National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day 2017

Today is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day on this, the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan in the Philippines, 1942.  President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation for this day, which is viewable at:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/07/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-april-9-2017-national-former-prisoner

A number of American Airmen shot down over Osaka became POWs in World War II.  This included B-29 crews, USAAF fighter pilots as well as US Navy/Marine Corps aviators.  Unfortunately a number of them were executed as well.

There were also a number of American servicemen from other battles of the war who were kept as POWs in eight separate camps in/around Osaka.   See image at:  http://mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/fukuoka/fuk_01_fukuoka/fukuoka_01/OsaArea.htm

Information on Osaka Cam #1 at:  http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/osaka/chikko/chikko-main.htm

There is no handy list of all the B-29s, Mustang fighters or Navy aircraft lost in the vicinity of Osaka and surviving crew members taken captive with ultimate fate, nor of those POWs in Osaka camps and how many of them survived their POW and wartime Osaka (e.g. aerial bombing) experience.  Perhaps someday when this web log writer has the time to research it more of this picture around Osaka will be visible.

So there is a POW story yet to be told for Americans in Osaka, and their service and sacrifice worth discovering, remembering and honoring.

On this National Former POW Recognition Day, 2017, let us render a hand salute to those who served and sacrificed as a POW for our country.  These former captives deserve our recognition and appreciation.

P.S.  Regrets to all readers for the absence of new material in recent months.  A sudden family health crisis required priority attention and still does, so updates will likely be slow for the foreseeable future.  But if you have found this web log, please do look through all the material posted already and you will surely find something else that is interesting.

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Missing Over Tokyo

It’s the name of a private project that seeks to document the B-29 campaign against Imperial Japan. In the words of the people working on this project:

“Missing Over Tokyo” is part of an upcoming documentary series about the end of WWII. We follow the 20th Air Force and their role in ending the Pacific War.

Missing Over Tokyo 1
B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombers of the Saipan-based 497th Bomb Group (VH) are depicted high in the sky over Tokyo, Japan, in this still from the “Missing Over Tokyo” documentary project video excerpt on Vimeo.  (Courtesy “Missing Over Tokyo” project)

Representing many, Episode “Missing Over Tokyo” is the story of crews lost over Japan, and the 70-year search to find out what happened to them by the families they left behind.”

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A B-29 bomber pilot points out attacking Imperial Japanese fighters in this still from the “Missing Over Tokyo” project film clip “Under Fire…” shared on YouTube. (Courtesy “Missing Over Tokyo” project)

Source: Video clip titled “Under Fire,” on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZmJv4gRvqA

Although it doesn’t connect directly to the air war over Osaka, it is important to note the incredible efforts in this project to digitally render an approximation of what air combat in the skies over Japan was like in 1944 – 1945. The same types of aircraft seen in clips of the project released thus far, B-29 Superfortress, Ki-45 Toryu (NICK), Ki-44 Shoki (TOJO), were involved over Osaka and in other geographic locations besides Tokyo as the strategic air campaign and air defense of the Empire played out in the last year of the war.

Missing Oer Tokyo 2
An Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (Allied codename NICK) takes the plunge on an attack through a B-29 formation over Japan in this still from the “Missing Over Tokyo” project video film clip on Vimeo. (Courtesy “Missing Over Tokyo” project)

An extended length (one minute 56 seconds) clip of the project also shows some of the computer generated image (CGI) techniques used to achieve the spectacular visual effects, under the title “Robert D. Perry digital animation reel 2015,” on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/141754025

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High over the Tokyo metro area, an IJAAF Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (TOJO) pilot makes his approach against an intruding B-29 bomber formation in this Missing Over Tokyo” documentary project video clip still.  (Courtesy “Missing Over Tokyo” project)

To follow the latest updates in the project, see the “Missing Over Tokyo” page in Facebook, at: https://www.facebook.com/MissingOverTokyo

This being a private venture, the developers are in need of support to realize the completion of the project which has no estimated completion date at this time. They are preparing a crowdfunding campaign to raise money and will need help in promoting awareness of the project to prospective supporters.

They will thus need help from people engaged in the broader community of interest in the strategic air war over Imperial Japan. Veterans, family and friends of the same, historians, aviation or members of the public with such interest – if any reader of this web log or anyone you may know is willing to help, contact the “Missing Over Tokyo” team by sending a message in Facebook. You can even simply repost information on the project into pertinent discussion groups, message boards, emails, and help make conversations happen in Facebook groups.

