‘WAR IS OVER’: 70 years ago: Victory over Japan announced Aug. 14, formalized Sept. 2

USS Missouri signing

Gen. MacArthur (at microphone) watches as Japanese Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu signs the surrender document aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on the morning of Sept. 2, 1945. (Courtesy photo/Department of the Navy)

All across America – all the world, for that matter – one word said it all.

Manistee was no different.

“Peace.”

People shouted, cried, hugged and danced in the streets. Businesses closed so their workers could celebrate. Daily newspapers printed “Extra” editions, that day.

Manistee was no different.

On Aug. 14, 1945 – 70 years ago – the News Advocate printed in letters big enough to read from across the room – from across the street, for that matter – the headline “Peace comes to the world,” in its second edition it printed that day. Big news – “Extra” editions – command big headlines.

But all that really mattered was the first word – “Peace.” World War II, the most destructive, horrific, war ever, had finally ended.

“Japanese say they will quit,” the News Advocate printed for its main headline in its regular edition a few hours earlier.

Then, when the publisher, the editor, the writers and the pressmen of the News Advocate all got the word the war was officially over – that peace was the new rule of order – a celebration was also in order.

So, an “Extra” edition was published, announcing the wonderful news.

A dense column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air over the Japanese port of Nagasaki,  the result of an atomic bomb, the second ever used in warfare, dropped on the industrial center  Aug. 8, 1945, from a U.S. B-29 Superfortress. (Courtesy photo/National Archives)

A dense column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air over the Japanese port of Nagasaki,
the result of an atomic bomb, the second ever used in warfare, dropped on the industrial center
Aug. 8, 1945, from a U.S. B-29 Superfortress. (Courtesy photo/National Archives)

The 27-word lead paragraph read: “Peace came to the world tonight when President Truman announced that Japan has accepted unconditional surrender and that the Allied Forces have been ordered to cease firing.”

There you have it, the very first word in both the headline, and in the story – “Peace.”

Local business and industry leaders quickly placed large ads in that News Advocate Aug. 14, 1945, “Extra” edition – some were full-page in size – proclaiming their joy:

“Extending heartfelt thanks”

“Thanks boys a job well done”

“Heartfelt thanks to our American heroes”

“Salute our boys, our great leaders”

“We pause to pay tribute to our boys”

“United in victory, a salute to our partners in freedom”

And in one unique ad signed by 16 Manistee industries, one word was written in very large letters on one page, while nine words were written in large letters on the page opposite it:

“Thanks,” was printed diagonally on that left-side page, while on the right-side page opposite it was written, “…to God … to our boys … to our great leaders.”

It would be many years later, decades, in fact, until the Manistee newspaper would print its next “Extra” edition, announcing a major news event – Sept. 11, 2001.

The news that day delivered anything but, “Peace.”

‘THIS IS A COUNTER-ATTACK, HERE WE GO, AGAIN’

SHOUTS OF JOY: When Duane Davis heard shouting and shooting, he thought “the Japanese are doing a counter-attack.” However, he quickly realized they were shouts of joy and the war was over. (Courtesy photo)

SHOUTS OF JOY: When Duane Davis heard shouting and shooting, he thought “the Japanese are doing a counter-attack.” However, he quickly realized they were shouts of joy and the war was over. (Courtesy photo)

Duane Davis heard shouting, and shooting.

“My God,” he remembers thinking, “the Japanese are doing a counter-attack.”

Though he was just a teenager, Davis had already made a number of low-altitude jumps onto enemy-held islands with the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment.

The war in Europe had been over for three months, and everyone knew the war in the Pacific was winding down. Everyone knew, that is, but the Japanese.

“We thought they’d fight forever,” said Davis. “It was written in their handbook that ‘surrender’ was not an option, that they had to die in battle. We thought, for sure, that we’d have to attack their home islands to beat them. And if we did that, we knew we’d lose a lot more men – maybe a million.”

Having already jumped on Corregidor, and after having taken part in close-combat battles on other islands in the South Pacific, Davis and his fellow “first-in” soldiers were making their way across the small island of Negros, when he heard shouting.

And shooting.

“We knew those (atomic) bombs had been dropped earlier,” the 90-year-old Manistee war veteran said. “But, like I said, many of us also believed they just wouldn’t give up, ever.

