70 years ago last week, the battleship U.S.S. Missouri was anchored in Tokyo Bay and the surrender of Japan was signed on its decks, ending World War II. Ray Morse was one of more than 2,000 crewmen aboard the Missouri when representatives of Japan signed that nation’s Instrument of Surrender.
Morse watched them come aboard, but said he didn’t fully appreciate the significance.
“I was an 18-year-old kid. I was only about … never been more than 100 miles away from home, so it was a real … I probably didn’t even realize the historical event that was going on at that time,” Morse told Missouri.
Morse was an Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class on September 2, 1945. He remembers hearing the announcement that Japan was going to surrender, days before the Missouri entered the Bay.
“When they said that’d happened, I remember being out on deck on the ship, and when that announcement came over the P.A. system, you never saw so many happy people in your life,” said Morse. “I was one of ’em!”
Many Japanese were demoralized by the surrender, but Morse said the country’s contingent was received respectfully aboard the Missouri.
“I saw the Japanese come aboard, I saw the Russians come aboard,” said Morse. “It was all very formal. There was nobody yelling at ’em or cussin’ ’em or anything like that. It was all a very formal occasion.”
He said the actual signing of the Instrument of Surrender took only about 20 minutes.
The Missouri conducted more missions after the surrender, including returning the body of a Turkish Ambassador to his home country. It was 1946 before Morse returned to his then-hometown of Jackson, Michigan. By then, the fervor over the surrender had died down.
Morse now lives in Huntington, West Virginia. Last week he was one of 11 former U.S.S. Missouri crewmen to take part in a ceremony aboard the ship where it is anchored in Hawaii, marking the anniversary. This week he will join other former shipmates in a reunion in South Carolina.
Morse says he’s been overwhelmed by the attention he’s received in the past week.
“I have never had my picture taken more than it was, shaken hands, hugged, interviewed,” said Morse.