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Hawaii governor signs on for 75th anniversary plans celebrating end of WWII

Gov. David Ige (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency/Released)

At the same spot on the battleship USS Missouri where Gen. Douglas MacArthur signed his signature to Japan’s surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, Gov. David Ige on Wednesday sat at a similar table to kick off planning for events celebrating those who won the hard-fought peace and paved the way for an enduring reconciliation.

The 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, with the theme of “Salute Their Service, Honor Their Hope,” will be commemorated Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 on Oahu with educational forums, galas, anticipated vintage warbird flyovers and a ceremony adjacent to the Battleship Missouri Memorial expected to be attended by 5,000 to 10,000 people.

The end of the war will also be memorialized on Victory in Europe Day on May 8 with ceremonies and over 100 World War II fighters and bombers flying over the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“This celebration, this commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of the war is really an opportunity for all of us to remember those in the greatest generation for their courage, sacrifice and commitment to a free and vibrant community and economy all across the world,” Ige said aboard the Missouri.

Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and an honorary co-chairman with Ige for the Hawaii events, said, “What strikes me here, and what strikes me about the 75th commemoration, is not what ended here on this deck, but actually the beginning, the beginning of a rules-based international order that literally freed hundreds of millions of people from tyranny and lifted billions out of poverty.”

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World War II was the deadliest conflict in history.

Between 50 million and 80 million people — most of them civilians — are believed to have died.

The 887-foot Missouri, the last U.S. battleship to be built, was the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender in Tokyo Bay.

More than 2,000 sailors and Marines jammed aboard the ship for the historic ceremony at which MacArthur said, “We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.”

The Missouri is bow-to-bow with the sunken USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. The ships represent the start and end of the war for the U.S.

Ige announced the blue-ribbon leadership committee responsible for creating and managing commemoration events with support from the Pearl Harbor historic partners, government, business and community leaders and sponsors.

A budget of about $2.4 million is estimated for the events with fundraising starting and congressional assistance anticipated.

At least 20 veterans who were on the Missouri are expected to attend, and the committee is looking for more.

A focus also is on bringing in Native Hawaiians and Japanese-, Filipino- and Chinese-

American World War II vets and incorporating neighbor island war efforts into the commemoration.

According to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, 20,000 pilots trained at Puunene field on Maui. The Von Tempsky family, whose ranch bordered the training field, provided recreational outlets for the troops.

The hope is to have a couple dozen World War II warbirds, including B-25 Mitchell bombers, for a “Legacy of Peace Aerial Parade,” but the logistics, cost and time needed to get the aircraft to Hawaii are daunting, officials said.

“We do envision it,” said Elissa Lines, executive director of the aviation museum. “We’re not sure yet if we can make it happen and we are working closely with our military partners to see if there is an opportunity to bring some of the World War II historic aircraft to the Hawaii area.”

B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-29 Superfortresses, B-25 Mitchells, P-51 Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts and F4U Corsairs are expected to take to the skies for the East Coast flyover.

Hundreds of bombers and other aircraft overflew the USS Missouri — a bit late as it turned out — at the Sept. 2, 1945, surrender ceremony in a show of the overwhelming force the United States was able to bring to bear in World War II.

It was not the only glitch in the ceremony.

The British were tasked with providing a suitable surrender table and arrived shortly before the ceremony with a beautifully-carved mahogany table. But the table was too small for the surrender documents.

A folding table from the crew mess was hastily grabbed and covered with a green tablecloth. It was at one of the Missouri’s World War II mess tables, covered in a green tablecloth, that Ige signed a proclamation Wednesday — recharting a course from victory and surrender to reconciliation and peace.

Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, said the Sept. 2 ceremony will be held on the big pier next to the battleship because of the crowds expected. It will be free and open to the public, he said.

“We’re not going to re-create the (surrender) ceremony,” Carr said. “We want everyone who participated in that ceremony to participate in our ceremony and sit shoulder-to-shoulder — not as victors and vanquished but as people who brought the worst conflict in the history of man to a close.”

Lines said the Pearl Harbor event will be unique. A website is at 75thwwiicommemoration.org.

“There are commemoration events that are going to happen around the world — but this place matters. It is significant,” she said. “This is the only place in the world where you can stand on an American World War II battlefield with the Missouri, where the war ended, facing the Arizona, where the war began. These two events changed the world.”

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© 2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser