The photographs of Mamoru Shigemitsu taken on September 2, 1945 are striking for their formal elegance.  The Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs had boarded the USS Missouri shortly before nine o’clock in the morning, set to sign the official instrument of surrender. 

Images show a small man dressed in a top hat and tails while around him, the  crew of the battleship wear traditional seamen’s gear.

Radio Man 2nd Class Joseph Kovac may have been the only man on board in blue jeans. 

He explains it like this:  “I had my duffel bag turn up missing—never did find out what happened to it.  I had no other clothes to wear that morning—those jeans were all I had left!”

Kovac’s lack of a Navy wardrobe was insignificant as history unfolded around him; as witness to the formal end of World War II in the Pacific, Kovac can share minutia from that notable morning including fascinating details such as the individual demeanors of now-legendary figures like General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, who he still refers to as ‘my boss’.  “The impression I had was that they treated the Japanese delegation with the utmost respect—even to the point of feeling a little sorry for them.”

Commodore James L. Taylor Jr. of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club acknowledge the contributions made by Kovac along the many veterans present for the GPYC Veteran’s Recognition Brunch on Sunday, November 8.   The chance to speak in detail with Joe Kovac, who went on to run a successful refrigeration company in Detroit, was arranged by Cynthia Cassell of the Yacht Club.



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