Shelburne Falls vet recalls end of WWII aboard USS Missouri 75 years ago

  • Leonard Brodt, 94, of Shelburne Falls, was aboard the USS Missouri 75 years ago when the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Leonard Brodt, 94, of Shelburne Falls, at a recent Farmers Market in Shelburne Falls with his electric chair and crate train he often puts messages on. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Leonard Brodt, 94, of Shelburne Falls, was aboard the USS Missouri 75 years ago when the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II. Seen here in his motorized chair and crate train with messages he built. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2020 4:03:46 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS – The internet is rife with photos of Japanese government officials surrendering to American forces to end World War II hostilities on Sept. 2, 1945. You won’t see Leonard Brodt in any of these images but, mark his words, he was very close by.

Brodt was a 19-year-old U.S. Navy sailor aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay that day but believes he was at quarters on the starboard side of the ship’s main deck awaiting muster, the process that accounts for sailors, when Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender during a formal ceremony. Brodt, a Navy seaman second class, heard the ceremony via the ship’s public address system 75 years ago today.

“I couldn’t be there to see it with my owns eyes, but I was there,” he said from his Shelburne Falls home earlier this week. “It’s hard to remember all the details.”

Brodt, 94, recalled the widespread excitement of knowing a horrific war was ending and peace could resume. He had been convinced he would not survive the conflict.

“I thought I was going to die because the Japanese were a determined people,” he said. “They don’t give up easy.”

U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur delivered opening and closing remarks at the ceremony.

“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past — a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish — for freedom, tolerance, and justice,” MacArthur said into a standing microphone.

Military officials from the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and various other nations signed the surrender document.

Souvenir cards bearing the Japanese “Rising Sun” flag were handed out as mementos of the occasion. Brodt said he received one with his name on it but it was lost at some point during the past seven-and-a-half decades.

Brodt enlisted in the Navy in 1944 because he wanted to fulfill his patriotic duty.

“A lot of veterans joined because they felt they had to do their share, and I was one of them,” he said.

Brodt explained he served as a first loader of Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft autocannons. He participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and helped “soften up the mainland” on the Japanese mainland for a potential land invasion. These efforts earned him three battle stars. Brodt was also aboard the USS Missouri when it was tasked with returning the body of Mehmet Munir Ertegun, the former Turkish ambassador to the United States, to Turkey for burial.

Brodt explained anyone who enlisted committed to serving the duration of the war, plus six months. He was discharged in 1946. Having grown up in different spots around New England, Brodt returned home and lived much of his life in Rhode Island, moving to Shelburne Falls about 22 years ago. He spent decades in the textile industry, working as a weaver and eventually fixing looms for a living, following in his father’s footsteps. He retired when he was 62 and was an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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