September 2, 1945: The Japanese sign formal surrender papers on board USS Missouri, ending WWII

Japanese sign formal surrender onboard USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor.

(US Navy)

US Navy carrier planes fly in formation over the US and British fleets in Tokyo Bay during surrender ceremonies. The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), where the signing ceremony took place, is at left. The light cruiser USS Detroit (CL-8) is in the right distance. Aircraft include Grumman TBM Avengers, Grumman F6F Hellcats, Curtiss SB2C Helldivers, and Vought F4U Corsair.

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Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, formally ending World War II (US Army)
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers (US Navy)

One interesting tidbit about the ceremony. Rumor has it that the flag flown from Missouri on September 2, 1945 was one that had been flying over the White House (or the US Capitol) on December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Captain Stuart Murray of USS Missouri stated afterward that the story was “baloney,” and that the flag and Union Jack of the United States flown that day were standard GI issue taken from the ship’s stores.

However, there was one special flag in attendance that day, an American flag that had flown from Commodore Matthew Perry’s flagship in 1853–1854 when he sailed into Tokyo Bay with the US Navy’s Far East Squadron to force the Japanese to open their ports to foreign trade. That flag, encased in a glass-topped frame, was flown to Japan and attached to the bulkhead of Missouri for the ceremony. General MacArthur, who signed the surrender document on behalf of the Allies, was a cousin of Commodore Perry.

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The Perry flag is visible in the background behind the assembled military dignitaries. General MacArthur is at the microphone. (US Navy)

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