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VETERANS DAY MEMORIES

Mason City resident witnessed signing of Japanese surrender

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MASON CITY | Calvin "Cal" Braastad, 89, of Mason City, witnessed the official surrender by the Japanese that ended World War II.

Braastad, a Navy seaman, watched from the upper deck of the USS Taylor with the rest of the crew while the surrender document was being signed on the main deck of the USS Missouri, which was at anchor next to the USS Taylor in Tokyo Bay.

"That was something," he said.

Braastad, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 19, was fresh out of boot camp when he went aboard the USS Taylor at Long Beach, Calif., in early 1944.

Braastad grew up on a farm in South Dakota and went to boot camp in Idaho. He had never seen the ocean before. 

The USS Taylor went all over the South Pacific during the war, Braastad said. 

He was a rangefinder operator on a quad-mount 40 mm anti-aircraft gun.

"I never got a scratch," he said.

However, there were a lot of close calls for Braastad and his 150 crewmates.

Once he saw a Japanese plane through his binoculars. 

"It was coming down straight toward us," he said.

At one point the plane was 500 feet above the ship, he said. Fortunately, the bomb was dropped 300 feet in front of the ship rather than being a direct hit.

The pilot "must have screwed up," Braastad said.

The USS Taylor was one of three destroyers handpicked by Admiral William Halsey to escort the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945.

In the fall of 1945 when the USS Taylor was on the way back to the United States, it took the northern Pacific route. 

"That was the most wicked part of the whole ocean," Braastad said.

He was on the bridge when a huge wave came.

"The whole ship was underwater," Braastad said.

After the war, Braastad became a partner in a manufacturing company. In 1991, after he retired, he and his wife, Carolyn, a Mason City native, moved to her hometown.

The couple, who will celebrate their 45th anniversary in June, have six children in their blended family.

Son Dave Braastad, 62, of Westhampton, Mass., put together a book of his father's war experiences that includes photos as well as information from the ship's log.

He noted the USS Taylor and the other two destroyers that escorted the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony were chosen because they had served so well in all their battles in the South Pacific.

He said it wasn't until he served in the military himself that the significance of what his father did "began to sink in."

"It became very meaningful. I realized the importance of it," he said.

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