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Barrancas Observes 70th Anniversary Of End Of WWII

Dave Dunwoody

Observances are being held this month for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Those observances included a “Spirit of ‘45” event Sunday at Barrancas National Cemetery.

After President Harry S. Truman announced the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945, the focus shifted to the Pacific Theater of Operations, where despite a number of “island-hopping” victories by the Allies – Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima among others -- a stubborn Japan continued to fight on. Then came August 6.

“A short time ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy,” said Truman on a national radio address. “That bomb has more power than 20,000 tons of TNT.”

Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Five days later, on August 14 Japan announced its unconditional surrender.  

Craig LaChance, Director of Barrancas National Cemetery, was host and keynote speaker for Sunday’s ceremony. He told the gathering of about 50 that wreath layings began at U.S. National Cemeteries in the Philippines and Hawaii, spreading to the U.S. mainland. The flowers memorialize the 16 million Americans who served, and the 407,000 casualties among them.

“This generation, when thrust into war by the sudden Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, responded with the bravery, that is the hallmark of American military,” said LaChance.

Sunday’s 6:00 p.m. local start time for all observances coincides with the time that President Truman announced the Japanese surrender.

“I was in a six-man tent in Okinawa, and frankly, all hell broke loose,” said Bob Burt, who served in the U.S. Army. He was among the hundreds of thousands of Allied troops who were preparing to invade Japan in early 1946, when the A-bomb fell on Hiroshima.

“We thought it would have an impact, [and] get the attention of the Japanese, so to speak, and as a result it happened,” Burt said.

As far as invading the Japanese mainland:

“Well, that’s what I was supposed to do and there’s where I was going to go, but I can say this: when the war ended, I was happy about it,” Burt said.

Two weeks after Japan announced its surrender – September 2nd, 1945 – the formal ceremony was held aboard the USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. The documents were signed by representatives of each Allied power, and by those representing Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese government. MacArthur ended the ceremony with this wish:

“Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed.”

Along with a wreath honoring the end of the war, a second wreath was laid at Barrancas National Cemetery remembering that conflict’s Purple Heart recipients.