Boeing B-29
With one wing gone, a B-29 falls in flames after a direct hit by enemy flak over Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)

So, hats off to the people working the “Missing Over Tokyo” project, and best wishes to them as they endeavor to digitally document this important part of the history of the Pacific War. If we can remember what happened then, contemplate the historical lessons from the terrible death and destruction on the vast scale of total war, it will honor the service and sacrifice of all those involved, and perhaps help humanity to avoid similar cataclysmic conflict in the future.

The Blackened Canteen on Pearl Harbor Day

The US Navy News Service reported on a 6 December 2015 ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with a B-29 connection from the “Blackened Canteen.”

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The Blackened Canteen from a B-29 crew crash site in Shizuoka, Japan, with a recessed hand print of a fallen Airman.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Davy Huffman)

“World War II veterans from the United States and Japan joined in silent prayer and poured bourbon whiskey into Pearl Harbor’s hallowed waters during the Blackened Canteen ceremony in observation of Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 6.”

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American and Japanese veterans pour bourbon whiskey into the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor as a way to observe and celebrate the continued peace and celebrate the continued peace and reconciliation between the two nations during a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the 74th Commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day, Dec 6, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Hubenthal)

The canteen used in the ceremony at Pearl Harbor came from an aircrewman killed in action aboard one of two B-29 Superfortress bombers that collided during a combat mission by the 314th Bombardment Wing against Shizuoka, Japan, on the night of 19/20 June 1945. It was Twentieth Air Force Mission Number 212.

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B-29 P-42 of the 39th Bomb Group (VH) in formation.  (Courtesy of Col. Michael Dickey, grandson of Sgt. Howard V. Dickey, 61st Camera Tech, via 39th.org)

P-42 in formation
Photo courtesy of Col. Michael Dickey, grandson of Sgt Howard V. Dickey, 61st Camera Tech.

One of the aircraft, Martin-Omaha-built B-29-30-MO Superfortress serial number #42-65373, was from the 39th Bomb Group (Very Heavy), 62nd Bomb Squadron, with crew P-42 (Hopkins Crew). The entire crew of 11 airmen was killed in action.

crew42-a
Crew 42, the Hopkins, Crew, probably Stateside before going overseas with the 62nd Bomb Squadron of the 39th Bomb Group (VH).  (Courtesy Mr. Richard Kelso, son-in-law of Lt. Col. James H. Thompson, via 39th.org)

The other aircraft, Boeing B-29-65-BW Superfortress serial number 44-69881, was from the 29th Bomb Group (Very Heavy), 52nd Bomb Squadron. The entire Everdon crew of 11 airmen, plus one observer aboard, was killed in action.

everdon-crew-a
The Everdon Crew, probably at their airfield in the Mariana Islands, with the 52nd Bomb Squadron of the 29th Bomb Group (VH).  (Courtesy Mr. Joe Chovelak, 29th BG Historian, via 39th.org)

World War II P-51 Mustang pilot Jerry Yellin, who participated in the strategic air war against Japan from his airfield on Iwo Jima, wrote a book that was published in 2008 titled The Blackened Canteen, which offers an in depth look at this story.

The Blackened Canteen cover
(Cover photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

 

The Blackened Canteen is a poignant B-29 campaign artifact which has generated a ripple effect outward from a crash site in Shizuoka. It has enabled some of those in and affected by the strategic air war over Japan to find closure, and/or reconciliation as they grapple with the searing experience that it was. It may offer many others occasion to think about conflict and war, past and present, and hopefully help us to avoid such deadly and destructive clashes in the future.

References

U.S., Japanese WWII Vets honor fallen with Blackened Canteen spirits, at: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=92295

Mission Summary for Mission 212, at: http://www.20thaf.org/missions/212.htm

20th Air Force bomb group links, at: http://www.20thaf.org/groups/20thorg.htm

39th Bomb Group Mission Date: 19-20 June 1945, at: http://39th.org/39th/history/missions/mission30.htm

Hopkins Crew listing, at: http://39th.org/39th/aerial/62nd/crew42.html

Everson Crew listing, at: http://www.29bg.com/planeinfo.cfm?pid=20

Everdon Crew Picture, at:  http://www.39th.org/39th/aerial/62nd/crew42a.html

“A somber ritual upon a mountaintop,” at: http://www.pacaf.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/377/Article/593104/a-somber-ritual-upon-a-mountaintop.aspx

