At nine o’clock AM, on September 2, 1945, representatives of Imperial Japan’s government and military came aboard the Battleship Missouri to formally surrender.
Along with the Third Fleet, the USS Missouri had steamed into Tokyo Harbor for the occasion.
A Proper Surrender
Aboard the USS Missouri were representatives of each of the Allied warring powers. These included Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Chinese General Hsu Yung-chang of China, Admiral Bruce Fraser of the United Kingdom, and Soviet Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko, among others. And, of course, overseeing the entire ceremony was General of the Army and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific, Douglas MacArthur.
Upon the “surrender table” lay the Instrument of Surrender. Two copies of this document were provided. One of these, made of rough canvas, was for the Japanese. The other, made of gold leaf-lined leather parchment, was for America. First, the representatives of Japan, which included Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Army Chief of Staff General Yoshijiro Umezu, signed the Instrument of Surrender. Then each of the Allied representatives placed their signatures upon it.
However, when General MacArthur came (right) forward to place his decisive signature upon Japan’s surrender, he did not come alone. MacArthur called two other generals to stand behind him and bear witness to his act of supreme triumph. MacArthur used six pens in his signing of Japan’s surrender. He gave the first two of these pens to these two witnesses, honoring them as participants in his victory.
Who were these two generals? They were the two men who had suffered more than any other senior officers in the war. Their names were Lieutenant General Arthur Percival (left) and General Jonathan Wainwright (right). Each of these men had endured humiliating defeats at the hands of the Japanese. In a controversial action, Percival surrendered his force. It was made up of nearly 120,000 ill-equipped and poorly-trained men to a much smaller Japanese force of 30,000. It was the worst capitulation of British forces in history. Wainwright surrendered his starving and malaria-ridden force of 76,000 men to the Japanese force of 75,000.
Both of these generals surrendered believing they would receive humane treatment from the enemy. This was a tragic mistake. Tens of thousands of British and American POWs perished. Either from starvation, overwork, disease, and torture at the hands of the Japanese. Surrender to the Japanese was the most regrettable decision of these generals’ career.
But now all that was forgotten. After three years of torturous imprisonment, these two emaciated figures stood proudly, sharing in the consummate victory over their enemies. General MacArthur honored them as fellow victors in the defeat of Japan. He symbolically placed their feet on the necks of their enemies.
Fighting in Obedience
The scene was reminiscent of an event in the Bible. In the book of Joshua, we find the nation of former slaves, Israel, battling the Canaanites for possession of Palestine. Forty years earlier, Israel had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Canaanites (Numbers 14:39–45). But now they were fighting in obedience to God and the outcome was very different. Near the end of the conquest, Joshua captured five of the kings of the land. Before executing these kings, Joshua called his officers. They came forward and placed their feet on the necks of these kings (Joshua 10:22–26). It was a symbolic gesture, honoring these former slaves as fellow victors.
Joshua’s actions also foretell of the Christian believer’s victory over Satan. Paul the apostle assured the frightened group of Christians in Rome. Paul said, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). Yes, the same devil–who had enslaved them and destroyed their bodies by addictions and their families by division—will one day be defeated by them. The same devil who crushed them beneath his feet will himself be humiliated under theirs. The same devil, who continues to harass them as believers, will have to face them again in the court of heaven where they will be his judge (1 Corinthians 6:3).
But our consummate victory over the devil and all his angels was not accomplished by us or our power. Christ had complete victory over Satan. He is the “Strong Man” who bound and captured the devil, stripped him of his armor, and plundered him of his possessions (Luke 11:20–22; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). It is Christ’s victory that we share and participate in.
So never be discouraged. If you stumble, get up and march on with Jesus. If you give in to temptation, confess it to God and continue to follow Jesus. And if you fall a million times and seem to lose multiple battles, don’t despair. Christ has already won the battle over Satan, sin, the world, and death. Keep clinging to Jesus and He will place your feet on the neck of them all. Keep believing in Him. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4–5).
Lord Jesus, please strengthen me and help me to trust You from beginning to end during this journey of faith. Keep my eyes focused upon You, the author and perfecter of my faith. No matter how many times I fail, help me to grasp Your almighty hand until I experience Your consummate victory in heaven. Amen.