sept 1945- only nine days after the ceremony took place.

This is the original plaque that was placed in the deck of the Missouri in October 1945. After more than forty years of polishing, the writing had become worn and difficult to read. In 1988, the MISSOURI Association raised funds to replace the original plaque. The original was removed from the ship and sent to NHHC in 1989. An exact replica of the original was installed in its place onboard the Missouri. The US Navy Museum collections at the Washington Navy Yard in DC.

In recent years, the staff of the Curatorial Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) have undertaken a massive and comprehensive inspection and inventory of more than 300,000 artifacts in their care, some artifacts dating back to our nation’s founding, previously stored in warehouses at different locations, now largely consolidated in their new state-of-the-art collection management facility in Richmond, Virginia. The original Surrender Plaque remains among artifacts retained at the Washington Navy Yard.