“Airmen honor fallen at annual B-29 ceremony,” at: http://www.yokota.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123352991

Joint Memorial Service in Shizuoka City, at: http://www.39th.org/39th/aerial/62nd/crew42a.html

B-29 42-65373, 65373 (39th BG, 62nd BS) collided in midair with B-29 44-69881 Jun 20, 1945 and crashed into Pacific while on mission to Shizuoka, Japan. MACR 14833. All 11 crew killed. At: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1942_3a.html

B-29 44-69881, 69881 (29th BG, 52nd BS) collided in midair with B-29 42-65373 on mission to Shizuoka Jun 20, 1945. A11 12 crew killed. At: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1944_4.html

Yellin, Jerry, The Blackened Canteen, at: http://www.amazon.com/Blackened-Canteen-JERRY-YELLIN/dp/1421890186

And at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blackened-canteen-jerry-yellin/1102252756#productInfoTabs

Jerry Yellin website, at: http://captainjerryyellin.com/

Remembering the Airmen of the Twentieth Air Force on Veterans Day, 11 November 2015

Today is Veterans Day, when we honor the Veterans of all our wars, the men and women who served in our armed forces, past and present.

The personnel of the Twentieth Air Force who participated in the strategic air campaign against Imperial Japan, which included missions against Osaka, were but one element of the armed forces brought to bear against Japanese militarism in the Pacific. Just over 70 years ago, at peak strength on 31 August 1945, Twentieth Air Force had 15,914 officers and 85,551 enlisted men assigned for a total of 101, 465 personnel on the numbered air force’s roster.

19th Bomb Group Superforts over Japan in 1945 - note Fujiyama in background.  Of note, the 19th Bomb Group was based at Clark Field in the Philippines when the war began in December of 1941.  (Twentieth Air Force Association,  Photo Courtesy of Ken Minsch (330th BG))
19th Bomb Group Superforts over Japan in 1945 – note Fujiyama in background. Of note, the 19th Bomb Group was based at Clark Field in the Philippines when the war began in December of 1941. (Twentieth Air Force Association,
Photo Courtesy of Ken Minsch (330th BG))

Of those personnel, there were 3,415 casualties in the air campaign, including 576 who died, 433 wounded and evacuated, and 2,406 missing in action, interred (e.g. in the Soviet Union), or who became prisoners of war. These casualties were largely from the 319 B-29 aircrews lost in combat or accidents during the war.

So on this Veterans Day we remember the service and sacrifice of the members of the Twentieth Air Force. Their contribution to the war in the Pacific helped speed an end to a long, bloody and costly global war.
References

United States Air Force Statistical Digest World War II, at: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a542518.pdf

Image from Twentieth Air Force Association, at: http://www.20thaf.org/

B-29 “Doc” Engine Start & Testing

“Doc,” as the B-29 now at the old Boeing plant in Wichita, Kansas, is known, underwent an engine test on 18 September 2015. It was the latest step in a long effort to make a second B-29 flyable. The world’s only flyable B-29 is “Fifi” of the Commemorative Air Force in Texas.

Although “Doc,” a Boeing B-29-70-BW Superfortress, serial number 44-69972, rolled off the production line there in Wichita in March, 1945, the bomber did not see combat service in World War II.  A total of 1,644 B-29’s were produced at Boeing’s Wichita plant, one of five factories that turned out B-29s during the war.

Postwar service included radar calibration work from July, 1951, in a squadron that named its airplanes after the seven dwarfs of Snow White fame. After getting the name “Doc,” the aircraft later performed target towing duties from May, 1955 until March, 1956, when it became a target out on the Navy’s China Lake testing range in California along with other B-29’s deemed excess those many years ago.

A derelict and neglected "Doc" in China Lake.  (Courtesy Doc's Friends)
A derelict and neglected “Doc” in China Lake. (Courtesy Doc’s Friends)

After 42 years in the desert, in 1998 “Doc: was removed from the range to begin a long restoration effort by very dedicated volunteers.

