John J. Gobbell ~ Articles

Novels by John. J. Gobbell

Articles by John J Gobbell

John J. Gobbell is the author of seven historical novels of World War II, Pacific Theater. His newest, EDGE OF VALOR, is due for release July 15, 2014. For media inquiries, appearances, and more information, please contact him at John@JohnJGobbell.com

 

Radio Interview

John was a guest on This Week in America with Ric Bratton. He discusses A CALL TO COLORS and shares historical anecdotes. Click through to watch the recording!

Now in Hardcover!

Published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press, EDGE OF VALOR is the next thrilling Todd Ingram novel set during events right after August 15, 1945 in the Pacific. This time, Ingram discovers a secret so terrible, all sides try to suppress it. Now available in Hardcover! Buy it today.

TODD INGRAM Series

These are stand-alone naval action adventure novels featuring Todd Ingram. Historically accurate, they are set in World War II's Pacific Theater and portray some of the critical naval battles in that period.

A CALL TO COLORS

Now Available from StarboardSide Productions, this ebook features Commander Mike Donovan, skipper of the destroyer USS Matthew. With General MacArthur's 165,000 troops just ashore to begin the Philippine liberation, Donovan finds himself embroiled in what becomes the Battle of Leyte Gulf - the largest naval engagement in the history of mankind. It is available for Kindle and Nook.

THE BRUTUS LIE

This contemporary techno-thriller was published by Charles Scribner's Sons in hardback in 1991. John likes to feature technical-centerpieces in his works and BRUTUS, a long-legged mini-submarine powered by fuel cells, takes former SEAL Brad Lofton to Petropovlovsk, Kamchatka, where he meets Spetsnaz Colonel Anton Dobrynyn, an identical twin Lofton never knew that...

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Articles by John J. Gobbell

ON BROTHERLY LOVEMIX AND MATCHSURRENDER AT TOKYO BAY

ON BROTHERLY LOVE by

(As printed in the issue of THE SCROLL of Phi Delta Theta.)

Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third ManVice Admiral John S. "Slew" McCain

In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had
warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced
Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the
Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly
love; five hundred years of democracy and peace,
and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock,
Orson Welles as Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN

 * * * * *

This passage would have had special irony for a sailor who gallantly served in
the Pacific during World War II. He had given his very essence to the meaning of Harry
Lime's brotherly love while seeing his country rise to a great apex of military and
industrial might.

He was Vice Admiral John S. McCain, a heavily decorated sailor who
commanded Task Force 38, up to that time, the world's most powerful carrier force.
With Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey in overall command, McCain and the massive
armada steamed into Sagami Bay on August 27, 1945, and dropped anchor. That was
that. The shooting had stopped and they swung quietly for six days with negotiators
planning the ceremony.

It was overcast on September 2, 1945, when “Slew” McCain, as he was called,
climbed into his Admiral's gig and went to the battleship U.S.S. Missouri (BB 63) to 2
watch the Japanese surrender. Hundreds of Generals, Admirals and lesser rankings
from all the allied nations, lined the “Big Mo’s” rails or climbed on her massive sixteen
inch gun turret and even into her tops to watch. All the stars were there: MacArthur,
Nimitz, Halsey, everyone. They even flew in the emaciated General Jonathan
Wainwright, a POW who surrendered Corregidor in 1942, along with the equally
emaciated Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Percival, and a POW who surrendered
Singapore the same year.

First they met for coffee in the Missouri’s flag cabin where Halsey cracked jokes
and MacArthur reminisced in his stentorian basso, “It's grand having so many of my
sidekicks meeting here at the end of the road.”

