- 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
These varied sights I saw only in snatches, during moments when I ducked out of CIC on brief vacations. The intensity of voice traffic was always mounting, greater this day than ever before. Down in Sagami Wan, a few miles away, every heavy ship in the gathered Task Force 31 was awaiting word from the San Diego to start shooting. I was sure I could feel their intensities as they waited down there. The voice call for the battleship Mississippi is “Dan Boone”; poor old Dan Boone was particularly an eager beaver. Every twenty minutes he would call up and say, “Hello, Bonaparte, this is Dan Boone: radio check; how do you hear me?” I would gravely repeat myself and answer, “Dan Boone, this is Bonaparte. I hear you loud and clear. Out.” That was all I could tell him; the rules don’t permit offhand situation reports.
The beaches having been nobly secured, once more the San Diego hoisted anchor, this time for the final, climaxing surge forward. The San Diego passed through a gap in a vast semicircular stone breakwater guarding the entrance to the Yokosuka Naval Yard. We went by cliffs so close off our beam that any husky patriot could have landed a hand grenade on our bridge. We sailed slowly by the anchored Nagato. Three times we had announced she had been sunk, yet there she floated, looking substantial. Her superstructure had obviously been interfered with by a couple of bombs, but her hull and decks showed not a mark. Ahead lay the dock, well populated by Marines and waiting sailors. Our own deckhands began to swing their heaving lines while we were still a hundred yards out. We edged closer, and the weighted ropes continued to fly, mostly toward land, only to splash unhappily into the water. At last an unknown hero on the dock leaped from the pier onto a heavy raft at dockside; he clutched a San Diego line that had fallen there. Up went the line to his mates, and away they ran, dragging out the first of the heavy hawsers that would make us fast.
For the first time in the history of Japan, a “barbarian” man-of-war, with unsociable intentions, had control of a piece of the Empire. But I could not stall around on the bridge to watch these developments for very long at a time. In the narrow passageway immediately outside our little bedlam, a small but highpowered commercial radio broadcasting station had been set up, linked via Guam with nationwide networks at home. Announcers from NBC, CBS, and Mutual had been blurting out their staccato descriptions of our progress. Admiral Badger was called upon to make an impromptu speech, to which challenge he responded gallantly. In concluding his remarks, he raised his voice, to help him to be heard in the U. S. A., and happily shouted this brief aside: “Hello, Ma! I’ll be seeing you soon!” Many of us thought that a most significant disclosure.
We sailed slowly by the anchored Nagato. Three times we had announced she had been sunk, yet there she floated.
The next big event was the raising of the Stars and Stripes over His Imperial Majesty’s naval base. Admiral Badger composed a dispatch for me to transmit to Halsey, down yonder in the Wan. Of the circuits available I elected to use the long-range apparatus, to which I knew the distant carrier fleet was also listening. I read it off as if I were a cathedral pipe organ. Almost certainly it was the first word that had penetrated to the carriers—and to the world outside—of the final success of the landing. My figure of speech fails me here: I see no way to liken that moment with anything in the history of Fujiyama; I did not sound like a volcano in full eruption, but I did get a tremendous kick out of that brief transmission.
That was surely the climax of our drama of great events. Since then Allied power has continued to cascade into the bay. In the meantime, General MacArthur has, of course, arrived on the scene, all having been made safe for him. The complexion of the invasion has changed from pure blue and green to mostly khaki. The monstrous airborne Army invasion occurred on the morning of September 2, immediately preceding the great ceremonious signing of the surrender documents on board the Missouri. We had no way to calculate the number of planes that were involved. More than one hundred and fifty B-29s were seen directly over the Piedmont, and that was merely a small fraction of the total that came thundering over the bay.
There are pages and pages more to be written concerning these last few days. But this is a letter to one dear and patient wife, not a textbook or a Baedeker, so all I shall describe in what’s left is the fabulous multitude of underground cities we’ve discovered and explored, deep under many portions of this Japanese naval establishment.