Messages began to flow between Halsey, MacArthur, and the U.S. Army after the Japanese surrender on 15 August and MacArthur’s appointment as Supreme Commander. An interesting message was sent on 19 August, this time from Halsey to General Robert Lawrence Eichelberger, 8th Army Commander. In it, Halsey laid out two plans whereby troops “will initially occupy only ATSUGI-YOKOSUKA and area southward . . .” using Marine landing forces. “Both plans permit isolating and disarming enemy forces . . . after fleet landing forces take over security duty at YOKOSUKA air and naval bases.”1
Two days later, on 21 August, MacArthur acknowledged his official approval of the initial landings proposed by Halsey, and sent to Halsey the following order:
In view of the fact that HAYAMA, ZUSHI, and KAMAKURA have been selected as headquarters area of the Supreme Allied Commander and advice given by Japanese emissaries that the initial landings would be in restricted areas, it is considered advisable to put into effect the general provision of your Plan 2, with not to exceed what is normally considered to be a regimental combat team. . . . Landing force as limited above is acceptable. Brigadier General Clement [Marines] will report by radio upon my assumption of command. . . . His force will land in the vicinity of YOKOSUKA and occupy the general areas: URAGA-KUBIRI-FUMAKOSHI [FUNAKOSHI]-YOKOSUKA,++ all inclusive. . . . Airfield for 11th Airborne and H Hour will designated by SCAP. . . . The emissaries were directed to have the area evacuated of Japanese troops but we must be alert to guard against surprise.2
Halsey moved quickly upon receiving those orders from MacArthur. Eighteen hours later, William F. Halsey, Commander 3rd Fleet, announced that he had complied with MacArthur’s directive:
“Japan has surrendered. . . . Army Forces have seized ATSUGI airfield and CINCAFPAC [MacArthur] Advance Headquarters are established there. CTF 31 Forces hold YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE and airfields and 3rd Fleet forces are disposed in the TOKYO BAY-SAGAMI WAN AREA. 3rd Fleet Air is patrolling HONSHU and the TOKYO BAY AREA. KANOYA airfield KYUSCHU is held by our occupation forces . . .” 3
The rest of Halsey’s message outlined how the timing of additional landings would occur and directed the fleet to assist 8th Army and other forces in establishing the occupation. Substantial detail is given for the activities of COM3RDPHIB (Commander 3rd Amphibious Force, Vice Admiral T.S. Wilkinson.) But the message is unequivocal—on 22 August 1945 (Japan time,) “Bull” Halsey had men ashore at Atsugi and Yokosuka in Honshu and at Kanoya on Kyushu Island.
In another message from Halsey (3rd Fleet) to Eichelberger (8th Army) late on 21 August, Halsey added more detail, writing that that he “will execute my plan 2 including occupation of forts vicinity FUTTSU SAKE which I will arrange to have vacated when I am met by emissary off OSHIMA.”4 This communication was not date-specific as to the FUTTU SAKE operation, but it likely happened on or about 22 August when the other initial landings occurred. On 28 August, Halsey’s fleet finally would link up with a Japanese destroyer to escort the major ships of the 3rd Fleet, which would participate in the Tokyo Bay surrender ceremony. Since FUTTU SAKE is a promontory flanking the eastern entrance to Tokyo Bay, it would make sense to have it secured.
Though not specifically stated, it is reasonable to assume from these messages that one purpose in deploying these initial landing parties was to test the validity and seriousness of the Japanese surrender. Would the surrender hold? It was known that there were elements, especially in the Japanese Army, that were opposed to the surrender. Would Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen obey their Emperor and lay down their arms? Fortunately, for those Americans who were in these relatively small initial landing forces, they did.
Halsey followed up his general Op-Order on 22 August with his “Air Plan, Annex D my Op-plan 11–45.” The last paragraph could have relevance to what was being done by one Ensign F. Haydn Williams. It reads: “Para. 3. Garrison. (A) MAG 31, (B) NATS landplane unit. 1. garrison squadrons and ground echelons will be assigned appropriate tasks when installed.”5 This paragraph seems almost purposely vague, though it also seems likely that these units had been deployed that day with the initial landing force at Atsugi. Williams was a part of the Navy support effort to establish a Naval Air Transport System (NATS) base in Japan. This unit eventually would be sent to the Kisarazu airfield on the east side of Tokyo Bay to establish the NATS service base for the Tokyo Bay area.