Soon the Japanese representatives were summoned, and they gathered on the
battleship’s 01 deck where the Star Spangled Banner was played. McCain's chest drew
to a familiar tightness he'd had recently, but this time it felt good, thank God. MacArthur
ran the ceremony like a well-oiled five inch mount and just before ordering the
signatures, said: “It is my earnest hope, indeed the hope of all mankind; that from this
solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past,
a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man
and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”

The Instrument of Surrender was signed; hundreds of U.S. Navy and Army
planes flew over signaling a fervent exodus of millions from the armed services into a
troubled peace. Not the kind of peace, as it turned out, that MacArthur hoped for.
The next day, Slew McCain was sent home by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. He arrived
in Coronado, California on September 5, 1945. The day after that, Vice Admiral John S.
McCain died of a heart attack. His weight had fallen to 100 pounds and he’d given his
all along with millions of Americans and untold millions of Allies who threw everything
into the fight. Together, they curtailed civilization's most hideous lunge toward world
hegemony with fifty-four million casualties along the way. When it was done, a worn
out Slew McCain was unable to enjoy the spoils like watching a movie produced four
years later, reflecting on Harry Lime’s cuckoo clock.

* * * * *

What if McCain had turned to his aide and said on September 5, 1945, "Look.
There it is. Safe and sound." They peer out the window as their four-engined PB2Y
flies over California's coast where beneath, San Diego Bay glistens in the clear morning
sun. McCain=s eyes grow moist and he prattles on with a lopsided grin. "By God we did
it! I'd sure like to see this place fifty years from now."

So what happens if Slew McCain gets his wish? How does he feel when he
suddenly finds himself walking down Coronado's Orange Avenue on September 5,
1995? Coronado is still a quaint village; but to McCain, only a few buildings are 3
recognizable and everything is weird, including those oval-shaped cars that whoosh
about. He’s disoriented but is reluctant to ask questions of people who brush past
quickly, sometime rudely.

Where’s the fire?

McCain decides to save time and lifts a copy of the San Diego Union off a park
bench. His eyes sweep the front page and his brow furrows when he reads headlines
about a place called Bosnia. Bosnia? Isn't that some damn Balkan state Tito was
supposed to lasso in?

Next to the Bosnia article is one about the arrest (what’s a bust?) of a Mexican
drug lord now living in La Jolla and that the U.S. will seize his assets valued at over
$200 million. A Mexican drug what? Slew McCain used to be able to see into Mexico,
from the Coronado Hotel. He looks up now. The hills behind Tijuana are obscured by
something called smog.

In frustration, Slew McCain dabs at his eyes with a handkerchief trying to figure
out how many Grumman F6F Hellcats the drug lord’s $200 million would buy.
McCain decides to go over his paper systematically by reading left to right just like he
was taught in school back in at the University of Mississippi and later, the U.S. Naval
Academy. Therefore, he first concentrates on the left hand column and reads the entire
article. With the first paragraph McCain's eyes bulge; the second paragraph sends his
jaw toward the pavement and by the third, he feels tightness in his chest, just like when
he died fifty years ago.

The article describes a recent poll showing nearly half of American citizens
believe the United States won't exist in a hundred years. Can you believe this? Half of
these people! McCain looks around for someone to throttle. But for the moment, the
sidewalk is empty and Slew's teeth grate and he mutters under his breath. Have they
given up? Doesn't anyone remember what we fought for?

McCain jerks his head to the sky as a pair of F-14D Tomcats screech overhead,
their wings pinned back making them seem like parched, grey diamonds. The lead
Tomcat peels left into a tight bank, drops flaps and gear, bleeds speed and runs its
wings forward to head into his downwind for the approach to North Island Naval Air
Station. The wingman is good and sticks to the lead as if on a fifty-foot tether. McCain
looks at the newspaper again, then watches the Tomcats jink onto final.

Show offs. McCain became a naval aviator at the age of fifty-two, and many
times barnstormed over this very town with his buddies. He smiles to himself
remembering his fellow aviators were in their early twenties but accepted “the old man”
and made him feel like a kid. Saturday nights at the Coronado hotel were lovely this
time of year.

What's wrong with these damned people? With something as marvelous as
those flying whatchamacallits up there to protect them why can’t they buck up? Do they 4
just want to lay down and die? They call themselves Americans?

McCain drops his paper in the trash barrel and shuffles toward San Diego Bay.
Passersby seem normal enough, more facial hair on the men maybe, but everyone
appears well-fed and well-dressed. Except maybe for those two kids over there wearing
baggy pants cut-off below the knees. Too bad their folks make them do that. McCain
smiles, remembering that when he was five his parents made him wear knickers. But he
looks again at the people bustling about. In spite of a few frowns, McCain sees many
smiles and decides these people are basically alright.

