64 years ago

Published 9:06 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sixty-four years ago Sept. 2, the Japanese surrendered to Allied forces on board the USS Missouri, ending World War II.

For millions of Americans and other Allies, the event was a jubilant end to a war filled with horror all over the globe.

Holmes Small, now a Suffolk resident, was perhaps one of the people happiest to hear of the surrender that day — he was on his way to Japan when the report came over.

“I don’t know exactly where we were,” Small said. Small, who was drafted into the Army in 1943, and his crew were transporting 1,500 Japanese prisoners from New Guinea when they received word of the surrender.

“All of us were delighted,” Small said. “We started firing rockets up in the air … It was like a celebration.”

At the end of a long war, the celebration was partially for the knowledge that the war was over, but also for the impending trip back to the United States.

“I knew that it wouldn’t be long until they’d be sending me home,” Small said.

The prisoners, Small said, took the news in stride.

When the crew got back to Japan with the prisoners, it was about a month after the surrender had occurred, Small said. The majority of the Japanese people were calm and friendly, Small said.

“Some of them would cut their eyes at you,” Small said.

About six weeks after the ship’s safe arrival back in Japan, Small was sent home, his military service over.

Robert Ballard, another Suffolk resident, still was serving in Marseilles, France with the “Black Panther” division when he heard of the surrender.

“It tickled me to death,” Ballard said. “There was a lot of whooping and hollering, shooting rifles in the air.”

After the fighting in Europe was over, Ballard’s unit was tasked with helping to load ships with men and supplies that were to be sent to the Pacific theater. Ballard gave his men strict orders not to tell those on the voyage where they were headed, because “they might not go.”

Ballard had been drafted away from Virginia Tech to serve the Allied forces, and he was glad to hear the war was over.

“We were mighty glad that it ended,” he said.