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Veterans Day 2015: Bird’s-eye view of Japanese surrender

Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Pete Holeman of Bellingham started a photography business in his later years, but he didn’t have a camera when his Navy ship gave him a close view of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri to end World War II.
Pete Holeman of Bellingham started a photography business in his later years, but he didn’t have a camera when his Navy ship gave him a close view of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri to end World War II. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

I spent 10 years in the Navy and was on a destroyer tender in Portland, Maine. I was later promoted to chief shipfitter and transferred to the USS Mount Olympus.

We went to the South Pacific and made the invasion of Leyte Gulf. It was a very busy place with all the shooting, bombing and air attacks.

I was promoted to warrant carpenter there, then we made the invasion of Lingayen Gulf on Luzon, where I saw my first kamikazes. They were after our combat ships, which did not include us.

When we left there and were off Manila Bay, a kamikaze dove at us, then changed his mind and hit the ship ahead of us, killing 12 men.

We were the only ship going past the stern of the USS Missouri.

Pete Holeman, Navy veteran

Our ship went to San Francisco and and I was transferred to Providence, R.I., then went to Marseille, France, to pick up a company of Army combat engineers and take them to Manila for the expected invasion of Japan. The first A-bomb was dropped as we approached Manila, and the second one was dropped as we were at anchor.

Then we had orders to go to Tokyo Bay. We arrived and went very slow and close as we saw General MacArthur and his group and the Japanese representatives. I had an excellent view, as I was on an upper deck. We were the only ship going past the stern of the USS Missouri.

Too bad I did not have a camera; I could have had some historic pictures, but I’m happy that I have those memories.

Pete Holeman lives in Bellingham.

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