In the “Nimitz Only” section of messages, one dated 21 August makes specific reference to a “Naval aviation member advance party.” It was sent directly from KINCAID (7th Fleet) to NIMITZ in Guam and seems to be a “back-channel” communication advising CINCPAC of developments with this early advance party going into Japan:
Captain Carroll B. Jones, Naval aviation member advance party to TOKYO was informed by GHQ [MacArthur headquarters] today that he would not be allowed to inspect and obtain 1st hand information on airfield and facilities YOKOSUKA. Party will be kept together vicinity ATSUGI to prevent possible incident. All available information field and facilities YOKOSUKA is to be supplied to advance party by Japanese.6
Either the naval aviation “advance party” was in Atsugi or about to go there, but MacArthur did not want them at Yokosuka. It would seem likely that this “naval aviation advance unit” is the outfit to which Ensign Williams was assigned.
Ten days later, a message from Nimitz to Halsey indicated that one of Nimitz’s reasons for opening an airfield in Japan was to establish an airport that could handle the large land-based operations of NATS. Nimitz now was flying his flag on board the USS South Dakota (BB-57) in Tokyo Bay. He had landed there by flying boat on 29 August—a day before MacArthur would land at Atsugi. (The Navy had beaten the Army to Japan!) Yet, now, a day before the surrender ceremony that would be staged on board the USS Missouri (BB-63), Nimitz wanted to know where he could go after the surrender ceremony to pick up his return flight to Guam in the faster, more spacious four-engine transport—the Skymaster, which the Navy called an R5D and which the Army termed as a C-54. He wrote to Halsey: “Early report on adequacy of YOKOSUKA airfield for R5D operations desired.”7 Nimitz did not want the Navy flying in and out of MacArthur’s turf at Atsugi—nor did MacArthur, it seems, want a big Naval Air Station either there or at Yokosuka nearer the Tokyo area where he would be. This short communication also reinforced the fact that, at the time, Nimitz also was not totally in the loop as to what and where all the Navy assets now were in the new Japan under MacArthur. He would be picking up his R5D at Kisarazu, not Yokosuka.
It appears that on the same day (Japan time) that Nimitz sent this message, General MacArthur made a move to establish a naval air station that could accommodate large planes like the R5D: “The Reconnaissance Troop of the 11th Airborne Division made a subsidiary airlift operation on 1 September, flying from Atsugi to Kisarazu Airfield. This airfield was occupied without incident.”8 According to F. Haydn Williams’ conversations with me, he was on this airlift operation that opened Kisarazu. He said that everyone riding in the planes involved was a bit scared. They had no idea whether they would meet friend of foe when they arrived at the Kisarazu Airfield. As it worked out, there was no problem, and the field was occupied without opposition.
It is also interesting to note that in all the U.S. naval air attacks on Japan in July–August 1945 cited in the Gray Book, there is no mention of Kisarazu. Could it have been on a no-hit target list? It is cited by MacArthur in Reports as being the airport from which the Japanese emissaries left for Manila on 19 August.9 Perhaps the Kisarazu airfield had been spared destruction because a decision had been made to leave at least one airport in the Tokyo Bay region untouched so that air traffic to and from the country was still possible at war’s end. Whatever the reason, on the east side of Tokyo Bay, Admiral Nimitz and the Navy now had an airfield of their own that could handle large land-based aircraft..
One is reminded of the adage that “all politics is local,” meaning, in this instance, that people tend to rely on people they already know and trust. MacArthur had gained the confidence of Navy men like Admiral Sherman, and men like Kincaid (7th Fleet,) Wilkinson (3rd Amphibious Force), and Brigadier General William Clement, who had been with him during the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific, New Guinea, and the Philippines. But the key to pulling the Navy assets together during the two weeks leading up to the 2 September surrender signing in Tokyo Bay had been another Navy friend, one William F. “Bull” Halsey.
