Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
The photograph below is one of the most famous in any of our collections. It shows Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) signing the Instrument of Surrender on board the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) during the formal ceremony ending World War II. Standing behind him are representatives of the victorious Allied Powers including General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who had already signed the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander. Standing to MacArthur’s immediate left are Admirals William F. Halsey, Commander, Third Fleet, and Forrest Sherman, Deputy Chief of Staff to Admiral Nimitz. What makes this print special is that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz autographed it for his Air Force friend and comrade, Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. He then added in the bottom margin the following sentiment:
- “To Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., USAF – with best wishes and great appreciation for your contribution to the war effort that made possible this above scene. C. W. Nimitz – Fleet Admiral.”
Admiral Nimitz is perhaps the most illustrious naval commander in American history. He had taken command of all American naval forces in the Pacific in December 1941 just after Pearl Harbor when the United States was at its lowest point. As Commander-in-Chief U. S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) he led the Navy in many desperate battles with the Japanese Navy, achieving success after success until final victory was won. In recognition of his accomplishment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Nimitz to Fleet Admiral in December 1944 the day after Congress created the rank.
Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. (1902-1969) had commanded the 315th Bomb Wing, based in Guam, from April to August 1945. Previously, he had helped organize and lead the first successful American bombing campaign against Germany from 1941 to 1943. His experiences there became the basis of Sy Bartlett Beirne Lay Jr.’s novel, film, and TV series Twelve O’clock High. He is credited with having commanded and flown on both the first and the last American bombing missions of World War II. The photograph is from his papers housed in Joyner Library’s Special Collections Department.
Following the war Nimitz served a term as Chief of Naval Operations until retiring from active service in 1947. At the time of his death, he was the nation’s last surviving fleet admiral.Armstrong remained in the Air Force and rose to become a Lieutenant General and commander of the Alaskan Air Command. He retired in 1962. His son, Frank A. Armstrong, III, also became an Air Force officer and was killed in action during the Vietnam War.Source: Japanese Surrender Photograph (2 September 1945) Tokyo, Japan. Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers #35.17.gYou may access the finding aid to the Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers at http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/special/ead/findingaids/0035/
Click on the image itself to see an enlarged version.