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HOME > JAPAN > USN AUGUST 1945

The U.S. Navy takes charge, August 1945

[The following is from a letter written by an American naval officer on September 2, 1945. I've shortened it somewhat and corrected minor errors of spelling and punctuation--e.g., Omori is spelled "Amori" in the manuscript. Commander Richard O'Kane of the Tang and Major Gregory Boyington of VMF-214 were among the prisoners freed from Omori. Note that this is a contemporary confirmation of the yarn that a navy aviator was first to land in Japan. -- Dan Ford]

The sudden capitulation of the Nips threw an extraordinary problem into our laps; from a powerful mobile striking force, and while still operating at sea, we had to organize all of the elements for the occupation of the naval control zones in the Tokyo area ... and there was also the little matter of a series of typhoons developing suddenly and behaving radically. For once, the Divine Wind worked in reverse and raised hell with the enemy....

On 27 August the initial occupation force proceeded toward Sagami Wan, headed by the MISSOURI. At about 0715 the Japanese destroyer HATUZAKURA was sighted--a pitiful sight compared to the powerful approaching allied forces. The Japanese delegation was transferred to the NICHOLAS which looked like a veritable cruiser alongside the little Nip destroyer.... [Two officers] from Naval Headquarters, Tokyo, together with an interpreter, all relieved of their side arms, were brought to the Captain's Cabin, presented to me, and were ordered to sit down at the conference table. There were no pleasantries or amenities exchanged, the atmosphere throughout being strictly cold and formal with every phrase and gesture intended to impress upon them that they were totally defeated, were in no bargaining position, and were strictly taking orders....

The first piece of business was obtaining the necessary information concerning the entry into Sagami Wan and as soon as that was accomplished the fleet stood towards its anchorage and by the middle of the afternoon all of the initial components were anchored off the very lovely Kamakura shore--the Japanese Riviera and location of the Summer Palace--and the Nips were sent about their business.

At sunset a strange thing happened. The setting sun appeared to descend squarely into the crater of Fujiyama--the spectacle had such symbolism that we endeavored to get photographs of it because it clearly told of Japan's fate.

Minesweepers got busy at once and on the following day--the 28th--Oscar Badger took his temporary Flagship, the SAN DIEGO, and some assorted [other craft] into Tokyo Harbor and anchored off Yokosuka where he completed the necessary arrangements for the actual occupation. That night, in the Fleet anchorage, all of the ships showed anchor lights and presented a great spectacle....

Doug Moulton and Harold Stassen flew to Atsugi and met General MacArthur's advanced survey party for the exchange of information and plans. They said it was a very strange feeling to be completely surrounded by servile and polite Nips. One rather amusing incident came to light which might have repercussions from a publicity standpoint; some young YORKTOWN pilot, apparently during one of the recent surveillance flights, had dropped in on an Atsugi field and left a sign conveying the welcome of the THIRD fleet to the U.S. Army.

On the 29th the MISSOURI, IOWA, SOUTH DAKOTA, BENEVOLENCE, and SAN JUAN stood into their anchorage at Tokyo Bay, thus making Admiral Halsey the first senior commander on the spot in Japan....

The POW situation produced a rather strange state of affairs; evacuation of POWs had been taken over as the function of the Supreme Commander [MacArthur] but the carrier surveillance flights at tree-top height and with cameras, had brought out a tremendous amount of detailed information [about] health, etc. The Navy's initial offer to start something in this connection had not been approved.... [H]owever, the vast resources of the fleet hospital ships, evacuation vessels, food, clothing etc., were actually ready.... Consequently, we again urged that the Navy be permitted to at least initiate action around the waterfront....

Having received proper authorization from Admiral Nimitz, Roger Simpson was given a green light at 1300 on the 29th and then began one of the dramatic incidents of the entire campaign. With the SAN JUAN and two APDs (the GOSSELIN and REEVES), and BENEVOLENCE, Simpson started up toward Tokyo and the OMORI POW camp. The landing craft from the APDs were piloted in by carrier planes and when the prisoners realized what was happening, indescribable and pitiful scenes of enthusiasm and excitement took place--men even jumped into the water and started swimming out to the boats....

Simpson, Stassen, and Boone did a magnificent job--without regard to their own safety they waded into the situation, bluffed the Japanese camp guards, and gave them a complete brushoff. Joel Boone made his way to a Japanese hospital (KAMASAKI) three miles away, and singlehandedly took over the situation, telling the Nips that he didn't give a goddamn what their orders were.... They found the camp conditions unspeakable with every evidence of brutality and wretched treatment. What our people found there will contrast the Nip's present ingratiating attitude.

The work went on all night and some seven hundred prisoners were processed through the BENEVOLENCE, the desperately sick being hospitalized, and the ambulatory cases moved to the APDs. On the following day the work continued and by the evening of the 30th [two weeks after the surrender] about one thousand POWs had been freed....

At this writing God knows where Roger Simpson is--and that is why he was originally given the job; all we know is that he and Harold Stassen are still taking good charge of the Tokyo area. They may be doing wrong, but the payoff will be a big bag of free men released from the clutches of those despicable little bastards....