PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Like many other vets, Don Fosburg marked the anniversary of World War II’s end reflecting on a victory dearly earned and on men who helped make that happen but never came home.
“You start to thinking about the guys that you knew. You can’t help but do that. And maybe you think you’re pretty lucky,” said the 84-year-old, who was a radioman aboard the USS Missouri.
“I had a cousin who was on Bataan and didn’t survive. His brother was blown up off the coast of Africa,” said Fosburg, a retired insurance broker from Whittier, Calif.
He returned to the Missouri — now a museum moored in Pearl Harbor — for a ceremony Thursday commemorating 6½ decades since Japan formally signed surrender papers on board the battleship when it was anchored in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
Fosburg remembered the mood being calmer than some two weeks before that occasion, on the night of Aug. 15, when sailors cheered and hollered after a fellow radioman got word Japan had agreed to unconditionally surrender.
“He woke me up: ‘They’ve accepted the surrender. The war is over!’ Then it went through the ship, and it was quite a bit of celebration,” Fosburg said. “It woke everybody up.”
Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki, who delivered the keynote address, hailed the sacrifices of those who fought on Pacific atolls, European forests and manned supply depots and refueling stations.
The Missouri today sits just behind the USS Arizona, which sank in the Japanese attack that pushed the U.S. into the war in 1941. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Italy, said the two ships are the bookends of WWII.
The Arizona represents the sacrifice and resilient spirit of the American people, while the Missouri speaks of America’s triumph, he said.