Navy man’s flight marked end of WWII

George Grimm’s scrapbook includes pages out of U.S. history.

The 87-year-old Arlington man has a copy of the famous Navy photograph of Adm. Chester Nimitz at the formal surrender of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the battleship USS Missouri.

Nimitz was the U.S. representative signing the Instrument of Surrender. Standing behind him were Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Adm. William Halsey and Rear Adm. Forrest Sherman.

Countless veterans surely have copies of that photo, taken 60 years ago today. It marks the end of World War II.

Handwritten on Grimm’s copy, though, is a note no one else has:

“To George Grimm, with best wishes and great appreciation of your contribution to the war effort in the Pacific, which made possible the above scene. C.W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral USN.”

While the Allied victory required the sacrifices of millions, Grimm played a direct role in the official surrender, two weeks after the war had ended.

As a pilot with the Naval Air Transport Service, Grimm was part of the crew that flew Nimitz, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. A.A. Vandegrift and other high-ranking men from the island of Saipan into Tokyo Bay on Aug. 29, 1945.

He remembers as if it were yesterday the 10-hour flight aboard a PB2Y Coronado, a long-range seaplane.

Built as patrol bombers, “they were flying boats, with a big hull. They landed in open water,” Grimm said. On the historic flight, Grimm was first pilot, flying with Lt. E.L. Shockey, plane commander, and Ensign Jack Yeager, second pilot.

“During the war, I crossed the Pacific 75 times. We got fired on a few times and sweated out a lot of trips,” said Grimm, a 1936 Arlington High School graduate. Many flights were at night, as crews relied on celestial navigation. “We flew a lot of brass around, a couple of admirals. I never damaged an airplane.”

Grimm was in Hawaii in August 1945 when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Japanese surrender.

With sealed orders, he and his crew were told to fly to the Marshall Islands and then to Saipan in the western Pacific’s Northern Marianas.

“We had nothing to do there but swim and play horseshoes,” he recalled. The night of Aug. 28, 1945, word came to leave at dawn.

“We were going to Tokyo Bay,” he said. “With Nimitz and other admirals and generals, it was hard to believe we had that much brass on one airplane. We were unarmed the whole time.”

During the flight, Nimitz came up a ladder to the flight deck. In Grimm’s scrapbook is a grainy picture of the Navy fleet admiral as he leans on a pilot seat.

Grimm’s plane approached Tokyo Bay with an escort of P-47 Marine planes, “like a swarm of bees all around us.” Grimm was amazed by the sight of “a tremendous fleet of ships,” American, Canadian, Australian and British. “There were 800 to 1,000 ships.”

“Admiral Nimitz said, ‘Isn’t that a wonderful sight?’ He had us take a turn around the fleet. It was so huge, it took a while,” Grimm said.

At the center of the bay were the battleships USS South Dakota, USS Missouri, USS Iowa and the British HMS Duke of York.

“We landed astern of the Missouri. We drifted awhile, and they sent a boat out from the South Dakota,” Grimm said. That boat took the officials, while Grimm and his crew taxied to the USS Suisun, a seaplane tender.

Five days later, Grimm was aboard his plane, secured near the Suisun in Tokyo Bay, when Japanese officials came aboard the Missouri for the ceremony.

“Everybody ran out of film,” said Grimm, whose crew flew Nimitz back to Saipan on Sept. 3, 1945.

After the war, Grimm flew congressional delegations to islands in the Pacific. He stayed in the Naval Reserve, at Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle. He married his beloved Arlyne, who had worked for the U.S. State Department.

They raised two sons on their dairy farm at Island Crossing, on land homesteaded in 1878 by Grimm’s grandfather, Thomas Jensen. Grimm’s first wife died in 1988. His wife, Violet, is now in a care facility.

In 1960, he and his family visited Nimitz at the retired admiral’s home near San Francisco. He prizes those snapshots as much as pictures taken on that momentous day in 1945.

“I was 27 years old that day,” Grimm said. “In a sense, we knew it was a historic event. All those men had died in that terrible war.

“But we were just young guys doing our job.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlsteinjulie@heraldnet.com.

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