Halsey and MacArthur
MacArthur and Halsey were close. On a least three occasions during fighting in the South Pacific, Halsey had met with General MacArthur at his headquarters in Brisbane, Australia. The occasions cited here are all taken from Halsey’s autobiography, Admiral Halsey’s Story. In this book, Halsey portrayed himself as a rather “down-to-earth” folksy guy who did not put on a lot of “airs” or always needed to be catered to—juxtaposed with MacArthur’s reputation of being quite aloof and overbearing. Yet those differences did not disrupt their first or any subsequent meetings.
In early April 1943, after the battle for Guadalcanal had ended, Halsey went to Brisbane to discuss with MacArthur follow-up operations in the Solomon Islands and the Southwest Pacific area. According to Halsey’s account, recognition of a common interest broke the ice at the first meeting —Halsey’s and MacArthur’s fathers had been friends 40 years earlier in the Philippines. “Five minutes after I reported, I felt as if we were lifelong friends,” Halsey wrote. By the end of the meeting, “[MacArthur] accepted my plan for the New Georgia operation.”10 It was obvious that MacArthur liked Halsey’s fighting spirit, and they generally agreed on joint Navy/Army strategies as they related to fighting the Japanese in that part of the world.
There was also another, more visceral connection: their backgrounds in the military. As Thomas Hughes noted in his book Admiral Bill Halsey: A Naval Life, “Halsey never spent a day outside the cocoon of the American military, a trait he shared with only General MacArthur out of all officers in the nation’s history.”11 The lives of both men had been carved by being the sons of men who spent their entire lives within the confines of the Army or Navy.
The chemistry between MacArthur and Halsey was also complemented by familiarity between their staffs. As Halsey observed, “There was an unusual bond between our staffs: My Chief of Staff’s son, Captain Robert B. Carney, Jr., had married MacArthur’s Chief of Staff’s daughter, Miss Natalie Sutherland.”12 There is nothing better for command relationships in the military than when competing staffs can get along.
Later, in December 1943, prior to going to Pearl Harbor to see Admiral Nimitz and then on to Washington to meet with Admiral King, Halsey would go back to Brisbane to, as he wrote, “Take leave of General MacArthur.”13 This is Navy language used in describing when one is parting from the command of a superior officer. Halsey knew who was “the boss” in this relationship. Reflecting the camaraderie of the meeting, MacArthur made a pitch to Halsey for him to become the Navy commander in the Southwest Pacific area: “Bill, if you come with me, I’ll make you a greater man than Nelson ever dreamed of being.” Halsey retorted: “I said that I was flattered, but in no position to commit myself; however, I’d certainly tell King and Nimitz about his offer. I did and that’s the last I heard of it.”14 At the same meeting, Halsey and MacArthur both talked about the idea of “island hopping” and leaving Japanese fortress islands like Rabaul to “wither on the vine,” a concept that met with growing support both in the Pacific theater of the war and in Washington.
Halsey then described a third meeting with MacArthur, which took place in February 1944. It was after an island called Manus had been taken and a dispute developed about who would control it—Army or Navy. Nimitz had sent a dispatch to Admiral King in Washington and copied MacArthur on it recommending that Halsey’s area of operations be extended to include Manus.
When he got to the meeting, Halsey described MacArthur as “fighting to keep his temper” and that MacArthur “went on for a quarter of an hour” about it and suggested that only the 7th Fleet and British units be allowed in the port until “the jurisdiction of Manus” was decided. When given the chance, Halsey responded that in his view such an action “would hamper the war effort” and that MacArthur should not consider it:
His staff gasped. I imagine they never expected anyone would address him in those terms this side of the Judgment Throne. I told him that command of Manus didn’t matter a whit to me. What did matter was the quick construction of the base. Kenney, or an Australian or an enlisted cavalryman could boss it for all I cared, as long as it was ready to handle the Fleet when we moved up New Guinea and on toward the Philippines.” The next day, MacArthur said: “You win, Bill!”
Then he turned to Sutherland and said: “Dick, go ahead with the job.”15 Before leaving the South Pacific for the last time, Halsey would be granted the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal at a ceremony in Noumea, New Caledonia, in June 1944.16 He was now a recognized MacArthur man.
