Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reflections on September 2nd

At 9:00 A.M., local time, on September 2, 1945, on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, an event took place which marked a seminal turning point in human history--namely, the end of  World War II.  It was a war which had been marked by more death and carnage, more loss and injury, more misery and suffering, than had ever occurred before in all of human history.  The death and destruction had been capped by the use of the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both of which had unleashed forces and energies such as mankind had never before experienced.  Even General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the newly-appointed Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, who, as he would later state, knew war as few men then living knew it, had been deeply shocked and greatly sobered by what he had seen in the aftermath of the first two uses of nuclear weapons in all of recorded history.

It was in this spirit that MacArthur, to the admiration of even his harshest critics and detractors, planned and executed the Surrender Ceremonies in a manner that, to this day, stands as a shining example of grace, dignity, compassion, and magnanimity.  So it was that at 9:00 in the morning, on that fateful September 2nd, 1945, General MacArthur stepped up to a microphone and made the following statement:

"We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.

The issues involving divergent ideals and ideologies have been determined on the battlefields of the world, and hence are not for our discussion or debate.

Nor is it for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the peoples of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice, or hatred.

But rather it is for us, both victors and vanquished, to rise to that higher dignity which alone befits the sacred purposes we are about to serve, committing all of our peoples unreservedly to faithful compliance with the undertakings they are here formally to assume. It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past -- a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice. The terms and conditions upon which surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces is here to be given and accepted are contained in the Instrument of Surrender now before you.

As Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, I announce it my firm purpose, in the tradition of the countries I represent, to proceed in the discharge of my responsibilities with justice and tolerance, while taking all necessary dispositions to insure that the terms of surrender are fully, promptly, and faithfully complied with.

I now invite the representatives of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters to sign the Instrument of Surrender at the places indicated."

In just over 15 minutes, the surrender documents were signed by all of the representatives of the warring powers.  Moments later, General MacArthur concluded the ceremony with these words:

"Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed."

After the Japanese officials had left, General MacArthur stepped up to a different microphone than the one he had used earlier and broadcast a statement whose salient points remain just as applicable today as they were on that eventful day in 1945:

“My fellow countrymen:  Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death. The seas bear only commerce. Men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed. And, in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles, and the beaches, and in the deep waters of the Pacific, which marked the way. I speak for the unnamed brave millions homeward bound to take up the challenge of that future which they did so much to salvage from the brink of disaster.

As I look back on the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that He has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.

A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start, workable methods were found insofar as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blots out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.

We stand in Tokyo today reminiscent of our countryman, Commodore Perry, ninety-two years ago. His purpose was to bring to Japan an era of enlightenment and progress, by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world. But, alas, the knowledge thereby gained of western science was forged into an instrument of oppression and human enslavement. Freedom of expression, freedom of action, even freedom of thought, were denied through suppression of liberal education, through appeal to superstition, and through the application of force. We are committed by the Potsdam Declaration of Principles to see that the Japanese people are liberated from this condition of slavery. It is my purpose to implement this commitment just as rapidly as the armed forces are demobilized and other essential steps taken to neutralize the war potential.

The energy of the Japanese race, if properly directed, will enable expansion vertically rather than horizontally. If the talents of the race are turned into constructive channels, the county can lift itself from its present deplorable state into a position of dignity.

To the Pacific basin has come the vista of a new, emancipated world. Today, freedom is on the offensive, democracy is on the march. Today, in Asia as well as in Europe, unshackled peoples are tasting the full sweetness of liberty, the relief from fear.

In the Philippines, America has evolved a model for this new free world of Asia. In the Philippines, America has demonstrated that peoples of the East and peoples of the West may walk side by side in mutual respect and with mutual benefit. The history of our sovereignty there has now the full confidence of the East.

And so, my fellow countrymen, today I report to you that your sons and daughters have served you well and faithfully, with the calm, deliberate, determined fighting spirit of the American soldier and sailor, based upon a tradition of historical truth, as against the fanaticism of an enemy supported only by mythological fiction. Their spiritual strength and power has brought us through to victory. They are homeward bound—take care of them.”

It is a matter of record, as reported by numerous radio correspondents who were present at the time, that as the surrender ceremonies came to a close, the dark, depressing, forbidding layer of clouds which had hung over Tokyo Bay throughout the morning suddenly broke open, and bright shafts and beams of sunlight came streaming through the skies.  As at least one radio correspondent commented at that moment, it was as if God Himself were expressing His approval, and His relief that the single most destructive conflict mankind had ever inflicted upon itself had finally come to an end.

At this moment in history, the United States was at the very peak of its national power, just as Britain had been at the peak of its national power at the end of the First World War in 1918.  Sadly, since that time, both nations have been in a state of inexorable decline, due to their abandoning the moral and spiritual principles on which both of their governments were founded.  Scripture foretells that, unless our two peoples return to those same principles, our nations will suffer the greatest national punishment that any peoples have ever been required to undergo.  In this ever more turbulent and volatile period of mankind's existence, it is more important--nay, more essential--than ever before, that the Anglo-American family of nations heed that most eloquent warning which was sounded in 1903 by the Spanish philosopher and historian, Georges Santayana:  "THOSE WHO FAIL TO LEARN THE LESSONS OF HISTORY ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT THEM!"  May a just yet merciful God help our peoples to do just that!