At this year’s USS Missouri BB-63 Association reunion of former crewmembers, we gathered for the annual memorial service. Reverend Eugene Land began the service and talked about the importance of remembering. And, as the service proceeded, as the names of the departed were read, as the whistle of the bos’n’s pipe and the tolling of the bell sounded, with silent tears and heads bowed, we remembered.
This year, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It also marked the 150th anniversary of the end of our nation’s Civil War as well as the 40th anniversary of the end of America’s war in Vietnam. And, on the 11th of November, the anniversary of the end of World War I, we will honor and remember the service and sacrifice of veterans of all wars.
Aboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur stood before the microphone amid representatives of the warring nations and said:
“It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past…”
In line with that hope, we characterize this year’s anniversary commemoration of September 2nd as “the day that launched a better future.” Yet, we look around the world today, and we remember the past 70 years and the decades and centuries preceding and see wars raging world-wide.
In light of our world’s history, in the midst of these ongoing conflicts, it is easy to allow ourselves to feel the futility of that hope for a better future, and it is easy to turn away, to close our eyes and minds and hearts to the brutality and tragedy of wars past and present.
On this 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, we briefly paused and allowed ourselves to remember, and we will again and again, every September 2 on board the USS Missouri.
But for veterans of war, remembrance doesn’t wait for anniversary dates, it is part of daily life. For those who gave their lives in war, there is only a silence.
Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz provided this perspective of war and defined our obligation:
“They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side...To them, we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.”
But where do we begin?
Submitted by special guest blogger: Mike Weidenbach, Curator, Battleship Missouri Memorial
(caption): This is a US Army Signal Corps photograph that we discovered among the thousands in the collections of the National Archives at College Park, MD during a recent research visit.
On a mountain top in Northern Luzon at war’s end, Marine PFC Elmer Pitlik lights a cigarette for a Japanese guard as American and Japanese forces met to discuss surrender arrangements for Japanese forces remaining in the Philippines.