World War II veteran’s memories inspire

It was a clear, sunny September day in Tokyo Bay when world history pivoted on two signatures. Dallas veteran CC Collie saw this happen.

“The whole thing only lasted two minutes,” he said. “MacArthur was the only one speaking.”

The Japanese Empire, represented by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, surrendered to Allied forces under US General Douglas MacArthur, ending World War II. Several other generals also signed, but the handwritten names of the main leaders ended the war.

It was September 2, 1945. Collie clearly remembers his naval service, including that monumental ceremony aboard the USS Missouri 77 years ago. He was an eyewitness. One of the few still alive.

“The most impressive event of the day was when 1,600 planes flew over,” Collie said. “It was a very memorable black cloud of Allied aircraft.”

Mr. Collie was a young lieutenant serving as communications and radar officer on the USS Blue, a downstream destroyer in Tokyo Bay that September morning. It became known as VJ Day, representing the Allied victory over Japan.

During the war, he and his fellow sailors from the Blue took part in monumental conflicts in the Pacific, including battles on Saipan, Guam, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. USS Blue also captured a Japanese submarine and survived three typhoons. Collie earned seven Battle Stars during those dangerous days.

“It was a touch-and-go for a while,” he said.

In a few weeks, the Dallas veteran will celebrate his 100th birthday.

The men and women who fought and won this war are now over 90 years old. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, they are dying at a rate of more than 200 every day.

With them go their memories of World War II, its devastation and the dedication of those who won it.

Collie doesn’t consider himself a hero. Few people of that era do.

“I was honored to serve our country,” he said.

But stop and consider, on this Veterans Day, how different our lives would be if our country had not had the courage, determination and sacrifice of those who stood in the breach during those eerie days. , to oppose the impending Axis powers and their plans to control the civilized world.

The annual Veterans Day pomp and parades may seem antiquated to new generations of Americans, but it is not and never will be true. In fact, the lessons of allegiance and unity are very relevant today. Imagine how today’s culture could benefit by modeling our public discourse, our sense of service and our social will after these benchmarks of 1940s America. What real progress could be made against the most daunting challenges of today if we unite against monumental odds, just as they did?

Obviously, no one wants to go back to the racial divide, gender gaps, or other social shortcomings of that time. And yet, the American will of the time offers us a lesson in commitment, courage and teamwork.

Imagine how a new American alliance of East and West, city and country, left and right, young and old, could tackle our greatest social ills.

Could we simplify and streamline health care? Sorting out immigration? Eradicate homelessness? Or stem the mental health crisis and homicide rates? American courage, when organized around an important cause, is almost indomitable.

We have much to learn from the men and women who served, suffered and sacrificed for a cause greater than themselves almost 80 years ago. Can we say that we are doing the same for this country today, or for any cause? If not, why not?

After the war, Collie served in the reserves for several years, then moved to Dallas and worked in banking and home health care. He and his wife, Sue, have five children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He is a member of the Park Cities Rotary Club and served two terms as district governor in the 1980s.

Friends, family and fellow Rotarians will honor Collie on his 100th birthday at a special celebration next month. Please join him and all of our local veterans in remembering their sacrifices and trying to reflect that same sense of service today.

Jeff Brady is the City Communications Director of Farmers Branch and a member of the Park Cities Rotary Club. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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