History of the Acquisition of Signed Surrender Photograph and Instrument of Surrender

In the history of the United States, there have been many notable written and photographic war documents. For the American colonies, the great Charter Document, the Declaration of Independence, began a long and painful struggle that ended on a battlefield at Yorktown, Virginia with the Articles of Capitulation between General Washington and Lord Cornwallis on October 19, 1781. A new nation was thus assured its survival.

In the twentieth century, the most dramatic and profound war document in the history of the United States was signed on September 2, 1945 aboard the Battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) on Tokyo Bay. This document, the Instrument of Surrender ended the hostilities of World War II. The link between the surrender at Yorktown and the surrender of the Empire of Japan in 1945, completed the rise of the United States of America to a position of vast military strength and global leadership.

As a military and political document, there has been no document in history that surpasses the Instrument of Surrender document in its moral content. The document called for the protection of all Allied prisoners of war; the rejection of irresponsible militarism; the insistence of democratic tendencies with the recognition of human rights, of freedom of speech, of religion and of thought. (See Harry S. Truman Biography-Potsdam Declaration-July 26, 1945)

There are many individual histories of World War II and the documents that chronicle these histories are too numerous to publish. Thus, the documents that capture the sum total of these individual histories are the primary focus of Historical Document Reproduction, Inc. and its Publisher, James K. Mitchell, Jr.

However, the motivation to complete any project of this magnitude comes from a personal connection to historical events. Therefore, the roots of this enterprise can be traced for the publisher to 1944 at Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea and on the Island of Biak as the 33rd U. S. Army Division-123 Regimental Combat Team went into action against the Empire of Japan.

For the Empire of Japan, in late 1943, Biak Island was considered part of a new defensive position"with no thought of withdrawal." A decisive Japanese counter attack would be initiated along the line Timor-West New Guinea-Biak Island-Palau Islands-Marianes. The American attack on Biak Island triggered a response by the Japanese 1st Mobile Fleet-which included the giant Battleships Yamato and Musashi. This counter attack was called off at the last minute.

On Biak the Japanese savagely counter attacked behind 5-ton tanks driving a wedge between the first waves and the primary attacking American forces. After some of the most fanatical fighting of the Pacific War, over 7200 of the Japanese defenders lay dead.

The publisher's father, James K. Mitchell, Sr. served as a heavy weapons sergeant. He was on many patrols in the Hollandia area and was also a forward artillery director on Biak Island. For his outstanding combat record, he was sent to Officer Candidate School in Australia and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant U. S. Army Infantry.

To this day, it is difficult for him to discuss the trying experiences of combat. His many decorations remain a personal reminder of a time when valor was common place and necessary for survival. A time when many of his comrades in arms did not return to loved ones. To the Americans who sacrificed their lives for freedom and country December 7, 1941 to September 2, 1945, the publisher respectfully dedicates his efforts and fortune in the goal of preserving the memory of their ultimate sacrifice.

Upon graduating form college (Majoring in History) in 1969, the publisher enlisted in the United States Army and served during the Vietnam War period. Today, he serves as the Commander of the William R. Blackshear Post 78 of the American Legion in Jasper, Texas. Post 78 is named after a World War I veteran and the town after a Revolutionary War soldier. Mr. Mitchell is also an instructor at the local High School and continues to do historical research through out the world.

In 1982, on a trip to the west coast the publisher discovered and acquired a signed photograph of the Japanese surrender ceremony. This photograph changed the course of his life. The original 8 inch by 10 inch signed photograph is owned by his corporation-Historical Document Reproduction, Inc.

The photographic document is signed by eight American War Leaders-President Harry S. Truman, General of the Army and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur, Fleet Admiral and Official United States Representative Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr., Vice Admiral John H. Towers, Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney and Rear Admiral Forrest P. Sherman. Seven of the signers signed over their image. President Truman signed on the bottom right of the photograph. (See signed photograph in file pictures) Also (See the Official United States Biographies on the six Naval Officers furnished by the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D. C.)

