HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dave Reyes was just 7 when he stumbled on some black-and-white photos in a family scrapbook that appeared to show a Japanese officer surrendering at the end of World War II.
“Whoa, whoa, hey pops, what’s with these little pictures over here?” Reyes remembers asking his dad, Filbert.
The elder Reyes was a U.S. Navy sailor who was on a destroyer that was part of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship group.
Dave Reyes, who lives on Maui, said his dad was among those to witness a Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945 — though not the ceremony that marked the end of World War II.
“They picked so many people from each crew, and he and his three buddies that went ― there was an officer, and three of them ― decided they were going to take a camera on board,” Reyes said.
But sailors were forbidden to take pictures of the proceedings so the photos were snapped secretly.
“They chanced it, took the pictures,” said Reyes. “Took the film out and threw the camera overboard.”
The resulting photos were then shared among the sailors.
“There’s 12 photos on the roll of film. They was four of them, they each got three pictures,” said Reyes.
The first of the photos shows a Japanese delegation arriving on a boat. The second shows a Japanese officer signing surrender papers, while the third shows the officer ceremonially handing over his sword to an allied commander.
Reyes said the photos were kept in the scrapbook, and then later enlarged.
The originals were lost in a flood on the mainland, but Reyes’ younger sister had taken pictures of them. The family made them public Wednesday.
After the war, Filbert Reyes returned to his California home, got married and started a family. But he refused to say anything more about the pictures, his companions, or anything about the war.
He died in 1998.
Dave Reyes said his family had thought the photos were taken from the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. It turns out that they were actually taken when the Japanese surrendered to the Australian navy nine days later, off what’s now northwest Malaysia.
There were several such surrender ceremonies, where the Japanese imperial military surrendered territories that they had occupied during the war.
Even if they weren’t taken on the Mighty Mo, Reyes is glad that his father was still a witness to history. He also hopes the photos will finally turn up his father’s three companions, who got the other pictures.
“Wait, time out! I’ve got the matching pictures,” Reyes imagined the others saying. “That would be great. That would be kinda cool.”