The United States gone? In a hundred years? Would I have done what I did knowing that the United States of America wouldn't exist as we know it? And what about the others who fought in World War II? In Europe and the Pacific? What about those who didn't come back. What would they think of the way Americans are throwing away their marvelous legacy? All the hundreds of thousands of unselfish acts of bravery for naught?

In particular, one young fellow comes to mind. He was a beanpole ensign named
Jack Ingold who graduated from the University of Oregon, went into flight training and
quickly found himself in the South Pacific flying an F4F Wildcat with Fighting Squadron
VF-28. On July 13, 1943, eighteen Japanese dive bombers and ten escorting Zeros
were getting ready to jump three damaged U.S. destroyers limping to safety from a
battle the night before. At 13,000 feet, Ingold and three other Wildcats tore into those
twenty-eight enemy planes. In panic, the dive-bombers jettisoned their bombs and
bolted, letting the American destroyers run for safety. But the Zeros stuck around.
Ingold bagged one Zero then saw his skipper, Lieutenant Tavernetti, jumped by
another. Ingold deliberately flew in to divert this Zero's fire. He suffered the
consequences as other Zeros pummeled his Wildcat with cannon and machine gun fire.
It wasn't long before Ingold's controls were shot away and his Wildcat engulfed in
flames and on its way down. Tavernetti and the other two didn't see a parachute;
Ingold's Wildcat smacked the water and sank. The Zeros broke and ran after the dive
bombers and the fight was over.

Tavernetti led the other two back to base where they reported Ingold's death.
Then came the worst part: Inventory of Ingold's personal gear. They opened Ingold's
locker, tallied everything, packaged it and sent it on its way. Tavernetti wrote the letter.
He'd done it before and it wasn't easy. Each word, each paragraph tore him apart as
sure as the twenty-millimeter cannon shells that ripped into Jack Ingold's body. Nobody
ever got used to those things. Especially this time, since it was Ingold who saved
Tavernetti's life.

But Ingold's buddies didn't realize he was unscathed by the Zero's cannon fire.
The controls were shot away, he rode the plane down and just in time pulled back on
the stick and more or less pancaked in. The Wildcat sank within ten seconds. It all 5
happened fast. Ingold was underwater when, with a mighty effort, he forced the canopy
open, kicked away his parachute and popped to the surface.

The Wildcat was gone, but the water still roiled as Ingold gulped air thinking he’d
made it. In amazement he looked around, seeing Japanese sailors in every direction.
These men were off a cruiser sunk by the American task force last night. As if on cue,
they started to swim toward him.

Just then, one of the American destroyers nosed its way in. For fear of enemy
submarines, the tin can didn't stop but steamed by at slow speed as sailors threw lines,
her fo’c’sle crew yelling, “grab it, damnit.”

Ensign Ernest "Jack" Ingold, Jr. barely out of flight training caught that line on
July 13, 1943 and was pulled to safety. Except for minor bruises, he was unscathed.
Later the destroyer handed Jack over to a PT boat and he was returned to duty and an
emotional reunion with his squadron.

McCain remembered what Ingold's buddies said about Jack after his return. You
say God's arm was around him, we say it sure squeezed him tight.

McCain shakes his head and suddenly realizes what bothers him. He had
enjoyed brotherly love in his college days, so much so that he almost took it for granted.
But later, in the navy, the essentials of those bonds and the sacrifices one made to
preserve them became dearer as his career moved from challenge to challenge. And
as he looked back over his life, he knew those bonds were the most important things to
him. After all, wasn't that what World War II was all about? Love and respect for one
another? Isn't that what they fought and died for? Isn't that what MacArthur was talking
about?

He sniffs the air and looks around. Coronado, after fifty years, is a more beautiful
place he decides. And as bad as that damned bridge looks over San Diego Bay, it's far
better than the cantankerous ferry service that used to trudge back and forth. They've
done a nice job here. And they’re basically good people.

