“First copy signed with the Woo gift pen and second copy signed with my old green Parker pen.” Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz penned these words in a letter to his wife immediately after signing, on behalf of the United States, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri (BB-63) on 2 September 1945.
Before Japan’s capitulation, Nimitz’s close friend Y. C. Woo, a prominent San Francisco banker Nimitz knew from his years in the Bay area, presented the admiral with a beautiful pen while offering “best wishes and a speedy victory.” Woo also indicated his hopes that, someday, the admiral would sign the Japanese surrender documents with the pen.
Not only did Admiral Nimitz remember his friend’s request, but he used the Woo pen to sign the first copy of the Instrument of Surrender—a remarkable gesture of friendship.
The day after the surrender, in a letter to his wife, Admiral Nimitz made clear his plans for both pens. The green Parker (which the admiral is using to sign the second copy in the picture below) would come home with him to remain with the family (the pen was later donated to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum). But he would return the gift pen to his friend Woo. With it, Nimitz enclosed a letter that stated, “I did what you asked me to and signed the peace treaty between the United States and Japan” (with the pen). It was a fitting regifting, in that Woo essentially had predicted the pen’s fate when he first gave it to Nimitz.
After its return to Woo, the pen faded from public consciousness. In 2013, this author first learned of the Woo pen and the fact that, by then, it had gone missing. He set out on a quest, along with Nimitz descendant Chester Nimitz Lay and Woo descendant Paul Woo, to locate the long-lost pen.
As it turned out, many years ago Y. C. Woo’s daughter had married into the prominent and influential Soong family. The man she married, T. A. Soong, was the brother of a woman known the world over as Madame Chiang Kai-shek—famed wife of the Nationalist Chinese leader.
In 1946, Y. C. Woo placed the pen in the care of his son-in-law and asked him to gift it to the Nationalist Chinese government on behalf of the Woo family. The pen’s whereabouts since that time had remained a mystery to the Woo family. But undeterred, Paul Woo and his associates earnestly took up the quest to locate the pen and ultimately tracked its whereabouts to a museum in Nanjing.
In 2015, Paul Woo and Chet Lay attended the ceremony held on board the USS Missouri Memorial to honor the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. And fittingly, during the event the two men had the opportunity to hold and pose for photos with both the “old green Parker” and the “Woo pen,” the pens that had once meant so much to their ancestors—and indeed, the entire world.