From Bob Anderson, United States Veteran
In reflecting on my long and interesting life, I recall that only once, in a very minor way, had I ever been close to or participated in an event of national or international importance.
In the summer of 1945, I was stationed on the island of Tinian that, along with Saipan and Guam, is part of the Marianas and home to the air bases that carried the air war to Japan.
Some time in June or July of that summer, the 509th Bomb Group arrived on Tinian. Almost immediately there was a mystery surrounding their presence. They were housed in a fenced area patrolled by military police. They didn’t fraternize with anyone outside their own group and they were not scheduled to fly missions to Japan as were the crews of other groups on the island. Of course, if was only a short time until the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the reason for their presence became abundantly clear.
Shortly after Hiroshima was leveled, the second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki and the Japanese surrendered; but the surrender was not yet official. At this point, my group and others were sent on a “show of force” mission to the Tokyo area.
Hundreds of B-29’s dispatched and we flew over Tokyo Bay and the city of Tokyo in formation and at a very low altitude. We did not carry bombs but our turret guns were loaded and we were extremely cautious. We saw a few Japanese fighter planes, but they kept their distance and we returned to our bases without incident.
A few days later we were scheduled again to fly to Tokyo bay where we were able to observe some of the official surrender ceremony being held aboard the battleship USS Missouri. At our low altitude, General Douglas MacArthur and his entourage (including his good friend General Jonathon Wainwright, who had just recently been released from a prisoner of war camp in the Philippines), were plainly visible. MacArthur was informally dressed, but the Japanese contingent was in top hats and coattails.
We made a couple of passes over the Missouri and then proceeded to fly over the burned out city of Tokyo. It was a dreadful sight. Thousands of citizens had been killed in the fires that had destroyed the very flammable homes and buildings in which they lived and worked.
We completed the thousand-mile trip back to Tinian without incident, thankful that the war was over and the return home was in our near future.