Remembering V-J Day
By MIKE HUGHES
Times Leader Staff Writer
(All eyes held on that little group of little men who represented an overambitious, unscrupulous little nation which had turned the whole world against it by its greed. And here was the whole world to witness the humbling of that nation. It was an awesome moment.)
That was a snippet from John Fellows Marshall’s letter to friend Floyd McElroy, which was later published in the Harvard Alumni Bulletin.
Marshall was a civilian officer with the United States Navy and was on-board the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945 when the Japanese delegation officially signed surrender documents, effectively ending World War II.
Born in Burma of third-generation Baptist missionaries, Marshall grew up in Columbus, graduating from The Ohio State university in 1926. He later received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1929 and joined Loomis Sayles as in investment counselor in 1929, based in San Francisco.
His stint and service during World War II began in 1942 when he began serving as a Naval Air Combat Intelligence officer for Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet in the Pacific.
“He wa what you would call a 90-day wonder,” said John S. Marshall, son of John Fellows Marshall. “The military needed as many people as possible, as officers, and wanted college educated men that they sent to receive special training.
“He was trained as an air combat intelligence officer. They felt his background as a security analyst was perfect for this type of intelligence.”
So in 1942, John Fellows Marshall was commissioned as a lieutenant. By the end of his military duty, Marshall had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
John S. Marshall recalled a funny story his father told him about the actual table that was used aboard the U.S.S. Missouri for the surrender documents.
“All of the preparations were made and everything was ready. Then someone realized there was no table to sign the surrender documents on,” Marshall recalled his dad telling him. “They rushed around the ship, looking for something to use.
“Eventually they found some old tables and put them out on the deck, covered them, and that’s how they got their forum to sign the papers.”
John S. Williams will be speaking on Thursday at the Ohio County Library during the facility’s Lunch With Books’ series. The day’s topic is W.W. II Memories: V-J Day. He will discuss excerpts and stories from his father’s memoir, “Civilian in Uniform: Wartime Experiences.”
That gets under way at noon and Marshall will be joined by Wheeling Jesuit’s Dr. Jeffrey Rutherford.
Reading John Fellows Marshall’s accounts of not only V-J Day, but his time spent in the service leading up to Japan’s surrender is riveting.
It’s also fairly descriptive of some of the horrors the average soldier faced.
Marshall explained his dad wrote, upon arriving at Guadalcanal that “The sickening, sweet smell of blood and death hung heavily in the air.”
There are also a few humorous stories detailed in his book, many relating to Admiral Halsey, a man many regard as a great American hero, yet one with a stern disposition.
Halsey loved to play deck tennis, an activity he competed in every day aboard his ship.
When the swales came up one day, it drenched the deck of the ship.
When the sun finally came out, Halsey wanted to finish his game so he and fellow sailors grabbed mops and began drying the deck.
A sailor came by and couldn’t believe that the Admiral was mopping the deck and tried to take the mop from him.
Halsey told him to find his own mop.
Another details two sailors discussing the Admiral upon the deck.
One remarked that “I tell you, Halsey is one tough old S.O.B. I’d go to hell and back for him.”
The sailors turned around to find Halsey staring at them. The admiral’s response?
“Son, I’m not that old.”
“It’s the stories like that I remember dad telling,” Marshall said.
“Halsey was a real, down to Earth guy and you could tell he really care for the men under his command.”
Those are just a few of the many stories Marshall plans to share Thursday at the library.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org