The publisher's training in American history raised immediate questions as to the authenticity of the signatures on this remarkable photographic document. He was aware of the controversial firing of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur by President Truman during the Korean War. These two leaders had met only one time on Wake Island in October of 1950. They would never meet again. Consequently, any document with their autographies on the same surface had to be extremely rare. To date, the publisher has not found any document held in government hands or in private holdings that bears their signatures.

Letters and phone calls were made to the National Archives, the U. S. Army Military History Institute, the MacArthur Memorial Library in Norfolk, Virginia, the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Park-Fredericksburg, Texas, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri and the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D. C. To date, our research indicates that the original signed photograph of the Japanese is unique among existing known signed photographic documents in that it is:

(1) Signed by so many Pacific War Leaders. Thus creating the most important personalized commemorative photographic historical document in American history.

(2) Signed by the two Americans who signed the Instrument of Surrender document. (Douglas MacArthur and Chester W. Nimitz)

(3) Signed by virtually the entire top Naval Staff of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Five Naval Officers including the head of all Submarines, head of War Plans Division, Deputy Commander in Chief and Commander Air Force, U. S. Pacific Fleet, Commander THIRD FLEET and his Chief of Staff.

(4) Signed by President Harry S. Truman, Commander in Chief

(5) Signed by President Harry S. Truman and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

Before moving forward with developing a plan to share this signed photographic document with the American people, it was deemed vital that a scientific study of the signatures on this photograph be undertaken. The services of Russel D. Osborn of Osborn, Osborn and Osborn Examiners of Question Documents located in New York, New York was employed for this investigation. This firm has been in business since 1905 and their most famous case was the Lindbergh kidnapping trial in 1935. Russel D. Osborn at the time of his employment by the publisher had been a document examiner exclusively for the last twenty-five years. For two of those years, he was a document examiner for the Criminal Investigation Laboratory in the U. S. Army at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He produced a course of study for the U. S. Army. Mr. Osborn is a member of the American Society of Question Document Examiners and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (Document Section). He is a Certified Member of the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, Inc., which maintains an office in Colorado Springs, Colorado and is member of the Panel of Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association in connection with questioned document problems.

The authenticity project began in early 1983. The first report was delivered on December 28, 1983 concerning the signature of Douglas MacArthur. Evidence had been gather at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia. Only original documents could be used in the investigation process. The staff at the MacArthur Memorial graciously allowed us to select and photograph documents in date sequence. The second report was delivered on February 22, 1984 concerning the signature of President Harry S. Truman. The staff at the Truman Library were very helpful in providing original documents for examination and comparison

The final report was delivered on March 15, 1985 concerning Admiral Robert B. Carney. All eight signatures were examined. A large portion of our evidence was provided by the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D. C. The evidence is overwhelming and the final authenticity documents are legally admissible in any court in America.

No other examination of any document in American history equals the authenticity study accomplished by Russel D. Osborn.(See file for Authenticity Reports) No other examination of a signed photographic document has involved so many museum, libraries and depositories of the original documents of the United States of America. Copies of these authenticity reports were forwarded to the institutions that assisted in the evidence gathering.

The National Archives assisted Osborn's investigation by allowing the direct examination of the actual Instrument of Surrender document in Washington, D. C. The signatures of Douglas MacArthur and C. W. Nimitz were photographed directly from this document and compared against their signatures on the signed photograph.

The publisher and Russel D. Osborn had traveled to Washington, D. C. in the fall season of 1983. It was on this trip that the National Archives had arranged for us to examine the Instrument of Surrender document. In a small room above the rotunda of the Archives, the publisher was allowed a personal examination. He felt a profound sense of this documents importance to all Americans and to the rest of the world. The Instrument of Surrender document had not been on display for many years. However, the signatures and the original dark ink lettering had changed to a golden brown color.

It was soon discovered by the publisher that the Instrument of Surrender document had never been photographed in color. However, it was not until 1988 that the publisher had determined that the document needed to be produced in all its glory full size and in color. On January 1, 1988 with the help of the National Archives, the first 8 inch by 10 inch color match negatives of this great American and world document were created forty-three years after the document had been signed aboard the USS MISSOURI (BB-63) Tokyo Bay September 2, 1945.

