In less than two weeks, our nation will commemorate the 70th anniversary of V-J Day – the official day of victory over the Japanese in World War II. On September 2, 1945 – after almost four years of war – Army General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. It marked the end of a bloody conflict that saw young Americans serving and sacrificing in far-flung corners of the globe and one that transformed the United States.
Almost immediately after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it became clear that the war in Europe would be an Allied effort while the fight in the Pacific theater would be predominantly an American affair. Those who were serving, as well as the millions who would be called up, quickly learned that they would face years of separation from those they loved, and they would be confronted by the terrible prospect of death on strange-sounding islands in the middle of an ocean most had never seen.
Whether they served on air, land or sea, the young Americans sent off to contend with the Japanese army, navy and air force proved to be a remarkable lot. They are men and women often described in superlatives – most often, the Greatest Generation. Though most grew up in the Great Depression, they possessed a tremendous amount of optimism about their nation and the task they were handed in the war against the Japanese Empire.
When it comes to the sheer savagery endured by the American fighting man, few combat theaters could match the Pacific in World War II: the sodden malarial and Japanese-infested jungles of New Guinea and Guadalcanal, the kamikaze pilots for whom death was no deterrent, and the blood-soaked beaches taken by island-hopping Marines.
The enemy that America was pitted against in the Pacific proved to be an implacable foe. Unlike our European adversaries – the Vichy French, Mussolini’s Italian legions, or the German Wehrmacht – no Japanese Imperial Army unit ever surrendered until the armistice was signed on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. The Japanese literally fought to the death.
70 years after the hostilities in the Pacific ended, fewer and fewer veterans of that conflict remain with us, making it that much more important to listen to those who have been able to tell their stories. This week, War Stories on the FOX Business Network begins three weeks of episodes dedicated to the Pacific Theater of World War II. “The Battle of Midway” recounts the pivotal sea-battle that changed the tide of war after the disaster at Pearl Harbor. In “Bloody Tarawa” veterans remember the ferocious hand to hand combat on the small island. And in “Retaking the Philippines,” one of America’s staunchest allies in the Pacific sees itself taken by the Japanese, only to be liberated three years later, symbolized by General MacArthur’s famous return. The veterans in these episodes share their memories of the dramatic events and their courageous efforts during the war. All are war stories that deserve to be told.
Lt Col Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series “War Stories with Oliver North.” From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government’s counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. North is the founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization providing college scholarships to the children of military personnel killed in the line of duty and author of the new nationwide bestseller, “Counterfeit Lies,” a novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.