The 18 September 2015 engine test went on about 30 minutes. A reluctant No. 2 engine refused to start after multiple tries, but finally, past the 27 minute mark in the video below it roared to life and joined the others in a chorus of Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone twin-row, air cooled, supercharged, radial engines with 18 cylinders. You can see the whole test run, or view which portions you like, at:

And so, 70 years after the guns fell silent and the bombs stopped dropping in the Pacific, a second B-29 is getting prepared to fly. Boeing made 3,970 of these aircraft, which served from 1942 to 1960. It will be a living echo of the past, and that titanic global conflict which is World War II. May the sound of “Doc’s” engines remind peace-loving people of the terrible cost of war, so they might urge their leaders and influence special interests beating the war drum not to pull the trigger again without a very compelling, defensible and justified reason…
References

B-29 Superfortress, Wikipedia page at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_B-29_Superfortress

Joe Baugher USAAF Serial numbers, 1944, at: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1944_4.html

“Doc” at: http://www.b-29doc.com/

“Fifi” at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFI_%28aircraft%29

National POW MIA Recognition Day 2015

Friday, 18 September 2015. National POW MIA Recognition Day in the United States.

pow_mia_poster_2015

From the Defense POW MIA Accounting Agency, this information on the observance:

“Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans’ facilities. It is traditionally observed on the third Friday in September each year. This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

The flag is to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.”

There is no current summary readily available of American POWs or MIAs as related to the aerial missions flown against Osaka in World War II. That is a research project of some detail to accomplish.

But as this is the anniversary year of the end of World War II, perhaps one example will suffice, as related to the massacre of fifty POWs by the Kempetai, the feared Japanese military secret police.

There were many POW camps in and around Osaka during World War II, as the listing at this link will disclose in a simple review:
https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/prisoners-of-war-of-the-japanese-1939-1945

But the worst for any POW anywhere in Japanese-controlled territory was to be a prisoner of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Kempeitai, roughly similar to the dreaded Gestapo of Nazi Germany.

For airmen involved in the air campaign against Japan, those of the B-29 Superfortress were considered “special prisoners” by the Japanese due to the devastating nature of some of the B-29 air raids, especially the urban incendiary attacks. They were not accorded the same rights as “regular” POWs, in fact they had no rights according to their captors.

The Imperial Rescript of Emperor Hirohito was broadcast far and wide across the Japanese empire at 12 noon Tokyo time on 15 August 1945. In it the Emperor commanded his “good and loyal subjects” to refrain from “rash” acts and accept surrender.

Unfortunately for a number of POWs in Osaka, the announcement triggered an insubordinate and violent reaction at the Osaka Kempeitai headquarters. Some 50 American airmen were beheaded by enraged Kempeitai members who took out their anger and their shame on the hapless airmen.

Information on this tragic event is obscure. A comment posted on a discussion board on 24 May 2015 by a fellow with the title of Crater Layer, made the following remarks which seem to offer some insight into the tragic event:

“On August 16, 1945, the day after Japan surrendered, there were only four American airmen still alive at the Osaka Kempei Tai prison. The men were told that they were being freed and were given back their uniforms, unloaded weapons, personal effects and even their parachutes. Korean forced-laborers reported that the men were smiling and waved to them as they were leaving the camp. One even yelled that they were “going home”.

Instead the Japanese led them to the cemetery where a large hole had been dug. They were beheaded and thrown into the ditch. On top of them were piled their personal effects, along with those of the 55 Americans previously killed, and any other evidence that Americans had ever been held there.”

When someone asked Crater Layer to cite a source for information, he added a bit more on 29 May 2015:
“…My uncle was one of the other 55, so I am close to the subject. For some reason the government classified what occurred there, I think probably because they didn’t uncover what happened until 1947, when China and eastern Europe where falling to the communists. In the early 90’s I was able to get the declassified documents from the National Archives, and its a horrible story.

There is little on the internet concerning this, at least the last time I checked. However there was kind of a humorous story of a downed airmen who b.s.’d the Japs (web log note: P-51 pilot Marcus McDilda*) about his knowledge of the atomic bomb, which saved his life because he was sent to Tokyo, unlike his crewmates who were sent to Osaka. I’ll look that story up and provide a link.

If you want more cites, I have boxes of documents, some of which I’ll scan into the computer. If there are any writers out there looking for an intense story, contact me. This is a piece of history that needs to be told.”

Until now, nothing new has been added to this conversation.

As of this date and time, the writer of this web log cannot elaborate on this terrible Osaka POW incident; don’t even know the names of the prisoners who were brutally murdered when the war ended.

But on this National POW/MIA Recognition Day let us remember them, as well as the other POWs and MIAs related to the air raids on Osaka. And although there were no POWs on the Japanese side, undoubtedly there were many military MIAs and missing civilians as a result of the air war over Japan.