Slew McCain, a man whose navy career spanned forty years, who once
commanded thousands of officers and men, making life and death decisions through
hundreds of crisis, realizes he has a new task. As ludicrous as it sounds, someone has
to rekindle the spirit of brotherly love in those who have lost faith in America.

First, he wonders if Americans today know about cuckoo clocks. He finds an
antique store and decides to go inside and ask.

* * * * *

Mix and Matchback to articles

How a Fletcher Class Destroyer Became a DDG Overnight

By John J. Gobbell
(Reprinted with permission from the fall, 2007 issue of Tin Can Sailor)

February, 1962
U.S.S. Tingey (DD 539)
Somewhere near the coast of Honshu, Japan

Tingey, a 2,100 ton Fletcher class destroyer rolled easily in the calm Pacific under a moonless night. Yesterday, she had emerged from a series of bone-jarring storms that had left us sleepless and walking like zombies. But tonight, the sky was clear and sparkled with stars which gleamed with the blue-white brilliance only seen at sea. We were in station six of a circular formation with the destroyers of DESRON FIFTEEN. At the formation’s center was the carrier USS Bennington (CVS 20) steaming in regal splendor at twenty knots. Without EMCON, our formation’s lights looked rather festive as we closed Japan’s coast. 
Mix and Match 

It was 2000 and we stood for officer’s call on the 01 level before the mast. This gave us the superstructure’s protection, and yet little zephyrs still curled around bulkheads, ruffling our khakis as we swayed with the ship’s motion. Twelve of us stood in two ranks: Department heads in front, junior officers in back. Four other officers were on watch; the captain was in his sea cabin immersed in paper work.

“What is going on?” the Exec demanded.

We looked back dumbly.

“Come on,” the Exec’s Zippo clanked as he lit a Pall Mall. “Anybody? The skipper is worried. And quite frankly, I am too.”

We exchanged glances and shrugs. We’d felt it, too. The crew had been too quiet. For the past few days, they’d silently gone about their jobs with lips pressed, eyes avoiding us as we neared Japan’s coast. Since leaving Pearl Harbor, we’d been at sea for ten storm-tossed days. One would have thought the ship would be rife with channel fever in anticipation of reaching Yokosuka. But even the redoubtable chiefs were unapproachable as they strut about our decks or sat in the goat locker, their arms folded in regal silence.

What is going on? we wondered.

The exec’s eyes narrowed. “Come on. Better to find out now then after we tie up.”

More shrugs.

The exec took a drag off his Pall Mall then looked up, “Let’s try again tomorrow. Now. There’s been a change tomorrow for entering port. Sagami Wan entrance 0800. Yokosuka 0930. Special sea detail, 0845. Any questions?”

Shrugs.

With another drag, the exec turned to the engineering officer. “No smoke going into Tokyo Bay.” He puffed his chest, the unspoken command that he didn’t want our beloved Tingey, a seventeen year old veteran of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, to embarrass us before our squadron flag, the U.S.S. Mahan (DLG 11). For sure, there was animosity between the DLG/DDG crowd and the DDs. Maybe they were jealous of the campaign ribbons on our bridge from World War II and Korea. The Mahan sure didn’t have any.

It began the previous summer when we’d been fleeted up from a reserve destroyer to become a once-again full-time greyhound of the sea. An international crisis was on in Berlin. Something about the East Germans building a wall through the center of the City. Another crisis was brewing in the Gulf of Siam, so we’d been ordered to re-join the big boys in WESPAC to screen our carriers from the bad guys. They stuffed us into Destroyer Squadron Fifteen that sported twelve destroyers: four were of the fleet’s newest guided missile frigates (DLG); another four were new guided missile destroyers (DDG). The final four was taken up by us and three other Fletcher class destroyers. Compared to the DLGs and DDGs, we were sort of “out there” and treated accordingly. Mix and match.

