Today, September 2, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the day Imperial Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
The war that began for the Unites States with the bloody and unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 ended on September 2, 1945 with unconditional surrender bringing to a close a war that Americans fought on two fronts where over 400,000 Americans sacrificed their lives for freedom and democracy. What followed on September 3, 1945 was unprecedented in world history—the democratization and rebuilding by America of a former adversary. Japan and Germany—the latter assisted by the Marshall Plan—are today great friends and allies of the United States.
The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. contains a quote most fitting for today. President Truman expressed the profound gratitude of our Nation which is as true today as it was when he first uttered the words: “Our debt to the heroic man and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude; America will never forget their sacrifices.”
May we never forget that when faced with an attack on our Nation, American soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guard and merchant marine—backed by Home Front workers and supported by spouses, family, and fellow Americans—responded with great courage and perseverance
Today, my wife Marie and I remember both our fathers’ and the lasting legacy of service to country they left to our family. Both served in the Pacific theatre. Both were card-carrying members of the Greatest Generation that saved the world from oppression and tyranny. Both simply said they did their duty.
My dad, Bern Smith, was a combat infantryman who fought in New Guinea and other islands and was deployed to the Philippines for its liberation. He seldom spoke about his experience—it was too painful even decades later—but my dad often spoke of the incredible bond of friendship forged with his army buddies during battle and the indomitable will to overcome all adversity and prevail.
In like manner, my wife’s father, Donald Hahn, served at sea onboard the heavy cruiser USS Canberra and was a part of the massive effort to subdue the large and highly capable Japanese navy.
Today, we remember and we honor the exceptional heroism of the Greatest Generation. The passage of time will never diminish the respect and gratitude of Americans for the sacrifice and valor of those who fought to safeguard liberty in World War II on the battlefield and on the Home Front.