Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper spoke at a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri on Tuesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which was the most destructive war in world history.
Some of the World War II Veterans that were present to commemorate the anniversary also had witnessed representatives of Japan sign the document to surrender on the deck of the American battleship in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Due to the Corona Virus, many additional veterans attended the ceremony virtually.
The USS Missouri is docked astern of the USS Arizona Memorial. These two ships represent the alpha and omega of America’s World War II timeline. Starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor and ending with the surrender of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri.
During the war, the effort of the United States was incredible.
There were more than 16 million Americans that served in the armed services during the war. The American factories and farms supplied U.S. troops and the allies with needed items to fight. The U.S. Third Fleet, by itself, was larger than any country’s Navy.
When the war ended, multiple successive administrations “built relationships with like-minded nations based on reciprocal trade, not predatory economics; based on respect for the sovereignty of all countries, not a strategy of ‘might makes right;’ based on a commitment to always honoring our international obligations, not just when they serve our interests; and most importantly, based on our enduring values and beliefs,” Esper said.
During World War II, Americans were united in their will to both fight a win the war.
People from every walk of life answered the call, serving courageously and selflessly. They left their families and loved ones to sail across the oceans and join the allies in a desparate fight for liberty. Their fighting spirit allowed them to ultimately triumph.
In ther beginning of the war there were a litany of defeats that the nation first suffered, from Bataan, Corregidor, Wake Island and the Battle of the Sulu Sea. Soon after that victories occured in both Europe and the Pacific, from Coral Sea, Midway, Tunisia, Normandy, the Bulge, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and many more.
Although there have been conflicts and wars in the 75 years since the surrender, none have been as destructive as World War II. The current international rules-based order has provided security, prosperity and stability to billions of people around the world.
“It set new standards and protocols when it comes to matters of trade and diplomacy; it raised the bar when it comes to human rights and individual freedoms; and it created new expectations regarding the use of force and the way countries should treat one another,” Esper said.
Two of the most obstinate countries that are challenging the rules-based order today are Russia and China. In World War II, these two nations lost a combined total of 45 million people in World War II. Both of these countries actually have gained the most from the rules-based order.
Although our system is far from perfect, and we can’t take it for granted. It is worth defending and connecting with liked minded allies and coalition partners “to protect the hard-fought gains of generations past and present — especially in the Pacific,” Esper said.
The United States continues to reach out all around the world, but is focusing in areas such as South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania, reinforcing the support for the rules-based order that has served so well.
America is also working to strengthen ties with long-established allies like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore.
“Growing, deepening and unifying this network must remain central to our collective strategy to ensure peace and prosperity for another 75 years and beyond. We welcome every nation — especially those that have benefited the most from today’s international system — to join us in this effort.”
Just like the Greatest Generation, when they were called to serve and protect, the U.S. remains committed and ready to defend it.
The youngest Americans of the Greatest Generation are now in their late 90’s. After the ceremony, Esper spoked with many of them via a Zoom conference. Some of them were still mobile and others were not.
In their youth, those men strode across continents, M-1 Garand rifles in hand, liberating people they never met.
Joe Pedersen was a Marine private first class when he witnessed the surrender of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri. He told the secretary, “We need an academy of peace. War is not an answer. We need to teach peace.”
“Just like the Greatest Generation, citizens today will defend democracy, liberty, sovereignty, human rights, mutual respect and the rule of law,” Esper said.