For sure, juxtaposing a Fletcher class alongside a Coontz class guided missile frigate was like parking a model T Ford alongside a Ferrari. The champions of the U.S. Navy were festooned with the latest mods of Tartar and Terrier guided missiles. Also, they had high-tech things like NTDS, ASROC and super-sensitive mark 44 tube-launched homing torpedoes all designed to handle Ivan’s growing submarine threat. This was capped off with new modular CICs, where on-watch sailors defended the fleet in air-conditioned comfort. Even their wardrooms were air conditioned. And we were enroute to the humidity soaked South China Sea. But on a calm day and with a good tail wind, the mighty Tingey did have a thirty knot capability and could maintain fleet speed with the carriers and other brand new destroyers sporting air-conditioned modular CICs.

The corners of the engineering officer’s mouth turned up. “We enter Tokyo Bay in a column, sir?”

The exec raised a clipboard and thumbed aside flimsies. He found a message. “Affirmative. We enter Tokyo Bay in a column.” He smiled back. “We’ll be in last place, again.”

Groans. This meant we’d be the last to tie up and be outboard ship again in a nest of Godzilla-sized guided missile frigates ranging up to 5,800 tons. And we knew they derived a sadistic pleasure out of sticking us outboard in the nest. Getting to the pier meant navigating brass-festooned quarterdecks of these brand-new goliaths, their dress khaki-clad OODs strutting about in officious silence. Worse, it meant that our working parties bringing food and other consumables from the pier had to lug their boxes and crates across three, four, and sometimes five incompatible and oftentimes hostile quarterdecks.

We’d left San Diego about four weeks before making Pearl Harbor in ten days. Fights had broken out the first night ashore in Pearl. Brightwork and canvaswork was stolen off our fo’s’cle. During the next week’s exercises around Oahu, the captain and exec both looked the other way when, relegated as outboard ship, our boatswain’s mates rigged rat-guards after we tied up. This, of course, was the ultimate insult a ship could deliver to another. And it captured the immediate attention of the squadron commodore who ordered our rat-guards stricken. Strangely, it was after that that our brightwork and canvaswork was mysteriously returned. But still, things were tense.

“Yes, sir. Last place in the column. No smoke, Sir,” replied the engineering officer. His tone implied, “what does it matter? If we do make smoke, we’ll be so far back in the column that people on the Mahan’s bridge will never see us anyway.” But he didn’t have to worry. The Tingey, for all her seventeen years and thousands of miles of steaming, still had a tight, well-maintained plant.

With a slight shake of his head, the exec said, “Just make sure, okay?” He flipped more flimsies. “Right. All initialed.” The exec made sure we read and initialed all the messages. With an uncanny expertise, he flicked his cigarette butt over the side -- a shot of about seventeen feet. “Dismissed. Movie tonight is Guns of Navaronne.”

Now this is more like it. With an alacrity not often seen, we scampered from the 01 level down to our non-air conditioned wardroom on the main-deck. We were anxious for another showing of Alistair McLean’s best-selling adaptation. It had a great cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, and Irene Pappas who plays Maria Pappadimos. We’d traded it among the ships of DESRON FIFTEEN on our way from San Diego and had seen this action-packed thriller five times.

We stood as our Captain entered. He seated us with a smile and small talk. Coffee cups rattled in their saucers. The overhead lights were snapped off; the space darkened as Zippo lighters clicked. Immediately, the Bell & Howell sixteen millimeter projector ground into life. Once again, our disbelief was suspended as credits rolled and blue cigar and cigarette smoke swirled before the screen.

We knew most of the lines and after two hours of action-packed nail-biting drama, we are ready for the pay off. At last, thunderous explosion after ear-splitting explosion rack Navarrone as Peck and Niven get the guns blown up. The mountain spews fiery, black detritus for miles around that collapses into the Aegean, the twin German cannons tumbling right behind.

Now for the best part. Gregory Peck and Irene Pappas commandeer a gleaming mahogany Riva speedboat and race offshore to rescue a drowning Anthony Quinn, a victim of a Nazi stab wound. The irony is that Quinn has vowed to kill Gregory Peck after their mission is completed. Now, this is plainly evident as Navaorrone’s massive crater spews fire and smoke. 

Pappas skillfully maneuvers the Riva alongside a bleeding, sputtering Quinn. He’s going down for the third time.

