September 2, 1945: Freedom at last
Every year on August 15, my parents hung out the flag to commemorate the end of the War in the Pacific. When Emperor Hirohito actually surrendered, on August 15, 1945, my mother Netty, Paula and I were still imprisoned in camp Halmahera in Semarang and were unaware of what was happening in the world. Mamma crossed out the days on her little calendar every night; the last day she crossed out was August 22.
Women and children still died during that week, not knowing the war was over. In other camps it took sometimes longer than that. But in every camp, when they heard the message, the prisoners experienced the most emotional time in their lives singing the Dutch National Anthem “Wilhelmus.” The most wonderful news for me, a little girl of almost seven, was that our Pappa would soon be home. Everything else just went by me.
On September 2, 1945 the Japanese Contingent signed the Instrument of Surrender together with representatives of all the Allied countries, on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. That important date, when the end of the war became official, signed and dated, went by me completely for many years.
Until 1995, when I was invited to the 50th commemoration of that event. I stood on the deck of the “Mighty Mo”, anchored in the harbor of Bremerton, WA, on the actual spot where the document was signed, and I walked over to the bow where three 16” gun barrels pointed straight ahead. It was then that I realized the immense significance of that moment, fifty years ago, and I wept. My family had survived. I owed my life and my freedom to countless men and women who had fought the bloody war and won.