August to September 1944
When Halsey returned to the Pacific after a break, he would meet again on MacArthur’s turf at Hollandia, New Guinea, in September 1944. Though Halsey describes it as a meeting with “MacArthur’s staff,” it is hard to believe that General MacArthur would have missed the meeting.17 Halsey and MacArthur were planning one more campaign together before they would join hands in Japan at the end of the war—Halsey’s fleet would be supporting the Army landings at Leyte in the Philippines and would be attacking Japanese targets throughout the Philippine archipelago.
Halsey would again return to the United States in the winter and spring of 1945. By the time he returned to the Pacific, MacArthur had finished the Philippine operation and was living and headquartered in Manila. Halsey and MacArthur had lunch together there on 14 June 1945.18 Undoubtedly, much was discussed—including the pending end of the war. Halsey had met with President Roosevelt for an hour discussing “subjects so secret that I would have preferred not to know them” while he had been in Washington.19 One must assume that MacArthur’s role and the need for the Army and Navy to work toward a common end in finishing the war also must have been a part of that conversation.
Following that lunch in Manila, Halsey and MacArthur next would meet at the formal surrender ceremony on 2 September in Tokyo Bay on board the Missouri. But two weeks before that, after the Japanese had announced they were quitting the fight and the announcement that MacArthur was now Supreme Commander, the two men again would be closely allied. Under Halsey, the 3rd Fleet would become MacArthur’s primary military resource in the area surrounding Japan’s main islands. Under MacArthur’s orders, Halsey would implement the first initial landings and occupation of U.S. military forces on the Japanese main islands on 22 August.
Halsey tiptoed around what happened during that time in his memoir. He deflected the fact that American soldiers arriving at Atsugi on 28 August were met with a sign reading: “Welcome to the U.S. Army from the 3rd Fleet!” 20 Halsey cryptically attributed that to a renegade fighter pilot from one of the carriers who landed without permission at the Atsugi airfield and had the sign put up. We know now from his message of 21–2327 that the sign most likely had been put up by the landing force installed there by Halsey himself on 22 August . The fact that Halsey dodged the question is indicative to me that he—and others now reporting to the new Supreme Commander—would defer to MacArthur for whatever he wanted the official version of the times and dates of the occupation of Japan to be.
Later, on 29 August, Halsey would initiate the first liberation of American prisoners of war in the Tokyo Bay area. This effort started earlier than MacArthur had wanted, but as Halsey described it: “As with the landings, circumstances forced us to jump the gun.”21 A special Navy task force had been organized for this effort, and one of the early evacuees was Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington, a highly decorated Marine pilot who had been thought killed in an air battle over Rabaul. Halsey’s Administrative Flag Secretary, Commander Harold Stassen, had accompanied the Task Force when it liberated the Omori Prison Camp where Boyington was held captive.
Halsey had indeed jumped the gun on the time schedule that originally had been planned for liberating the POWs, but in this instance, Nimitz gave his okay: “Go ahead,” he said to Halsey, “General MacArthur will understand.”23 Until the end, Nimitz would retain control of the liberation and evacuation of the Navy and Marine POWs from Japan.
Halsey had been a busy man from 15 August to 2 September. As the media and the world became focused on the war’s end, MacArthur’s appointment as Supreme Commander and his arrival in Japan to followed by the formal surrender ceremony on board the Missouri—Admiral William S. “Bull” Halsey had been “flying under the radar” of public attention, successfully initiating the first landings of American troops, rescuing the first POWs from defeated Japan, and organizing and leading the fleet as it moved into Tokyo Bay. He would take General MacArthur’s order one more time from the deck of the Missouri on 2 September—“Aye, aye, sir!” and the planes would fly over the anchored ships. World War II was over.
A Personal Historical Perspective
My interest in the history of the two weeks preceding the formal surrender of the Japanese on board the Missouri in Tokyo Bay was sparked by a friendship with a World War II veteran, F. Haydn Williams, of San Francisco, who died in 2016. Williams had been an ensign/lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserve in the Pacific during the war. We both were appointed as commissioners to the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1994, and Williams became chair of its site and design committee for the National World War II Memorial. Our friendship grew over the years, and I became a member of his committee. Williams had told me that he had been on the initial flight to open Kisarazu airfield, which MacArthur dates as having occurred on 1 September 1945 and originating from Atsugi. Prior to his death, Haydn Williams gave me several artifacts/memorabilia from his time in Japan at the end of the war, which helped spark my interest in what had been happening at that time in his life.
