Tokyo Bay surrender ceremony

Tokyo Bay became a safe harbour for Allied ships following the Japanese emperor’s agreement to surrender on 15 August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Russia’s declaration of war on Japan.

8 July 2020

Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships among those gathered in the bay were: the heavy cruiser HMAS Shropshire, the light cruiser HMAS Hobart, the destroyers HMA Ships Nepal, Napier, Nizam, Bataan and Warramunga, the frigate HMAS Gascoyne, and the minesweepers HMA Ships Ballarat, Cessnock, Ipswich, and Pirie.

On 2 September 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri, Japanese representatives signed the official Instrument of Surrender approved by President Truman. It set out the complete capitulation of Japan, stating ‘We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated’.

At 9:04 am, the Japanese envoys signed the Instrument after a short speech by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific, in which he accepted the Japanese surrender ‘for the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the interests of the other United Nations at war with Japan’. Symbolically, General Arthur Percival and General Jonathan Wainwright, the British and American generals who surrendered at Singapore and Corregidor at the war’s outset and who had endured more than three years of captivity, stood behind MacArthur as he signed the historic document.

General Thomas Blamey signing the Instrument of Surrender on Australia’s behalf.

General Thomas Blamey, Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces and Commander of Allied Land Forces in the South West Pacific signed the Instrument on behalf of the Australian Government. Apart from General Blamey, few Australians witnessed the formal Japanese surrender. Able Seaman Bob Skinner, of HMAS Napier, was one who did. Assigned to assist Australian photo-journalist Jim Fitzpatrick on the morning of 2 September, he went on board USS Missouri and the two clambered for places among the world’s press to view the proceedings. They worked themselves into a position on B Turret, just metres away from the table where the Allied and Japanese dignitaries would come for the ceremony. In his diary, Bob Skinner recalled:

… a prayer was given over the loud-speaker system, giving thanks for this great day and for the deliverance of the Allies. To see all those thousands of men from generals down to ordinary seamen, standing bare-headed while his prayer was being broadcast, is something one could never forget and it just seemed to be a really fitting start for such a great and historical day as this one was destined to be.

Signed visiting cards.

A fortnight later, David Mattiske, a young Able-Seaman from HMAS Shropshire, was in a small party from the Shropshire which went ashore for the official flag raising ceremony at the UK Embassy.

He obtained some gold embossed ‘Visiting Cards’ from the former Ambassador’s desk and the next morning asked Commodore Collins, Captain Nichols and the Shropshire party members to autograph them.

Some links of interest