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History by Carl Mydans
 The Japanese surrender on board
the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on
September 2, 1945. General Yoshijiro
Umezu signs the surrender document
while General MacArthur looks on.
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There comes a day in the life of every journalist's career when the BIG STORY confronts them. The trick, of course, is-when other reporters and photographers want to cover the same story and there isn't enough room for everyone-how do you get chosen? 

Carl writes about how he managed to be on the bridge of the Missouri: 

"...Getting that prime position wasn't automatic. All the press met one night in Manila in a great Army tent to hear General Diller make an announcement about the plans to get us to Japan. Diller said a contingent of Allied correspondents would be sent in, and that meant everybody-New Zealanders, Australians, Americans, British, French, all of us who were Allies fighting the Japanese. He said there was only to be six of us in the contingent.... So after all those years of fighting in the vast Pacific, it all came down to a concentrated battle in that tent. Correspondents were standing up on chairs, shrieking. I have been covering this war for four years. No S.O.B. is going to keep me from going in for the surrender of Japan. The man from the New York Times got up and made a speech saying, "Don't think of the NY Times as just a daily newspaper; we have a series of newspapers that use us, we are just as important as the wire services." And then one correspondent got up and made the most absurd suggestion. He said, "Fellows, we've been in this war together-many of us since the beginning. And I move if we can't all go to the surrender of Japan, none of us will go." And somebody else, standing on a chair, followed quickly, "Who the hell ever heard of war reporters deciding they wouldn't cover the surrender of the biggest war in history?" 

At that point I got the eye of a small handful of the war photographers, maybe six or seven, I signaled to them to come out of the tent. We stood in the darkness and I said, "Look, those guys, the writers, don't care about us, and we are not going to care about them. Let's all get together and thumb our way to Okinawa-that's where the jump-off is going to be-the hell with the writers." 

In those days a war correspondent could just go up to a plane and say hey where are you going? I am with the AP or LIFE magazine. That's the way we traveled. 

...Pretty soon we were all assembled in Okinawa. Then another battle began. The participants were not only the entire press corps in the Pacific, but the Allied press of the world. They included scores and scores of people from the Pentagon and Washington who had now come for the kill, the end of the war...the argument now centered on who would be with General Joe Swing on that first plane. The General and I were very good friends from combat days. That was very important-to be known as a correspondent or war photographer who was with him in combat. If they remembered that you were with them during the fighting, that you came through the same things they came through, they went out of their way to help you with whatever you needed. 

We all went up that morning to General Swing's tent. He came out, a swagger stick in his hands, saying to us, "Good Morning Gentlemen, well, what can I do for you." Everybody's voice began at once, and he held up his hand and said,"Is there anybody here who wants to explain what the trouble is?" And somebody, I think it was a wire service man, spoke up and said, "Well, General, we want to be sure some of us are on that plane with you, and we want to speak up for that position." Swing looked around, he looked at all of us and he said, "Well, you know one plane is not going to take all of you, and I think you know since I command this division I will be in that plane and then he looked around and said, "I'll tell you, I will solve the problem. I will name the people whom I carry in my plane." Then he said, pointing at me, "Now I will begin with this little guy here. You know he's so small I can put him in my musette bag and I wouldn't even know he was there." 

Yes, being in combat, knowing the generals, covering the war over a long time helped." 

(Carl Mydans, Photojournalist) 

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