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1:03 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Groom Creek veteran witnessed official signing of Japanese surrender in 1945

USS Deuel PA 160. (Courtesy)

USS Deuel PA 160. (Courtesy)

Seventy-three years ago today, Aug. 14, 1945, Groom Creek resident Chuck Webster was a United States Navy sailor aboard ship in Tokyo Bay, a witness to the end of World War II with Japan’s announcement of its official surrender.

For more than two years, the then 19-year-old assigned to the USS Deuel PA 160, an attack transport ship, had a front row seat to the horrors of fighting a relentless enemy, one that required two Atomic Bombs before they admitted defeat.

“I was thrilled, as was everyone else,” said Webster of the announcement on Aug. 14, 1945 that Japan unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.

Though some of the details have become a bit murky with time, Webster will never forget his role, and the uneasy relief that comes with surviving such global evil. On Sept. 2, 1945, United States Gen. Douglas MacArthur and many other Allied military dignitaries gathered on the USS Missouri for the official signing of the surrender. Webster’s ship cruised nearby, but at the time he was unaware of the importance of that moment.

“I did see it, but I did not know at the time what it was,” Webster said.

The truth was Webster was a spectator to one of the most significant moments in American history — one a dwindling few still can recall.

“It was a big deal,” Webster said on Monday afternoon.

Until that very moment, the Allies were not certain the Japanese would ever surrender, even some on the ship that day feared the possibility of further retaliation.

The Japanese proved formidable foes.

“They were ready to fight until there were none of them left,” Webster said.

If not for President Harry Truman’s decision to showcase America’s then-nuclear superiority, Japan would have sentenced even more young men to die.

“Those were horrible times,” said Webster who wishes more were done to educate younger generations of those years of sacrifice and pain. “We thought our war would be the end of all wars; it was supposed to be the end of all wars. And you can see that didn’t work out too good.

“So we wonder, sometimes, what did we go to war for?”

Prescott veteran advocate Patsy Ray, who for a decade headed up the area’s participation in the national Veteran’s History Project, said these commemorations are critical to not only those who paid the ultimate price for freedom, but for those who returned and coming generations seeking to avoid future bloodshed.

To this day, World War II stand as the deadliest military conflict, killing at least 60 million people.

“If we don’t look at what happened before, we can very easily get caught up in it happening again,” Ray said of present day threats from such places as North Korea, Russia and “points-in-between.” “I think it is important to reflect on history because history does have a way of repeating itself.”

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.