© US Navy
September 2, 1945 marked the end of World War II with the surrender of Japan. In order to mark the Japanese, the American naval aviation makes a last show of force above Tokyo Bay, where a Japanese delegation has just signed the act. Although impressive, this demonstration is only part of the projection capacity of the US Navy in 1945. This date also marks the end of battleships, which had become obsolete with the arrival of aircraft carriers and their force projection capability.
VE Day over Japan
After the heavy losses in Okinawa, the Allies plan the invasion of Japan by seeking to land nearly 2 million men, supported by a substantial armada. It was then that in the greatest secrecy, on August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States decided to use the atomic bomb. In view of the power of this new weapon, the Japanese government accepted the terms of surrender on August 15, 1945.
However, the formal ceremony does not take place until September 2 (VJ Day or Victory over Japan Day). In Tokyo Bay, more than 250 American, English, Dutch, New Zealand, Australian ships, etc., dropped anchor the day before. The ceremony takes place on the American battleship USS Missouri (BB-63, Iowa class). The Japanese delegation signs first, followed by representatives of the main allied countries. France is one of the signatory countries, through its representative, Lieutenant General (5S) Leclerc. The latter had already distinguished himself by freeing Paris and Strasbourg in particular. He will end the German campaign by capturing Hitler’s summer retreat (Eagle’s Nest).
A final show of power
Lots of devices…
After the end of the ceremony on the battleship, nearly 450 onboard aircraft flew over Tokyo Bay:
- F-6F Hellcat fighters
- F4AU Corsair fighter-bomber
- SB2C Helldiver dive bombers
- TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bombers
All of his aircraft are in multiple formations over the Missouri. The parade will even end with the passage of several US Air Force B-29 Superfortress bombers. This demonstration should make it possible to establish the position of the Allies against the few Japanese who are still reluctant.
… but only a small part of the American naval aviation!
Although the images and the few films seem impressive, these devices represent only a small part of the American naval aviation in the Pacific: the main force of the US Navy, the task force TF 38 was then sailing offshore. It then included 20 squadron aircraft carriers, 9 battleships, 25 cruisers and no less than 79 destroyers. There is no exact figure on the number of aircraft embarked but the most widespread estimate is more than 2,000 combat aircraft available. Many historians agree to rank this fleet among the most powerful in modern history. It is also necessary to add the other aircraft carriers of squadron deployed within smaller flotillas as well as the smaller light aircraft carriers.
The end of battleships
Nowadays, aircraft carriers have become a real instrument of power projection, as demonstrated by the US Navy but also the French Navy, the Royal Navy, etc. Conversely, the number of battleships will already be drastically reduced in 1950. The US Navy will be the last navy to include two battleships in active service (with all the same a period of deactivation, followed by modernization during reactivation) . The USS Missouri and the USS Wisconsin (BB-63 and 64, Iowa class) will fire their last rounds of 406 mm guns on Iraqi troops in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. It should be noted that the plate commemorating the surrender on the Missouri (image below) was specially removed before it left for Kuwait, to avoid any possible damage. Once the operation was completed, the plate was returned precisely to its original deck. Like the other 3 Iowa-class ships, the USS Missouri has become a museum ship.
World War II US Navy Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier Japan United States United States