by Paul Nesper
We are frequently reminded that we remember precisely where we were and what we were doing long after significant world wide or local events occur. For example many folks remember where they were and what they were doing on Pearl Harbor Day, or the day World War II ended, or the day President Kennedy was assassinated, or the
disaster, or the
Boston Marathon terrorist attack. World Trade
The Japanese government surrendered on
August 14, 1945 to end World War
II. I was a Navy Lieutenant stationed on
Attu, one of the Alaskan Aleutian
Islands. My job was Officer in Charge,
Naval Ammunition Magazine, Naval Air Station, . Attu, Alaska
It was my responsibility to receive, stow, and issue all the ammunition needed by the Navy fleet and Naval Air Wing to pursue the war against
in the North Pacific.
Included in the stowed ammunition inventory was a goodly supply of signal flares to be fired from a Very pistol. These signal flares of various colors were used as distress signals at sea. Every pilot carried them and they were aboard every ship. They were fired in the air by downed pilots or sailors who were adrift after losing their ship so that rescuers could locate them.
When news of
surrender reached Attu, another officer and I
decided to celebrate with a fireworks display using Very pistols and a supply
of colored flares from the inventory for which I was responsible. We headed for the beach and for about 15
minutes had our own unauthorized fireworks display firing the flares out over
The next day I was ordered to report to the Naval Air Station’s Commanding Officer to explain who authorized the firing of the flares. I told him it was totally my responsibility, was unauthorized and was done to celebrate the end of the war. He said the display was well done and very appropriate. He urged me to obtain prior authority should similar circumstances arise in the future. With that I was dismissed from his presence and went back to work.
My appearance before the Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station to explain my actions celebrating the end of the war is as fresh in my memory as though the incident happened yesterday.