Here comes the best part: Irene Pappas jazzes the Riva’s throttle making it sound like a well-oiled, V-16 supercharged engine. With a throaty roar, it goes, “Vroom vroom.” The Riva reminds us of our high school days when we chased girls and did our utmost to buy Smitty glass-pak 26 inch mufflers for whatever cars we could afford.

Peck thrusts out a boat hook to a blubbering Quinn and commands in his signature deep timbre, “Come on, Man. Grab it!”

“… I…I can’t,” Quinn sputters.

“… Vroooom, vroom,” goes Pappas.

“Vroom, vroom, ” we shout back in unison.

“Grab, it!” Demands Peck.

“Grab it,” we shout.

“Vroom, vroom,” goes Pappas.

“Vroom, vroom,” we yell.

An exhausted Quinn barely snags the boathook with a forefinger. Peck drags Quinn aboard. Quinn tumbles into Irene Pappas’ eager arms. British destroyers joyfully hoot their whistles while a choir sings “Maria’s Song” in the background.

We give a last, “Vroom, vroom.”

Finis.

The projector stops, then is threaded for a re-wind. Eyes blink as bright stygian lights flash on in a smoky wardroom, snapping us back to reality. Time for the sack; some of us are up at 2330 for the midwatch.

We stand respectfully, letting the captain exit. He heads down the passage way and ducks into our un-air conditioned non-modular CIC where he’ll study the radars and take in the picture. From there, he’ll climb to the bridge for a last look around before he retires to his sea-cabin.

The exec blocks the exit, lights up another Pall Mall and delivers a withering glance, “Figure out what they’re up to, Okay? And no foul-ups tomorrow. We have to look good for our grand entrance.” He turns and heads for his stateroom below.

* * * * *

The next morning found us under clear blue skies and a calm rolling sea. The wind wasn’t up yet leaving the surface glassy with the consistency of thirty-weight oil. We’d already formed into the dreaded column and once again, Tingey took up the rear as tail-end Charlie. Even so, one could see Mount Fujiyama’s snow capped peak from the bridge. It stood in white misty splendor beckoning right off our bow. Amazing, we’d really made it.

Everyone shook hands with the Exec at officer’s call on the quarterdeck. He doubled as our navigator and guffawed with, ‘Aw shucks,’ tongue in cheek, knowing that he didn’t have any choice but to follow eleven destroyers and a great big fat carrier. But we knew he’d been out there taking his morning stars and sun lines, verifying our position.

Thus, with a smattering of pride, he raised the plan of the day and began to read. “Now lissen up. We’ll man the rail at 0900 and I want everyone-“

A palm went to his forehead. “What the--?” He looked from side to side and then called to the Operations officer. “Get the yeoman up here on the double.”

“Sir, anything wrong?” The yeomen were in the operations department.

“You better believe it.” He shoved the plan of the day under the Ops officer’s nose.”

“…, Sir, I don’t… holy smokes!”

“What’s going on?” The Exec jabbed a finger at the top of the page.

We yanked copies from our pockets and discovered what we hadn’t noticed during a hurried breakfast. The masthead clearly read: U.S.S. Tingey (DDG 539).

“Whose joke is this? I’ll have that yeoman busted to seaman deuce,” roared the Exec.

The chief engineer, wearing signature oil spattered overalls and garrison cap, popped up from the aft fireroom hatch, about thirty feet aft from where we stood. Deliberately ignoring officer’s call, he turned aft and sauntered toward the fantail, flashlight in hand. The Exec was still muttering about the DDG flap when our chief engineer quickly walked forward and joined our ranks, an enormous grin glowing like the fires in his Babcock and Wilcox boilers.

The Exec demanded, “What’s so funny?”

“Sir, I just discovered why we’re a DDG.” He nodded aft.

“If you’d be so nice as to let me in on your little secret,” The Exec said with evident sarcasm.

“I think you should take a look, Sir.” The Chief Engineer again nodded aft.

“Stand fast.” With doubled fists, the Exec walked aft. Sixty seconds later, he was back, his grin as big as the Chief Engineer’s. “You had all better take a look.”

So we did.

