Mountain Home man witness to 1945 Japanese surrender

Ray Sulfridge, 91, shares his story of surviving naval battles in World War II and witnessing the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. (CBS 2)

Ray Sulfridge wanted adventure in 1943, so he lied about his age and joined the navy even though the recruiter knew he was only 16.

"He looked up at me and he says I'll tell you what, your're big enough and you're ugly enough. If you keep your mouth shut, I'll keep mine shut and they shipped me off to boot camp."

Sulfridge, who is now 91, ended up on the USS San Diego, which came through 18 major battles with the Japanese unscathed.

Because of its superb battle record, the San Diego was chosen as the US flagship for the formal surrender of the Japanese in Tokyo Bay.

"We were ready to make a ground invasion until they dropped those (atomic) bombs," Sulfridge said. "And after that, we didn't have to worry about it. If hadn't been for that, I sure as hell wouldn't be sitting here right now."

He figures he would have been killed in the fighting that would follow an invasion of the Japanese homeland.

But instead, on Sept. 2, 1945, Sulfridge witnessed the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri, but from a distance.

"They were giving speeches," he said. "We couldn't hear what they were saying but we could see them. I figured if they're signing a treaty they're gonna send us home, which they did."

Sulfridge says the most fearful moment of the war for him was when a typhoon hit his fleet commanded by Admiral William "Bull" Halsey.

"That's the only time I worried," Sulfridge said. "There were 140 mile-an-hour winds and waves over a hundred feet high."

Several ships capsized and 800 lives were lost.

But Ray Sulfridge doesn't dwell on the war.

"It was a little touch and go," he said with classic understatement and a laugh. "But I didn't lose any sleep. I was young and everything was exciting to me at the time. I guess I was too dumb to be scared."

He laughs again.

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