It was a cloudy day on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay, Japan. A large Allied contingent had gathered over the preceding two weeks, enabling all parties involved in the War in the Pacific to attend the final surrender of Japan.
Hostilities had ended in Asia and the Pacific on 15 August 1945 and the Supreme Allied Commander, General Douglas Macarthur had planned for the surrender ceremony to take place on 2 September to allow ample time for all the allied representatives to arrive.
The ceremony took place onboard the battleship USS Missouri. The Australian contingent, led by General Sir Thomas Blamey, included representatives from the Royal Australian Navy, Rear Admiral George Moore and Commodore John Collins.
There were 10 Royal Australian Navy vessels in Tokyo Bay for the ceremony, HMA Ships Shropshire, Hobart (I), Bataan, Warramunga (I), Napier, Nizam, Ballarat (I), Cessnock (I), Ipswich (I) and Pirie (I).
Director Naval History at the Sea Power Centre - Australia, Mr John Perryman, said the war in the Pacific proved to be a challenging period for the Royal Australian Navy.
“Many of Canberra’s crew survived the Battle of Savo Island and went on to serve in her replacement, HMAS Shropshire. In Shropshire they took the fight to the enemy and were present in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945 to witness the official Japanese surrender.”
For the Royal Australian Navy, the Second World War had begun on 3 September 1939 in response to aggression by Nazi Germany, and later Italy, before expanding to the Asia-Pacific following Japan’s attack on the USA on 7 December 1941.
The long struggle that ensued saw the Royal Australian Navy’s numbers swell from 5440 in 1939 to a peak wartime strength of 36,976, including members of the Women’s Services. Similarly, the number of ships in the Royal Australian Navy fleet expanded from just 28 at the beginning of the war to 337 by 30 June 1945, by which time it was briefly the fourth largest Navy in the world.
During World War II, ships of the Royal Australian Navy saw service in all of the world’s oceans and in many of its seas.
Actions were fought that are today etched in the annals of the Royal Australian Navy as Battle Honours and Campaign Awards, ranging from service in Arctic waters and the constrained rivers and waterways of New Guinea, to the hotly contested waters of the Mediterranean and the Pacific.
Ships were lost and more than 2000 men and women of the Royal Australian Navy made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation during the war.
“The strength and commitment of those Australians in time of war is a worthy example to our nation today of what we can achieve when we work together for a common cause,” said Mr Perryman.