- Historic Sites
Landing At Tokyo Bay
Two letters from a Navy lieutenant to his wife tell the story of the last hours of World War II
August/September 1985 | Volume 36, Issue 5
By noon we were well into the great bay, anchored once more, not two miles from the Yokosuka Naval Base where now I write. Presumably it is the largest and most elaborate such establishment in Japan, the pride of generations of admirals and designed to be impregnable. The transports settled down around us like tackles converging in a huddle. The minesweepers began their work; the occasional thud of an exploding mine was really the only sound to be heard. The populace had obviously been directed to vacate the entire shoreline. Gulls and crows circled hopefully overhead. Flies, the first we had seen in two months, buzzed in the wardroom.
During the afternoon a party of twelve Japanese naval officers and one Army officer boarded us, by prearrangement. They brought bundles of charts, which laid bare all the secrets of their fortifications. They were passive, docile, and primly correct. Each saluted every Marine who searched him for weapons and bowed to whoever addressed him. Their tiny stature surprised me. On a dash into the conference room with a message for somebody, I sideswiped a tiny fellow festooned with gold rope and destroyed his equilibrium. This was my only act of violence in thirty-two months of Navy life. I saw his little cloth cap on the table, a shoddy affair, for all the world like a boy’s imitation bus driver’s cap worth maybe ninety-eight cents; it wasn’t much larger than a teacup.
The admiral composed a message to Halsey, who was still down in Sagami Wan on the Missouri, announcing our arrival. I transmitted it; it read as follows:
280458 CTF 31 IN SAN DIEGO AND GROUP IN COMPANY ARRIVED DESTINATION 1327 I X ANCHORED EASY ANCHORAGE TOKYO BAY X NO HITS NO RUNS NO ERRORS X SWEEPING REPORT LATER BT 290458
FROM: CTF 31 TO: COM3RDLEET TOD: 0501/TBS
That’s one message the typed copy of which I shall keep in my memory book.
An hour later he came up with another message, to everybody in general:
280539 ROUTINE CALLS WILL BE DISPENSED WITH X
Only a Navy man can appreciate that one.
Later that same day I heard the order from Halsey to the fleet around us and nearby, directing them not to black out that night, and I carried that news down to the admiral. A couple of hours later Halsey put out a transmission complaining that there were not enough lights showing.
I reported that to Admiral Badger and took back to CIC, and broadcast, his grim order for all ships in Task Force 31 to darken as usual.
Next morning more power jostled in. Up the channel came the Missouri and the Iowa; shortly afterward the South Dakota and the British Duke of York showed up. A half-dozen full-size transports arrived, and numerous lesser craft. They anchored just outside us. Meanwhile the buildup down in Sagami Wan steadily progressed. The process was, as I have been saying, much like that by which Fujiyama was created aeons ago. Layers built progressively upon layers; the San Diego, like the flame at the peak, stayed always in the lead.
The boats milled around, all hands watching the clocks. The moment arrived, and wave by wave they headed for shore.
We remained anchored all through the twenty-ninth, while many Marines and others were defanging the surrounding fortifications. By that night Tokyo Bay had been readied for L-day. H-hour was 0930. That morning the boats milled around in the conventional circles, all hands watching clocks. The moment arrived. The circles sprang open into processions, and wave by wave they headed for shore. It was a flawless day, all blue sky and golden sunshine; the show was as good as any movie ever made. On shore we saw not a soul. We were not, however, without witnesses. As the boats neared the beaches, tiny white specks again became visible in the surrounding hills, surrender flags strung up on tree trunks and improvised poles. These singularly naive gestures are the only public demonstrations I have so far seen.