Prior to the color photographing of the Instrument of Surrender document, the publisher's corporation had been formed. The immediate goal was to begin distributing special framed and serial numbered photographs of the original signed surrender photograph to carefully selected institutions that preserve the history of World War II. (See Picture File-Special-Framed-Serial Numbered-Photograph Japanese Surrender)

In 1984, the Director of the Naval Historical Center informed the publisher that Admiral Robert B. Carney was still living and was retired at special quarters at the Naval Yard in Washington, D. C. Letters were exchanged. (See copies of letters from Admiral Carney-Correspondence File) Arrangements were made to give Admiral Carney a Commemorative framed signed photograph. This presentation Commemorative was sent to is daughter, Mrs. Joseph Carney Taussig, Jr.

In a phone conversation with Mrs. Taussig in the early 1991, the publisher learned that the Admiral had passed away in 1990. The United States Navy has sense commissioned a Guided Missile Cruiser in his name the USS CARNEY. Mrs. Taussig was also writing a book about Admiral Carney's service to our country.

While Admiral Carney did not remember who he had signed the photograph for, our research had concluded that in all likelihood this signed photograph belonged to one of the signers. However, since our conclusions can not be absolutely verified his name will not be revealed. More importantly, the signatures are real and the document displays equally all eight signatures.

While the name of the collector of the signatures can not be revealed, the photographer is not a mystery. Through the use of pictures taken of the photographers positioned on the platform built for the ceremony on board the USS MISSOURI and with the publisher's conversations with this photographer in 1993, it can be confirmed that the photographer was Tony Spina, Chief Photographer's Mate, U. S. Navy.

Tony Spina's photograph was selected by Edward Steichen, one of the foremost American photographers of the twentieth century, as one of the best photographic exposures of the Japanese surrender ceremony. This photograph without signatures, was first published in the book, U. S. NAVY WAR PHOTOGRAPHS PEARL HARBOR TO TOKYO BAY. In the first year of its publication over six million copies were sold. Tony Spina continued his career with the Detroit Free Press, photographing ten American Presidents and has received wide
recognition as one of America's finest Photo-journalists.

The placement of serial numbered museum level photographic reproductions of the signed surrender photograph was carefully selected and were shipped out during 1984 and 1985. The institutions that received these special Commemoratives were as follows: the Harry S. Truman Library-Independence, Missouri, the Douglas MacArthur Memorial-Norfolk, Virginia, the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Park-Fredericksburg, Texas, the Naval Historical Center-Washington, D. C., the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and the National Atomic Museum-Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) received serial number sixty-three of the signed framed photographic Commemorative on August 10, 1987.

By the end of 1989, the first color laser graphic printing of the two pages of the Instrument of Surrender had been completed. A presentation to the Battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) was made on March 26, 1990-Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach California. (See Video Tape of this Ceremony and Picture File)

The following speech was given by the Publisher, James K. Mitchell, Jr.: DEDICATION OF INSTRUMENT OF SURRENDER DOCUMENT-March 26th 1990

I. Captain Chernesky, the crew of the USS MISSOURI, and distinguished guests.

II. Today, is the fulfillment of a goal set by our corporation in 1983. Our mission was to photograph the Instrument of Surrender document in color for the first time since the end of World War II. Later our mission was expanded to include a unique distribution program of full size reproductions of this document to the Veterans of the War, High Schools and to the Institutions that preserve the legacy of America's involvement in mankind's greatest armed conflict.

III. To provide the best possible reproduction of the Instrument of Surrender document required a direct examination of the original document in Washington, D. C. Our group waited patiently in the Office of the Military Reference Branch of the National Archives. It was the fall of 1983. Not far from the National Archives Veterans from another war were gathering to dedicate the Vietnam Memorial. Finally, the Instrument of Surrender document was carried to a large table by one of the few men entrusted with its protection. The document in it's magnificent leather holder was larger than I had expected. The signatures had turned a golden brown producing an indescribable warmth that matched the red and brown colors of the fall season in our nation's capital.

IV. Among the many American leaders aboard the USS MISSOURI on 2 September 1945, was a fellow Texan, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. He signed this document as the Official Representative of the United States. After the ceremony, he released a statement to the American people from which I quote:

"Today all freedom-loving peoples of the world rejoice in the victory and feel pride in the accomplishments of our combined forces. We also pay tribute to those who defended our freedom at the cost of their lives."

