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75 Years After Japanese Surrender, Survivor Calls For Return to Diplomacy

Retired Navy Lt. (J.G.) Robert Pennoyer served in Japan during and after the surrender in 1945. (Robert Pennoyer)
Retired Navy Lt. (J.G.) Robert Pennoyer served in Japan during and after the surrender in 1945. (Robert Pennoyer)
August 13, 2020

BOSTON -- Seventy-five years ago this Saturday, Imperial Japan announced its surrender, ending World War II.

Now, an American survivor of Iwo Jima is speaking out on the lessons to be learned, then and now.

Retired Navy Lieutenant (J.G.) Robert Pennoyer, 95, was just 19 when his unit helped occupy Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. He said it is a tribute to the Japanese culture that they were able to accept General Douglas MacArthur's help and transition to a democracy.

"They were able to change and become a peace-loving nation, and that was really a remarkable change," Pennoyer said. "But getting control of the military, getting rid of the military, not letting the military dominate their foreign policy, that was the key."

Pennoyer said he was amazed at how well the Japanese people treated American soldiers after the war.

A grandson of J.P. Morgan, he went on to become assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York under President Dwight Eisenhower and served on the boards at Columbia University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pennoyer said although we had no choice in World War II, the U.S. has become too quick in recent decades to use military force to impose our will on other countries.

"The trouble is not the military but the civilian leadership in the White House who, because of the hubris about our power, misuse it and abuse it and take us into unjust wars like the Iraq War and Vietnam," Pennoyer said.

Pennoyer counseled greater use of diplomacy and said we should spend much less money on the military and much more on foreign aid and domestic concerns such as education.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MA