“In the deck log of the Missouri for the Second of September 1945...there is a list of all of the visitors and I am the last one on that list.”
Captain Robert K. Kaufman, USN
On September 2nd, 1945 one of the most deadly and destructive wars in history drew to a close on the deck of the USS Missouri BB-63 in Tokyo Bay. The Missouri, an Iowa Class Battleship, was selected to sail into the heart of the Empire of Japan and serve as the site of the conclusion of hostilities and end the Second World War. Thousands of allied personnel were present on the deck of the USS Missouri when the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed. General Douglas MacArthur’s echoing voice stated, "Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won." The world listened to his words and knew peace was restored.
Observing this awe inspiring occasion was a young Flag Lieutenant who had already sailed against Nazi Germany in the Atlantic and dove beneath the waves against Imperial Japan. Robert Kenneth Kaufman had been accepted to the United States Naval Academy in 1936 and was a proud member of the Class of 1940. He was assigned to the USS Wichita CA-45 where he participated in numerous convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic, protecting allied ships from German U-boats and Luftwaffe air attacks. Before being granted his wish to attend submarine school, he participated in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, aboard the Wichita. Recalling the experience, he shared, “In the summer of 1942, the Wichita became part of the British Royal Navy Home Fleet...as an element of the home fleet we accompanied a U.S. Merchant Fleet Convoy...the convoy was attacked by German aircraft and a number of the ships were lost.” Upon departing the USS Wichita, he completed submarine school and was assigned to the USS Gato SS-212.
Aboard the USS Gato, Kaufman would sail into harm’s way against the Empire of Japan. He recalled, “I was the Third Officer, I made three war patrols as the Torpedo and Gunnery Officer and the last two aboard as the Executive Officer of Gato.” His leadership and conduct aboard the USS Gato and his time on the USS Wichita brought him to the attention of his superiors. After five war patrols aboard Gato, Kaufman was ordered to serve as the Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr.
Admiral Lockwood was assigned as the Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet and it was with this assignment that Flag Lieutenant Kaufman would be given the opportunity to witness the conclusion of World War Two aboard the USS Missouri BB-63. Kaufman shared, “We went to the Missouri and witnessed the Ceremony... In the deck log of the Missouri for the Second of September 1945...there is a list of all of the visitors and I am the last one on that list.” Kaufman’s service would not end on the deck of the Missouri. He served in a number of command roles, including the Executive Officer on the USS Razorback SS-394 and the USS Requin SS-481 and as the Captain on the USS Sirago SS-485 and the USS Hermitage LSD-34.
To hear the inspiring story of World War Two and Cold War Veteran Captain Robert K. Kaufman, USN (Ret.), come alive, view his detailed experience that has been digitally archived by the Navy Memorial.
The United States Navy Memorial honors Captain Robert K. Kaufman on the 70th Anniversary of the Japanese Surrender and conclusion of World War Two, featured within this series titled, Tales from the Navy Log, Story of the Month. Each month, this series honors a Veteran’s story recorded by the Stories of Service Program at the Navy Memorial. To learn more about this story and to explore the Navy Memorial Tales from the Navy Log archive, visit the Nvy Memorial Stories of Service site.