Tag Archives: VJ day

Vale, Cape Matapan Vet, Prince Philip

A child whose lineage included the Danish, Russian and Greek royal families, Prince Philip of Greece was raised in France, exiled from his country of birth, speaking English, practicing Greek Orthodoxy, and identifying as Danish. When WWII came by, the young prince without a country entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and spent the war with the Royal Navy, serving as Philip Mountbatten. After a stint as a midshipman on convoy duty on the battleship HMS Ramillies, he was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Valiant in the very active Mediterranean with the rank of a humble sub-lieutenant.

Fighting in the battle for (withdrawal from) Crete and the battle of Cape Matapan, he later shipped to the destroyer HMS Wallace for more convoy duty and the Husky landings on Sicily, where the then-lieutenant was XO. Then came service as XO on the new W-class tin can HMS Whelp (R37), from whose deck he watched the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. Notably, Whelp was the first Allied ship to enter Sagami Bay on 27 August, leading the way for the battleships HMS Duke of York, USS Iowa, and USS Missouri.

In his own words, Philip on WWII.

Even after his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, he continued to serve, graduating from the Naval Staff College at Greenwich, serving as the first lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Chequers, and, as an LCDR, commanding the frigate HMS Magpie.

Although he left active duty in 1951, he continued in royal duties until 2017 which included having a wardroom stocked with honorary Colonel-in-Chief uniforms for various Commonwealth regiments which he visited and inspected regularly, as well as a number of similar general and admiral appointments. A cargo cult in the Pacific even worshipped him as a god, apparently.

An unreformed sonofabitch who was not a fan of political correctness (To a British trekker in Papua New Guinea, 1998: “You managed not to get eaten then?”), gun control (“If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean are you going to ban cricket bats?”), international niceties (greeting German chancellor Helmut Kohl as “Reichskanzler”) or the Bolsheviks ( “I would very much like to go to Russia – although the bastards murdered half my family”), his one-liners and “gaffes” which probably weren’t are legend.

RIP HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“The long and bitter struggle…”

Official caption: “Victory Carving-First Division Marines on Okinawa gather around Corporal John Dulin as he wields a Japanese samurai sword to cut a VJ cake that he baked for the celebration. That isn’t sugar cake though, the icing is made of starch.” From the Marion Fischer Collection (COLL/858), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

“On board all naval vessels at sea and in port, and at our many island bases in the Pacific, there is rejoicing and thanksgiving. The long and bitter struggle, which Japan started so treacherously on the seventh of December, 1941, is at an end,” began Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz’s address to the combined Pacific Fleet on Sept. 2, 1945, as World War II officially ended, some 75 years ago today.

While today is ostensibly a Warship Wednesday, and logically I should do the USS Missouri, I like to dedicate WW to covering little-known ships and, on this day, Mighty Mo will have her story told far and wide by more mainstream sources than I. This includes a live stream of the anniversary celebration on her decks today.

With that being said, let us take to the sky with a great video on the 75th Anniversary Warbird overflights in Hawaii.

No more posts today, Happy Surrender Day +75. Reflect on those lost. Salute those left.

The eerie quiet before the end, 74 years ago

Pre-Surrender Nocturne Tokyo Bay.”

Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Standish Backus; 1945. Depicting the old forts at Futtsu Saki, a narrow point of land jutting into the eastern side of Uraga Strait at the entrance to Tokyo Bay, a burnt-out Japanese destroyer, and the eeriness of the moonlight:

(NHHC: 88-186-Z)

The artist’s notes:

The forts at Futtsu Saki had to be approached and demobilized early on the morning of 30 August 1945. No landings from the sea had yet occurred and we did not know what sort of reception we would receive from the Japanese. From past experience, it was not expected to be healthy in all respects. Was there a division of troops in those forts waiting to mow us down as we hit the beach? Its very silence, the haunted quantity of the burnt-out Japanese destroyer, and the eeriness of the moonlight gave us all a foreboding.

The forts were, in fact, well-defended, by a full regiment but the artillery on hand was old. One of the first coastal defense forts in the country, the batteries used 15cm Krupp guns in steel cupolas and several emplaced Model 1890 Osaka-made (Armstrong-Whitworth designed) 28cm howitzers that the Japanese had at least twice dismounted and used as siege guns (at both Port Arthur and Tsingtao) back when they were still relevant.

Japan coast defense 280mm L/10 howitzers nicknamed “Osaka Babies” by the Japanese and “Roaring Trains” by the Russians when they were dismounted and used as siege artillery at Port Arthur in 1904. While dated, these beasts could still ruin a ship that came within their reach. 

It was a pucker factor for sure.

As related by Backus in his painting “The First Wave on Japan”

Watercolor on Paper; by Standish Backus; 1945; Unframed Dimensions 16H X 23W. (NHHC: 88-186-B)
“Futtsu Peninsula, Tokyo Bay: Seal-like Higgins boats create their own heavy seas as they carry Marines of the 2nd Battalion 4th Regiment ashore for the first test of whether the Japanese will resist or abide by negotiated surrender terms. It is tense for the next five minutes. The Japanese would logically wait until the Marines were at the shoreline to open a withering fire that could be a massacre. Since there could be no preparatory bombing or bombardment, it had to be done the hard way by head-on assault. The main group of boats landed here at Fort #2 while a small group landed at Fort #1 at the end of the spit beyond the hulk of a burned-out Japanese destroyer. The setting moon, which stood watch over the landing of the boats from the transport, is now relieved by the misty rays of the early sun.”

But the Forts were captured with no bloodshed on either side.

The first landing craft carrying Marines of 2/4 touched the south shore of Futtsu Saki at 0558; two minutes later, the first transport plane rolled to a stop on the runway at Atsugi, and the occupation of Japan was underway. In both areas, the Japanese had followed their instructions to the letter. On Futtsu Saki the coastal guns and mortars had been rendered useless, and only the bare minimum of maintenance personnel, 22 men, remained to make a peaceful turnover of the forts and batteries. By 0845, the battalion had accomplished its mission and was reembarking for the Yokosuka landing, now scheduled for 0930.

Members of the Yokosuka Occupation Force, 2/4 Marines, inspect a Japanese fortification on Futtsu Saki. [USMC 134741]. Besides the Marines, the landing force was accompanied by 10 U.S. Navy gunners mates familiar with large naval pieces to disable the captured guns.