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WWII veteran Larry Herrin Jr. witnessed historic Japanese surrender in 1945

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay. Behind Gen. MacArthur are Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright and Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival, September 2, 1945.
November 22, 2017

Larry Herrin Jr. sat at his table in his Central El Paso home, flipping through papers full of memories as he talked of his military service during the latter half of World War II.

Now 90 years old, the El Paso native entered the Navy at the young age of 17 on Dec. 6, 1944. “I talked my dad into letting me enlist,” he said, adding he cut short his schooling at El Paso Tech to go off to boot camp in San Diego.

He ended up in Sumar, the Philippines, assigned to the transport ship USS Ancon that operated between Manila and Subic Bay, practicing to invade Japan. “We were taking troops to Subic Bay and they would hit the shore, hit the beach and practice,” he said.

The training proved unnecessary. On Aug. 15, 1945, it was announced that the Japanese had sued for peace following the detonation of two atomic bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Later that month, the USS Ancon stopped in Okinawa to pick up members of the media and dignitaries and transported them to the formal surrender ceremony that ended World War II. Four months earlier, Germany had signed the instrument of surrender, ending the war in Europe.

Recalling the events of 72 years ago, Herrin, who was a baker III class, recalled ending his shift on the USS Ancon at 3 a.m. Sunday morning, Sept. 2, 1945. He had turned 18 years old.

Off duty, he got up around 7:30 a.m., put on his dress blues and went to the stern of the USS Ancon and sat on a drum to peer through field glasses at the surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri, anchored a short distance away. The news media and dignitaries were gathered on a deck above him.

“All the ships were lined up facing Japan. They thought they might have a bunch of suicide boats attack the surrender,” He said. The only Japanese warships he saw while in Tokyo Bay were five or six submarines docked there, but no Japanese soldiers.

“I remember the Japanese coming up in some boats. They went aboard the ship. They went around and stood around for about 30 minutes before they commenced the ceremony.”

He recalled seeing the crew of the USS Missouri lined up on different parts of the superstructure of the ship to witness the ceremony. “I had a bird’s-eye view of the whole surrender,” he said.

“I had a bird’s-eye view of the whole surrender.”

Herrin said he spent another seven months in Japan after the war ended. Upon his return to El Paso, he finished his high school education at El Paso Tech and served in the Naval Reserve until 1964, retiring with the rank of chief petty officer. He received the Naval Reserve Meritorious Service Medal, among other decorations. In 1954, he married La Moine Celum of El Paso and they had four children. He worked for Chevron in El Paso, where he retired after 35 years.

Occasionally, Herrin attends local war anniversary events and has traveled to Hawaii several times to visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, where he is given special treatment as a Navy veteran. “I have access to anything on that ship. I just have to tell them.”

For his service and sacrifice, Herrin and other World War II veterans will serve as the grand marshals and will be recognized during the 81st annual FirstLight Federal Credit Union Sun Bowl Parade on Thanksgiving. About a dozen veterans are expected to participate as grand marshals, parade organizers said.


© 2017 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.