JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Seventy-five years ago on board the deck of the USS Missouri, Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur watched as Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Japanese General Yoshijiro Umezu signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender officially ending the war in the Pacific, and thereby, World War II (WWII). The mood onboard was one of solemnity and rather different from the mass celebrations on the Aug. 14-15, 1945, which took place around the world when Japan declared their intentions to surrender. Sept. 2, 1945 was a day for remembering.
Much can be said of the horrors, heartbreak and triumphs of WWII. Here at McChord, we need little reminding of our own involvement as those memories fill our halls, conference rooms and offices. We know the stories of those who came before us. We remember those who flew airdrop missions into Sicily and France and those who dropped bombs on Tokyo to remind the Japanese we were not a rag tag bunch of American playboys. McChord grew from a small airstrip with a few buildings to a vital hub for aircraft heading to the Pacific Theater and aircraft and crews dedicated to keeping the West Coast safe. McChord made its mark during the war and the war made its mark on us.
Thinking of the war in the Pacific, our hearts swell with pride as we remember the valiant struggles at Midway, Guadalcanal and Okinawa, and tears emerge when we remember those we lost at Tarawa, the China-Burma-India airlift and Iwo Jima. We herald the scientific advances we made in war fighting technology, but even today we still feel the chill and fallout from “Little Boy and Fat Man.” The end of the war herald in an era of economic boom and the anxiety of the Cold War. The United States became a global power and McChord and its wings became a prominent part in the protection from and the fight against Soviet aggression. We were forged from the fires of World War II and we still remember the men and women who fought through that inferno to victory.
Today, we remember the millions of U.S. soldiers, Marines, sailors and Airmen who fought in the Pacific Theater. Of those millions, 161,000 sacrificed their lives in the fight to protect the United States. The United States lost more than 188 warships and 21,255 aircraft but in return, Allied countries destroyed more than 341 Japanese warships and approximately 45,000 Japanese aircraft.
We remember the 16 million men and women who fought in the U.S. armed forces and the 3.5 million civilian employees who supported the US military during the extent of WWII. Over 400,000 U.S. military members gave the last full measure in support of their country.
During the five years WWII ravaged the world, 70 to 85 million people or 3 percent of the world’s population perished due to the war. Some of the most horrendous atrocities history ever witnessed occurred during the war in both the European and Pacific Theaters, atrocities so horrifying we continue to struggle with them today. But out of the terror and chaos came hope and heroes. When fascism blanketed the world, our heroes took it back mile by mile; island by island. Today we remember those heroes.