One of these gifts was a white surrender flag made from parachute cloth that had been hung on the propeller hub of a Japanese fighter plane after its propeller had been removed. This was done by order of the Japanese government at airfields across Japan as a signal to the Allied powers that the planes would not be flown again in combat. Williams had taken one of these from one of the planes at Kisarazu and had three Navy men sign it. The first two signatures were readily identified—William F. Halsey and Harold Stassen, who had been governor of Minnesota and then, in the Navy, had become Halsey’s administrative chief of staff.
The third signature took some time and research to decipher and then identify—T. S. Wilkinson. It was in Halsey’s autobiography that the prominence of Wilkinson in Halsey’s life was revealed. He was one of those MacArthur would have called “side-kicks from the shoestring SOPAC days.”24 He had been one of the Navy men assigned to the command of General MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific, and he reemerged at war’s end helping organize the amphibious forces needed to begin the occupation of Japan. Wilkinson’s nickname was “Ping,” and Halsey addressed him as a friend. Halsey mentions at one point almost losing Wilkinson when the transport he was in, the USS McCawley (APA-4), was sunk during the landings in New Georgia.25
The signatures appear to be in the same color ink and grouped together as if they were all signed at the same time. Was there a time when all three men—Halsey, Stassen, and Wilkinson—were together at Kisarazu where Williams was stationed as part of the NATS base that had been established there? Halsey said that he flew home through Guam, leaving Japan on 20 September 1945.26 Could Stassen and Wilkinson have accompanied Halsey on that flight to Guam?
If so, one can visualize a young, inquisitive, junior officer by the name of Haydn Williams walking up to this threesome who were in good spirits, who had served together in a common enterprise in the far Pacific throughout the war, celebrating their accomplishments and now anticipating their immanent flight which would take them home. Halsey would have taken the lead and probably said to Williams: “Hell yes, I’ll sign that flag!” and then was followed by Stassen and Wilkinson doing the same.
The one thing we do know is that Haydn Williams could be determined and dogged in his ways. We found that out during the site and design days of building the World War II Memorial. At Kisarazu, he would have seen the flyover spectacle on Tokyo Bay the day of the formal surrender. He knew that he was seeing history made. Now, to have the chance of getting the signature of one of the greatest U.S. Naval figures of all time—along with two of his close friends—was an opportunity he could not forgo. I can see a young Haydn Williams standing there on the tarmac as they boarded the big air transport plane that would carry them home, clutching that piece of parachute cloth with three signatures and knowing that he had been witness to a piece of American history that would never be repeated.
1. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Gray Book), Vol. 8, message #19–0219, 3454.
2. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, message #21–0517, 3464; MacArthur and the allies were still learning the proper spelling of Japanese cities and ports—Funakoshi is the place in reference, not “Fumakoshi.” MacArthur also distinguishes between these “initial landings” being authorized and later major landings which will be made on “H Hour,” and which will include the airfield where the 11th Airborne will be landed. Those decisions must await the success of the “initial landings” to be made by Halsey.
3. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, message #21–2327, 3466, 3467.
4. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, message #21–1431, 3357.
5. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, message #21–2341, 3468.
6. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, message # 21–0600, 3526.
7. Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, message #31–1745, 3482.
8. Reports of General MacArthur: The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, vol. 1, 454.
9. Reports of General MacArthur: The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, vol. 1, 448.
10. ADM William Frederick Halsey, USN, Admiral Halsey’s Story (Whittlesey House, 1947), 126.
11. Thomas Hughes, Admiral Bill Halsey: A Naval Life (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2016), Kindle location #109.
12. William Frederick Halsey, Admiral Halsey’s Story, 152.
13. Halsey, Admiral Halsey’s Story, 160.
14. Halsey, 150.
15. Halsey, 153.
16. Thomas Hughes, Admiral Bill Halsey: A Naval Life (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2016), Kindle location #3662.
17. Halsey, Admiral Halsey’s Story, 162.
18. Halsey, 205–6.
19. Halsey, 201.
20. Halsey, 224.
21. Halsey, 224.
22. Halsey, 224.
23. Halsey, 225.
24. Halsey, 228.
25. Halsey, 130.
26. Halsey, 235.