“So when I heard that shouting and shooting I thought for sure, ‘this is a counter-attack, here we go, again.’”

But just that quickly, Davis came to realize the shouts, were shouts of joy. His fellow soldiers were shouting that Japan had indeed, surrendered. The war was over.

“As soon as I found that out, boy oh boy, was I happy,” he said. “I guess I shouted, too. I probably started shooting into the air, but I don’t remember, for sure.

“All I remember is that I was happy – I was going home.”

Davis and others arrived back in the states four months later. Then, just like that, he was a civilian, again.

“We got back into California the day before Christmas,” he said. “I got my discharge at 7 o’clock on New Year’s Day, in Chicago. They gave me $15.20 for train fare so I could get back home, and that’s where I went – home.”

‘WHEN WE HEARD THE SIREN, WE KNEW WHAT IT WAS TELLING US’

BERENSTEN

BERENSTEN

Seventy years ago, Ken Berentsen was serving aboard a U.S. Navy amphibious ship that was assigned to deliver tear-drop fuel tanks to fighter planes stationed on islands near Japan.

Fighter planes that would be used to protect U.S. bombers, when the impending invasion of Japan was ordered.

“We were supposed to be right there in the thick of things, too,” said the 88-year-old Manistee man. “Atomic bombs? Okay, but Japan said it would still fight on. So we were ready, or getting ready, for what we would have to do.

“But then, just like that, we got the news over the radio that Japan gave up, they had enough,” said Berentsen. “Everyone jumped up and down and threw things and clapped their hands and shouted – man, were we happy. Yes sir, we were happy.

“We sailed on in to Tokyo Bay and stayed in sight of the USS Missouri. We stayed there until they signed the papers – the surrender papers. And then we shouted and clapped our hands, again.”

Rev. Phillip Kuckhahn, 83 of Manistee Township, was fishing on the White Water River in southeastern Minnesota, when they got word the war was over.

Word?

“Well, the siren went off – and that just didn’t happen, too often – so we figured that’s what it was, that Japan had surrendered,” said Kuckhan.

“We all knew that it was all over for Japan, but they had to know it – they had to surrender. So finally, they did. And when we heard the siren, we knew what it was telling us – the war was over.”

The retired pastor said they knew immediately what they had to do.

“We pulled out our fishing poles, packed up, and we went to church,” he said. “My father, Pastor Herman Kuckhahn, delivered the sermon.

“Years later, I found the prayer he had said that night, and that meant a lot to me. It reminded me of where I was, and what I was doing, and how I reacted, when I got the news the war was over.”

MANISTEE RESPONDS WITH ‘AVALANCHE OF CELEBRATION’

Back in Manistee, residents raced through town, honking their car horns, shouting, and whistling.

A crowd of about 5,000 residents watched a victory parade make its way down River Street.

“After days of waiting and tension the news of peace set off an avalanche of celebration on River Street last night,” the News Advocate printed in a story.”

The newspaper continued to describe the great celebration in Manistee.

“Bells were ringing to their highest pitch, car horns were sounding throughout the town, and people shouting and cheering created some confusion and bedlam of noise throughout the day,” the story read.

Across the top of the Aug. 15 edition of the News Advocate was printed a large, tell-all headline: “M’Arthur arranging formal surrender.”

But at the bottom that front page, down in the left-hand corner in much smaller headlines, was the story of the sinking of the legendary U.S. cruiser, the Indianapolis.

Lt. Commander Lewis Haynes, of Manistee, served as the chief medical officer on that ship on which nearly 1,200 sailors lost their lives – many to the Japanese torpedoes, many to being attacked by sharks once they had been blown into the waters.

Just over 300 survived, including Haynes. The USS Indianapolis became the last major U.S. warship to be sunk during the great war. And a Manistee man, was aboard.

The ironic fact was that Haynes’ ship – said to be the fastest of its day – had just delivered the key components for the atomic bombs, which were to be assembled on a tiny island called, Tinian.

And in yet another ironic twist of local fate, a crewman on a B-29 that accompanied the Enola Gay when it dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, later moved to Manistee and opened a business.

Now deceased, Ray Algueseva wrote in his war journal, which he later published as a book, “Silent Heroes: “August 15, 1945, Time: 0907, WAR IS OVER! Unbelievable! Lots of shaking hands, hugs all around. Jumping up and down, guys jitterbugging together. Party time!”

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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