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*Note: 1Lt Marcus McDilda was a pilot in the 46th Fighter Squadron of the 21st Fighter Group. On 8 August 1945 he flew P-51D, serial number 44-63901, “The Gator,” on a combat mission from Iwo Jima to the Empire. He bailed out at 500 feet over the water just off the coast when his engine seized and was quickly captured. A total of seven Mustang fighters were lost on 8 August 1945. More details on his POW experience at: http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/stories/lieutenant-marcus-mcdilda-unsung-hero-world-war-ii-36172.html
References

National POW/MIA Recognition Day, poster, at: http://www.dpaa.mil/Families/Posters.aspx
Smith, Jim and McConnell, Malcolm. The Last Mission: The Secret History of World War II’s Final Battle. Broadway Books/Random House, 2007.

Kempeitai, Pacific War Online Encyclopedia entry, at: http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/K/e/Kempeitai.htm

Osaka Kempetai POW Massacre, posting at: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=18400961

Superfortress Rumble over Honshu, 2 September 1945

On the first Sunday in September, 1945, at 1030 Japan time, the Second World War came to a close on the decks of the US Navy battleship USS Missouri. Victory over Japan Day (VJ-Day) was proclaimed.

 General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri's 16-inch gun turret # 2. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.   (US Navy)
General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri’s 16-inch gun turret # 2. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (US Navy)

The Twentieth Air Force, which had inflicted much catastrophic damage to the Home Islands of Japan, including to Osaka, took part in the proceedings. Some 500 B-29’s took part in a show of force timed to coincide with the surrender proceedings, undoubtedly including many B-29’s who had flown missions over Osaka.

The bombers approached in waves and passed above the ships, then apparently circled back around for a second pass in a flight demonstration lasting around an hour. As they approached, the gathering of ships in Sagami Wan appeared as toys in a pond.

Allied warships gathered for the formal surrender of Japan in Sagami Wan seen from aircraft high above.  (Courtesy B29.org).
Allied warships gathered for the formal surrender of Japan in Sagami Wan seen from aircraft high above. (Courtesy B29.org).

In fact, there were many warships and auxiliary vessels in the anchorage where the surrender took place as well as in adjacent waters, as this impressive list summarizes:
http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/a/allied-ships-present-in-tokyo-bay.html

But the only ship that mattered on that day was the battleship Missouri, where the representatives of Imperial Japan signed the instrument of surrender, formally ending World War II. Waves of B-29’s passed in the skies above the warship, emphasizing to all in sight the vast military power the United States and Allies had assembled to fight and win the war in the Pacific.

Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945 - USAAF B-29 bombers fly in formation over USS Missouri (BB-63), during surrender ceremonies. (US Navy via http://worldwartwo.filminspector.com)
Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945 – USAAF B-29 bombers fly in formation over USS Missouri (BB-63), during surrender ceremonies.
(US Navy via http://worldwartwo.filminspector.com)

This short film clip captured some of the aircraft overflights, including some of the B-29s which can be seen at about the :50-second mark:

As the thunder of the many motors in the sky subsided, General Douglas MacArthur spoke to initiate and to conclude the proceedings. The war was truly over, and no more death and destruction from above would rain down on Osaka or the rest of Japan.

But that wasn’t the last impression of the B-29 very heavy bombers and the surrender proceedings. Reportedly, a number of B-29s broke formation and, as Earl Johnson remembered “…after an hour or more of hard formation flying, the crews wanted to do a little ‘sight-seeing’ which is hard to do in formation for the pilots at least. So many actually broke formation and many ‘buzzed’ Tokyo, the Missouri, or whatever.”

MacArthur was incensed at what he thought was a lack of military discipline and decorum by the bomber crews and had his headquarters staff send a “nastygram” about it back to Twentieth Air Force headquarters in the Marianas. However, with the war being formally over and most military personnel looked to leave the service and get back to their civilian lives. Probably not many B-29 crewmen cared.
References

1-15 September 1945 B-29 missions, at: http://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/56years/56years-4509a.html
Images

Surrender aboard Missouri, at: http://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/us-people/m/macarthur-douglas-in-japan-august-1945-june-1950/80-g-332701.html

Ships in Sagami Wan, at: http://b-29.org/313BW/6thbg/markowski/tokyo/se-entrance-tokyobay.jpg

B-29s over Missouri, at: http://worldwartwo.filminspector.com/2014/09/japanese-surrender-ceremony-2-september.html