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The Baguio Surrender Pens

(This page published July 1, 2024)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

On September 3, 1945, the “Tiger of Malaya” signed an In­stru­ment of Sur­ren­der at Baguio, Luzon Island, ending the Japanese oc­cu­pa­tion of northern Luzon. The signing involved three or four fountain pens. What were they, whose were they, and who used which ones?

The U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, Baguio, Luzon

Post card from the 1970s: the American Residence in Camp John Hay, where the sur­ren­der ceremony was held. Until 1916, Baguio was the provincial capital and the structure was the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence.


The Prologue

Following Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s order of August 15, 1945, commanding all Japanese forces to cease operations and lay down their weapons, Allied forces were faced with the task of rounding up and disarming all the various Japanese units throughout Asia and the Western Pacific. Major General Robert Beightler, commanding the 37th U.S. Infantry Division, then on the Philippine island of Luzon, was assigned command of the Luzon Area Command, tasked with corralling the Japanese troops on the island.

The Imperial Japanese Army’s 14th Army Group on Luzon was under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Military Governor of the Philippine Islands, who three and a half years earlier, with only 30,000 soldiers, had rolled up a combined force of British, Indian, and Australian troops defending Malaya. That lightning-like stroke had climaxed with the fall of Singapore February 15, 1942, and the capture of 80,000 men, the largest-ever surrender of British-led troops, and had gained Yamashita the nickname “Tiger of Malaya.”

By the middle of 1945, however, the Allies held the upper hand. Yamashita’s proud command, once numbering more than 150,000, was down to about 50,000 ill-supplied troops in Kiangan (part of the Ifugao Province). Beightler made contact with Yamashita, and the two worked out arrangements for the surrender of the Japanese troops. On September 2, 1945, Yamashita had himself carried in a sedan chair, followed by his staff, to a location mear Beightler’s camp; at that point he was transferred to a Jeep and driven to meet Beightler. Yamashita, a brilliant tactician who did not like war but nonetheless did his duty ferociously, was disliked in the Japanese army for being undesirably humane to his Allied prisoners of war. He offered to shake hands; Beightler declined, and Yamashita took a step backward, bowed, and saluted.

The Preliminaries

On the morning of Monday, September 3, several cars pulled up, one at a time, at the entrance to the American Residence to discharge officers from various areas on Luzon who were under the command of Major General Edmond Leavey, General Douglas MacArthur’s Chief of Staff for U.S. Army Forces Western Pacific. Major General Beightler, as the capturing officer, was among them.

The signing ceremony was delayed two hours so that U.S. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright, who had surrendered the Philippines to General Masaharu Homma in 1942, and British Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, who had surrendered Singapore and Malaya to Yamashita, also in 1942, could attend. They flew in from Japan, where they had attended the final Japanese surrender the previous day aboard USS Missouri, in Tokyo Harbor.

The party convened in the ballroom, the principal officers taking their places behind a long table in the middle of the room while aides and press stood behind them. Leavey was in the center, with Lieutenant General Wilhelm Styer, of MacArthur's staff, at his immediate right to conduct the ceremony. Wainwright stood next to Styer, and Beightler took his place on Wainright’s right.

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The Signing

As shown in the photograph below, there was a dip pen on the table, with a bottle of ink. The shape of the bottle identifies its contents as Higgins India Ink. There was also an Eversharp Skyline fountain pen on the table, next to the pad between Generals Leavey and Styer.


The signatories at the table, with dip pen, ink bottle, and fountain pen visible. The Japanese are signing the Instrument of Surrender at this moment; see text below. U.S. Army photo.

Yamashita and Okochi were brought into the room with their aides and interpreters, to stand on the other side of the table, facing the Americans, for ten minutes before the Allied personnel were settled and took their seats in comfortable chairs. The Japanese then also sat down — on folding chairs and stools.

Leavey spoke a few sentences, and the two Japanese signatories signed the Instrument of Surrender. They signed at the same time, each using an Eversharp Skyline fountain pen to sign one of the two copies of the Instrument of Surrender; they then traded copies. The pen that Okochi used is more clearly visible in the photo above. The Skyline mentioned earlier remained on the table while the Japanese were signing. (See the left photo below.) The expanded view to the right below offers a better view of the pens in the hands of the Japanese officers.

Yamashita and Okochi signing
Yamashita and Okochi close-up

General Yamashita and Vice Admiral Okoshi signing the Instrument of Surrender; each signs one copy, and then they trade. Photo provided courtesy of the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum.

When the Japanese had signed, Leavey, as the designated Allied signatory, picked up the fountain pen that lay between himself and Styer on the table, and at 12:10 p.m. signed one copy of the Instrument of Surrender (below, left). At that point he lifted the pen from the paper and handed it, still posted, to Wainwright as a souvenir (below, right). Taking a second Skyline in hand, he finished signing the two copies of the document; those copies were then embossed with an official seal. (The black object obscuring Leavey’s right hand in the left photo below is a hand-operated seal embosser, used by an aide.) It is not clear where the second Skyline came from or what happened to it, but given that the first one Leavey used was not used by either of the Japanese officers, it stands to reason that the second one was likewise not used by a Japanese and that it went to Percival. (I have not, however, found any documentation that could prove either aspect of this hypothesis.)

It is not possible to identify the color of any of the pens in the photos, but the Dubonnet Red Skyline shown here is representative.

Fountain pen
Leavey signing
Leavey handing pen to Styer

Major General Leavey signs the Instrument of Surrender (left) and then hands the pen to Lieutenant General Wainwright, second from him on his right. Still images from a motion picture in the collection of the Australian War Museum, in the public domain.

I believe that the most probable scenario, given the use of several Eversharp Skyline pens, all with identical gold-filled caps (and possibly all of the same color), is that either Leavey or Styer had somehow collected them to be used for this ceremony. Skylines were very popular during the war, much more common — and easier to find — than Waterman desk pens, of which Colonel Hervey Bennett Whipple had managed to collect four for the Tokyo signing.

Instrument of Surrender

The Aftermath

After the Japanese had signed, they were led from the room, with Yamashita carrying their copy of the Instrument of Surrender. The ceremony was over.

Yamashita, already a prisoner of war, was charged with war crimes and transferred to the Bilibid Prison, in Muntinlupa, near Manila toward the southern end of Luzon. The specific charge was that he had failed in his duty as an army commander to control the behavior of his troops, allowing them to commit atrocities against both civilians and prisoners of war. On October 8, 1945, his trial opened before a military commission of five Army officers appointed by order of General Styer. Despite Yamashita’s insistence that he himself had not engaged in any criminal acts committed by his troops, that he had not ordered the commission of any such acts, and that he had not had control over his troops, he was found guilty December 7, and sentenced to death by hanging. He then filed for a writ of habeas corpus from the Supreme Court of the Philippines, asserting that he had not committed any violation of the Laws of War and that he had not received a fair trial under the Articles of War of the United States, the Geneva Convention of 1929, and the U.S. Constitution. The Court denied his writ. He then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which also denied his petition. He went to the gallows February 23, 1946.

This article is one in a series about the historic pens used at the official German and Japanese surrenders that ended World War II.

  1. Okochi’s personal name is frequently transliterated as Denshichi instead of Denhichi, but his signature on the Instrument of Surrender reads Denhichi. For historical continuity, I have chosen to adhere to that version.  Return

  2. Stephen B. Ives Jr., “Vengeance Did Not Deliver Justice,”  link, 2001, retrieved April 4, 2024.  Return

  3. Mahle, Anne E., “The Yamashita Standard,”  link, 1997, retrieved April 4, 2024.  Return

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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