"Now we turn to the great tasks of reconstruction and restoration. I am confident that we will be able to apply the same skill, resourcefulness and keen thinking to these problems as were applied to the problems of winning the victory."

This great native Texan knew that future Generations of Americans would continue to strive to produce a new and safer world based upon the fundamental human rights embodied in our country's Constitution and expressed in the Instrument of Surrender document.

V. Since 1983, we have received the assistance of many Americans. In particular, we would like to acknowledge the fine staffs of the National Archives of the United States, the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D. C., the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Park in Fredericksburg, Texas and the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.

VI. Clearly, the legacy of the Pacific War extends directly to all Americans. Therefore, as the son of an American soldier who fought in the Pacific, I have the great honor and privilege to deliver this special presentation of the Instrument of Surrender document to the Battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63). It is respectfully dedicated to the Americans who sacrificed their lives for freedom and country.


The effort to place both of these special Commemoratives aboard the USS MISSOURI had taken six years to accomplish. Two Presidents of the United States have received the special framed and serial numbered signed surrender photographs and without their assistance and the efforts of the Captains of the Battleship USS MISSOURI from 1984 to 1990 these reproduced documents would not have returned to their place of origin for public display.

The ceremony on March 26, 1990 occurred at 9:00 AM directly over the spot where the surrender table was located on the starboard veranda deck forty-five years ago. The ceremony was entered into the Ship's Log. The Battleship USS NEW JERSEY was moored alongside the USS MISSOURI on this special day.

When the Battleship USS MISSOURI, went into action during the Persian Gulf War, this great Warship carried these special Commemoratives into battle. As Captain J. A. Carney of the USS MISSOURI wrote to the publisher in 1987 concerning the gift of the signed surrender photographic Commemorative: "Historical documents such as the one you have most generously presented to the ship will serve as a reminder of what we are capable of doing and an inspiration for that which we may be called on to do." (See correspondence Captains of Battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63)

To date, distribution of these unique World War II documents has been limited to selected American Legion Posts and to individual Veterans of the War. The advent of the Internet now makes these documents widely available to the American people and to Veterans throughout the world. The countries that signed the Instrument of Surrender document besides the United States were: Republic of China, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Canada, France, Netherlands and New Zealand. The Imperial War Museum in London proudly displays these documents and all of the countries listed have received sets of these printed reproductions from our firm.

The products now available to you are listed in the price list. They include the Allied copy of the Instrument of Surrender document two pages (22 1/4 inches in length and 15 1/2 inches in width-each page-color). A Commemorative print of the signed photograph of the Japanese surrender enlarged to 15 inches wide and 17 1/2 inches in length from the original 8 inch by 10 inch size. A sixteen page historical booklet which clarifies and explains the Instrument of Surrender document and gives a brief background on the eight signers of this remarkable signed photograph. A video tape that can be used in a class room produced by the USS MISSOURI (BB-63) Media Affairs Officer in 1990.

Additional printed documents are now being produced concerning all of America's Wars. A list of future color prints of selected American documents can be found under List of Future Prints File. These new war documents are produced with a process that utilizes the latest laser graphic printing technology and are the result of a long process that produces a color reproduction true to the original document.

The publisher is committed to the distribution of these documents to the many educational institutions throughout the United States and the rest of the world. In this regard, Historical Document Reproduction, Inc. will only distribute wholesale to approved and authorized distributors. We invite organizations or companies interested in this important program to write or E-Mail inquiries to us as soon as possible

The participation of individuals is also of primary importance. Your involvement is vital to completing the stated mission of our corporation. Individuals can receive the documents currently offered by forwarding a tax deductible donation to the William R. Blackshear Post 78 of the American Legion. Please review the ordering and donation requirements carefully. (See Ordering Information File)

Each patron of this unique distribution effort can make American and world history come alive for our future citizens. By providing you with these printed reproductions, our firm joins with your individual efforts in educating our youth. These documents graphically invite all of us to remember and reflect upon the sacrifices that assured the survival of freedom; the survival of the United States of America and of the free world.