67 years ago Americans celebrated the end of World War II as "V-J Day" - victory over Japan. That anniversary was remembered quietly, Saturday morning, at the World War II Memorial in Washington.
A small group of very elderly veterans, most in wheelchairs, came to help lay wreaths as a remembrance of the more than 400,000 Americans in uniform who were killed during the war.
Addressing those survivors, retired Marine Corps General Peter Pace, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said solemnly, "Thank you for our country's freedom. Thank you for our families' freedom. And, yes, thank you for my freedom."
Later Saturday, 87 year old John McGrory visited the Memorial. He remembers that day 67 years ago when he and his army buddies learned the Japanese government had agreed to surrender. "We, ah, were given a lot of beer," recalled McGrory with a chuckle.
John McGrory can laugh now. But, during his trip to the World War Two Memorial, he made a point of stopping (and remaining silent for a moment) at the part of the monument commemorating the tough beachfront landings in New Guinea. McGrory said he recalled seeing many fellow infantrymen drown before even making it to shore. And he saw it often. "Every landing. You didn't know whether -- a lot of times the [landing craft] would not make it [close enough to the shore]. And you'd hop off the thing and you'd just go right down under [water]. And we lost a lot that way, because they just couldn't make it to the shore."
McGrory was still in high school, in 1943, in Weymouth, Mass., when he turned 18. He was drafted before he could even finish his senior year.
Army Sgt. John McGrory helped occupy Japan, and, on this day, he shared a long-held military secret with us.
"We were one of the [first] troops that landed. And that was kind of scary." Why? "Because we were told we could have our rifles, but no ammunition."
The U.S. Army did not want incidents, so many of the U.S. soldiers who first occupied Japan, including John McGrory, did so without bullets
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