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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7879

Mrs MARKUS (9:42 AM) —I wish to speak today in honour of Victory in the Pacific Day, which will be celebrated on Saturday, 15 August. The day commemorates Japan’s acceptance of the allied demand for unconditional surrender in 1945. For Australians, Victory in the Pacific Day, or VP Day, meant that World War II was finally over. From historical accounts, it really was a celebration after six long years of war. Australia woke to find a world at peace. There was singing and dancing in the streets across the country. In Sydney, shredded paper rained down from office windows on the crowds and motor traffic came to a halt, with trams carrying revellers clinging to the sides and perched on the roofs. On Thursday, 16 August 1945, there was a more formal VP thanksgiving ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. A large crowd gathered to watch the march of ex-servicemen and to respect the fallen with the traditional minute’s silence. A fly-past of Australian fighters and Dutch bombers, based at Fairbairn, completed the ceremony. Today I ask all Australians to pause on Saturday for a few moments to remember those Australians who gave their lives to help achieve the peace that VP Day stands for. Their past sacrifice must never be forgotten.

On VP Day it is also important to honour those veterans who returned to enjoy the peace that they had helped deliver to all Australians. According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs annual report, there are 121,000 surviving World War II veterans. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of these veterans, who witnessed firsthand the formal surrender of the Japanese on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. Retired Petty Officer Bill Hill is a member of the Kurrajong-Colo RSL in the Hawkesbury. Bill served six years in the Australian Navy and was also seconded to the Royal Navy for two of those six years. In 1945 Bill served on HMAS Nizam, an N-class destroyer carrying out submarine detection in the Pacific Ocean with the United States 5th Fleet. Their mission was to protect the US aircraft carriers from the submarine attack. Bill recounted:

Our task on the day of the surrender was to screen the USS Missouri for submarines as it went into the bay for the signing. I stood on the deck of the destroyer and had a wonderful view of the whole ceremony on the USS Missouri.

On the USS Missouri General Thomas Blamey, Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces, signed the Japanese surrender document on behalf of Australia. Bill witnessed history in the making. He did not watch it on the TV or the internet; he was actually there. Bill finally got back to Australia in early 1946, after spending time in the Pacific picking up Japanese troops from the surrounding islands. I thank Bill and the many other Australians for their service to our country. They must not be forgotten as we approach Victory in the Pacific Day.