The shipfitters had made a guided missile from plain sheet metal and fitted it over the entire length of mount 55, our after five-inch gun mount. It was replete with fins and nose cone. Like the fleet’s Terrier and Tartar missiles, the body was painted a deep blue, the fins white. A black toilet plunger was fixed to the tip.



“For sure this beats rat-guards,” the Exec growled. “We’ll enter port just as she is and watch ‘em get apoplexy.”

 

* * * * *

We entered port and our guided missile lasted just two days. The squadron commodore ordered it stricken, saying something about an affront to Japanese sensitivity. Like a first class boatswain’s mate busted to seaman second, we were stripped of our hard-earned DDG status and relegated back to being a common DD. 

But there’s a happy ending. Two weeks after that, we were transferred into the welcoming arms of DESRON ONE. We thought this was pretty cool since DESRON ONE’s stack insignia was the first-place rosette logo of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and our skipper was Commander J. R. Pabst.

We were sent to the South China Sea where we endured the humidity in our un-air conditioned CIC and wardroom to say nothing of the mess decks and sonar shack. We really didn’t have time to think about it, as we were at twenty-five to thirty knots day and night plane-guarding for the U.S.S. Hancock (CVA 19) around Yankee station. And we looked for Communist submarines We actually found a live one and held him down for three days -- all with out the benefit of a modular air conditioned CIC, to say nothing of our stuffy, oftentimes claustrophobic sonar shack.

We came of age while chasing Hancock around Yankee Station. Even without air-conditioning, our World War II battle-hardened Tingey took care of us and brought us home to our families. We pulled it off. Amazing.

That was forty-five years ago. The Tingey is gone now; long ago expended as a target off San Clemente Island. But I think fondly of her and my shipmates as Turner Classic Movies once again rolls The Guns of Navaronne It still takes two hours but finally, the end is near and I get to go, “vroom, vroom,” while my wife sits there with folded arms, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.


SURRENDER AT TOKYO BAY back to articles

John Gobbell | September 01, 2006

At a little after two o'clock, General Douglas A. MacArthur's four-engine C-54, aptly named Bataan, landed and bounced to a stop in a cloud of dust. The General descended the ramp, smiling and waving, his corn-cob pipe clamped between his teeth. Only weeks before, Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces had dedicated their lives to kill this man. But now, he and his entourage deplaned virtually unarmed. Winston Churchill said of MacArthur's landing, “Of all the amazing deeds in the war, I regard General MacArthur's personal landing at Atsugi as the bravest of the lot.”

The General was there to preside at the surrender ceremony three days hence as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. For many, it was anticipated to be a time of retribution and revenge -- pay-back time when tempers could take their fill, the deserving enemy crushed under a vengeful boot.

But the Americans did something unpredictable. With only a token force, MacArthur went into Tokyo taking quarters at the New Grand Hotel. That night he issued orders that surprised the Japanese -- orders that countermanded centuries of Asian tradition. MacArthur stated that occupying troops were not to consume local food and were to eat only their own rations, and that there was to be no curfew and that martial law was not to be imposed.

From fleet headquarters in Guam, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet issued a similar order:

“...it is incumbent on all officers to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum in their treatment of the Japanese...the use of insulting epithets in connection with the Japanese as a race or as individuals does not now become the officers of the United States Navy. Officers in the Pacific Fleet will take steps to require of all personnel under their command a high standard of conduct in this matter...”

And so, the tone was set.

September 2, 1945 broke gray and somber over Tokyo Bay. Over 200 ships of the U.S. Navy were anchored there. Sailors stood at their long glasses, eyes riveted to the USS Missouri (BB 63), proudly flying the flag that had flown over the nation's capital on December 7, 1941.

Starting at 0800 that morning, destroyer after destroyer pulled alongside the Missouri, her topside spaces already brimming with sailors and correspondents -- in particular the Japanese press. Allied generals, admirals, and ranking diplomats were delivered. Admiral Nimitz, appointed as representative of all American forces, was piped aboard at 0805. General MacArthur arrived via the destroyer USS Buchanan (DD 484) at about 0830. A naval precedent was set when Admiral Nimitz' blue flag and General MacArthur's red flag flew side by side from the Missouri’s mainmast.

