It lasted twenty-three minutes. Someone actually stood with a timepiece, probably a pocket-watch, and recorded when each event occurred.
And someone signed below the line.
Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave was a war hero from the first world war, the recipient of two Distinguished Service Orders and the French Croix de Guerre, and the author of the book Afterthoughts of Armageddon recounting his experiences in the Great War. On the fateful day in 1945, he was acting as the Canadian liaison officer in Australia , and for some reason was the only Canadian military officer of sufficient rank1 within shouting distance of the USS Missouri, the ship on which the signing was to take place.
I'll return to the Colonel in a bit.
The Second World War, clearly the most ruinous — and the most significant — war ever fought by Homo sapiens sapiens, was not a very geographically homogeneous affair. While the Germans — aided by the Italians — were pitting their Heer, Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe (army, navy and airforce) against the Brits and the Russians in the European fronts, the Japanese had their hands full with the Americans in the Pacific Theatre. It was all their fault really; near the end of 1941 they decided to try and bomb the Yankees into submission by successfully managing to enter Pearl Harbour into history books. By the time US troops were landing at Iwo Jima, Japanese strategists must have been looking for a save-load option. However, to the credit of their armed forces and to the ruin of their civilians, they refused to surrender. And thanks to the initiative taken by Leo Szilard, and a certain Albert Einstein which resulted in Pa taking action, US President Harry S. Truman had the means at his disposal to bring down kamikaze upon the Japanese.
Which he did. Twice.
|The US copy|
|The Japanese delegation|
Well, all but over.
As I mentioned previously, the second page of the document would contain the signatures. Each signatory would be required to sign above a line, below which his designation was provided. For example, General MacArthur signed above the words "Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces", while Foreign Minister Shigemitsu signed above the words "By Command and in4 behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government". Our protagonist, Colonel Cosgrave, was required to sign above the line above the words "Dominion of Canada Representative".
Which he did. Splendidly.
On the US copy.
Right after the signing, the Japanese spotted the error, and pointed it out to General Sutherland, Chief-of-Staff to General MacArthur. An ordinary man would have been well within his rights, at that particular moment, to reasonably panic.
Sutherland instead took out his pen.
He then sat down at the table, and proceeded to scratch out the designations of all the representatives following Cosgrave and rewrote them, in all-caps, in the lines below. He then handed the historic document, all penned up, back to the Japanese. Who, justifiably, were not amused. So Sutherland took it back and proceeded to sign his initials against every correction. This time, the Japanese had no further complaints.
No one knows what was going through Colonel Lawrence Cosgrave's mind at that particular moment.
A mighty air-armada celebrated the signing. History's bloodiest war was finally over.
Hiro and Naga, war veterans, still meet at the local watering hole, share a drink, and maintain the same stunned silence. Seventy Years.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20121019041023/http://www.cbc.ca/news/reportsfromabroad/ellwand/20060427.html ↩
- Someone had a really good pocketwatch. ↩
- Radios, presumably. ↩
- Seriously? "in behalf of"? I really think this should have been "on behalf of", given this. ↩
- Who truly had one of the most impressive designation-name combinations I have come across : Général de Corps d'Armée Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque. ↩