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Posts Tagged ‘Surrender’

The weather outside is frightful for us this evening.  It’s been a year since we’ve had a winter storm as nasty as this one, and here in the middle of Iowa, we’ve got it way better than many.  It’s a quickie tonight…

We’ve haven’t talked about Peleliu for some time, though we’ve visited it several times in the past.  As regulars know, history has viewed this engagement through the lens of controversy.  But more than that, this battle is seen as, pound-for-pound, the bloodiest and most vicious encounter of the war.  For many of the Marines who landed and launched the fight, and for the Army soldiers who followed up and mopped up, it was indescribably horrific.  I’ve quoted Marine PFC Arthur Jackson before, but it’s worthy of a reprise.  He said, “…only a Marine who was on the scene at Peleliu can understand what took place during that period of time.  It was a nightmare…

The island was declared “secure” as October ended, but that wasn’t even close to accurate.  The U.S. Navy made that call (and this is strictly my opinion, though others may share it) largely for two reasons.  One, General MacArthur’s coming ashore in the Philippines needed to the be the headline-du-jour.  Two, military leadership wanted to shield the public from the truth of just how terrible the fight was on Peleliu.  Marine General William Rupertus had predicted a 3-day battle, but no one could have guessed just how wrong that estimate would be.

It wasn’t until late November that fighting, and dying,  on this 13-square mile chunk of coral ended.  And even after that there was sporadic gunplay as Japanese soldiers, in ones and twos, picked their moment to die.  Handfuls of Japanese soldiers surrendered, but they were few and far between.  On February 1, 1945, more than two months later, five Japanese soldiers did the unthinkable (at least as far as their training was concerned) by dropping their weapons and raising their hands.  They were five of just a couple hundred that did so, and some of the very last.

But they would not be the last, and at some point, we’ll make mention of it.

Recommended Reading: Brotherhood of Heroes

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Well, the trip to the doctor for my back malady seems to have paid big dividends.  By noon yesterday, I was feeling much, much better.  I could get out of a chair, walk around, sit down, drink a soda, eat pizza, and watch the Packers find their way to the Super Bowl.  Some of you football fans may remember last year’s meeting between the Packers and Steelers, when the two teams racked up nearly 1,000 yards of combined offense.  It was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever watched, despite a Steelers win.  I hope for a repeat, except with the Packers carrying the day.

There’s a song that goes something like, “This is the song that never ends…“.  I don’t know any of the rest of the words and, who knows, maybe it’s not even a real song, but it came to mind this evening, and somehow seems appropriate for the subject…sort of.

For Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, the Second World War didn’t end before Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945.  The same cannot be said for most of brothers-in-arms, who either gave up the fight or gave up their lives in the fight.  For Yokoi, the fight had come to him on Guam in 1944 as a member of the 38th Regiment.  He managed to remain alive throughout the battle and ended up hiding in a cave with a few fellow infantry as the Pacific War passed him by and headed to the next island.

And for Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, the Second World War didn’t end after Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, either.  Yokoi was still in hiding (more than a year later), waiting for the Japanese to return and give him his next orders.  But of course, those didn’t come.

For thirty years, they didn’t come, even though Yokoi waited.

Over the years, the ten men became eight, then five, then just three.  Eventually (at some point in the mid-1960s), the final three separated, remaining hidden but in contact with each other.  And pretty soon, there was just Shoichi, as the other two men died.  He hunted at night, and made his own tools and clothes.  And while the pay wasn’t very good, he stayed alive, ready to fight again should duty call.

On January 24, 1972, Shoichi Yokoi’s war finally came to an end, when he was captured by fishermen checking their traps.  He was one of the very last (if not the last) Japanese soldiers captured.  As we have seen many times in our discussions, for a Japanese soldier to be taken alive was a shameful thing.  But Yokoi returned to Japan as something of a hero.

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It’s another brief one this evening.

On this day in 1789, the U.S. Department of the Treasury was created.  But we’ve already talked about that, and no fair repeating topics.  So let’s tackle something else.

Just minutes after 9:00am on September 2, 1945, the Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.  The Emperor had announced the surrender to the people of Japan a couple of weeks earlier, but this signing made it official.  The ceremony was held on board the USS Missouri (one of the Iowa-class battleships we’ve talked about on occasion) in Tokyo Bay.

And when it was complete, World War II had ended.  VJ-Day had begun.  History’s bloodiest conflict, which had seen 70,000,000 people killed, cities levelled, oceans filled with the hulls of ships and men, and two atomic bombs, was over.

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General Lee’s evacuation of Richmond, Virginia in early April of 1865 was the last gasp of a Confederate army’s four-year struggle to aid the states they represented in leaving the Union.  From Richmond, Lee’s forces headed west in a dual mission of foraging for food and reaching Appomattox Station, where a supply train awaited.

Harassed by Union troops along the way, they approached their goal on the 8th, only to find that Union forces under General Sheridan had already arrived and captured the Confederate supplies.  Lee thought to head for Lynchburg, where another train awaited, but as fighting and maneuvering began the next morning, it became abundantly clear that most of the fight had left Lee’s men.

The Confederate General had already made a quiet inquiry into terms of surrender the day before, but now Lee’s generals agreed that surrender was the only option left, and that was the option they chose.

At 4pm on April 9, 1865, the document of surrender was completed at the home of Wilmer McLean in the small village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia and the Civil War, excepting some sporadic fighting over the next couple of months, was over.

Ulysses Grant’s terms were quite gracious when compared with other treaties signed at conflict’s end.  Lee was allowed to choose the place of surrender.  Confederate officers and men were pardoned on the spot, and the officers were allowed to keep their sidearms.  The vanquished were fed from Union supplies and, when they left, were allowed to take their horses (after all, it was springtime, and the animals would be sorely needed for planting).

When Lee departed, some of Grant’s men began a makeshift celebration, which Grant quickly halted.  “The Rebels are our countrymen again,” he said.  Celebrating their defeat seemed inappropriate at this time.  Lee remembered always Grant’s generosity and, in the years after Appomattox, never had an unkind thing to say about his long-time rival in the field.

Nearly 28,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered that day, leaving a mighty big pile of guns.  Those guns had killed at least some of the more than 110,000 Union soldiers that died during four years of fighting.  Another 90,000+ had died fighting for the Gray.  In all, the “War of Northern Aggression” (as it is still sometimes called in the south) ended the lives of more than 600,000 people.

There were still dark times ahead (President Lincoln would be dead from an assassin’s bullet within a week).  The harsh reality of not only rebuilding a nation, but rejoining a people ripped apart by war and ideology, would not completed quickly.  In fact, some of the rebuilding continues even today.

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A really brief Lesson for today.  On August 15, 1945, Japan accepted unconditional surrender as demanded by the Allies at the Potsdam conference.  World War II, having started almost exactly 7 years before, was finally over.  The will of the Japanese government had finally been broken by the twin atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But the days leading up to the public proclamation had been full of suspense and intrigue.

Just hours after the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9th, the Japanese cabinet met and, yet again, split on whether to surrender.  Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki then took the issue to Emperor Hirohito and asked him to, once and for all, break the deadlock.  Hirohito said he couldn’t stand to see his people suffer any further, and ordered the surrender.  His voice, usually never heard by the people of Japan, was recorded as he read the declaration.

And then those against the surrender tried to overthrow the government and steal the recordings so they couldn’t be broadcast.  But very quickly, the coup attempt fell apart and, at noon on the 15th, the Emperor’s voice was heard over the airwaves, and the War was over.

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