For a bit of irony, MacArthur invited General Jonathan M. Wainwright, Commander of the U.S. Forces which surrendered at Corregidor in 1942, and Lieutenant General Arthur E. Percival, Commander of the British forces that surrendered at Singapore in the same year. Both were terribly emaciated, having been quickly spirited from captivity in a Japanese prison camp in Manchuria.

A large number of well-known military leaders were also in place including Admirals Halsey (The Missouri was his flag ship), McCain, Turner, Sherman, and Clark and Generals Spaatz, Kenny, Stillwell, and Eichelberger.

At 0855, the destroyer USS Lansdowne (DD 486) was summoned to the Missouri’s starboard side. Ushered up the gangway were eleven members of the Japanese delegation. Amongst them were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Army Chief of Staff Yoshijiro Umezu. Admiral Sadaoshi Tomioka represented navy commander in Chief Admiral Soemu Toyoda and the Imperial Japanese Navy. (An embarrassed Toyoda refused to attend, saying to Tomioka, his operations officer, “You lost the war, so you go.” It mattered not to Tomioka who, like many other officers, committed harakiri after the ceremonies.

With everyone in place, the Missouri’s chaplain delivered an invocation and the Star Spangled Banner was played. As it should have been, the ceremony was somber but without rancor. General MacArthur began with:

“We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored...It is my earnest hope, indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage from the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”

He then ordered the representatives of the Imperial Japanese Government and the Imperial Japanese Staff to sign the agreement. Shigemitsu was the first to step forward and sign for Emperor Hirohito. Umezu then signed for the Japanese General Headquarters.

The Japanese then stepped back and, with Wainwright and Percival at his side, MacArthur signed on behalf of all the Allied powers. Admiral Nimitz, with Admirals Halsey and Sherman at his side, signed in behalf of the United States. Signing next were: General Hsu Young-chang of China, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser for the United Kingdom, Lieutenant General K. Derevyanko for the Soviet Union, General Sir Thomas Blamey for Australia, Colonel L. Moore Cosgrave for Canada, General Jacques LeClerc for France, Admiral Conrad E. L Helfrich for the Netherlands, and Air Vice Marshal Sir Leonard M. Isitt for New Zealand.

With that done, General MacArthur again took the microphone and gave his famous, “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are now closed.”

The darkness of the moment was brightened when two things happened. First, as if staged by Cecil B. DeMille, the sun burst through the clouds, its light shimmering on Tokyo Bay, the snow-capped Mount Fujiyama gleaming in the distance. Next, a formation of 1,000 U.S. planes began flying over. Necks craned as admirals, generals, diplomats, correspondents, photographers, and former adversaries watched them all, from nimble F4U Corsairs to long, silver, USAAF B-29s fly over, bringing peace with the thunder of their engines. Symbolically, the eleven Japanese, now at peace with the Allies, were piped over the side with full military honors.

* * * * *

It is said that over 280 Allied warships swung at anchor that day, their guns silent, finally at peace with the world, their crews eager to return home. But there were no aircraft carriers among their number. They were still at sea, ready to strike, should the Japanese surrender be a ruse, or in the worst case, the leaders aboard the Missouri be killed or incapacitated in a fanatic's kamikaze raid.

But Admiral Raymond A. Spruance was poised aboard the battle ship USS New Jersey (BB 62) in Buckner Bay, Okinawa. Spruance, the hero of the Battle of Midway, and later, the Marianas campaign that signaled the end of the Imperial Japanese Navy was on duty and ready. As deserving as the others to be aboard the Missouri that day, Spruance had been held back to take over, should something terrible happen.

Fortunately, it did not.

MacArthur, Nimitz, and the Allied leaders took a chance: they walked softly. And it paid off. The Japanese seized the opportunity to rebuild themselves to the mighty industrial and cultural power they are today, taking a respected place in the free world.

MacArthur, Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance, Eisenhower, Patton. As James A. Michener asked in his novel, “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,”“Where do we get such men?”

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Copyright 2006 John Gobbell. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.