First Marine On Japan
D. Larry Patterson
Nonfiction, Biography / Memoir
April 19, 2014
Pfc Bernard F. (Mac) McCarty was the first Marine to land on Japan during the Occupation of Tokyo Bay on 30 August 1945.
He was the quintessential citizen warrior of “Fightin’ Forties” America. He is representative of the hundreds of thousands of Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who selflessly cast aside the safety and comfort of civilian life to risk everything in the all-out struggle for the survival of their country. Mac quickly made the tough transition from civilian life to become a highly decorated Marine.
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In 1943, Mac enlisted in the US Marine Corps and at the ripe old age of 29 was the oldest recruit at Basic Training, promptly earning him the nickname “Grandpa.” While assigned to the Independence class small Aircraft Carrier USS Cowpens, from Oct 1943 – Aug 1945 Mac was in charge of a 20MM Oerlikon antiaircraft battery and defended the ship from Kamikaze and other airborne attacks during a long list of brutal naval battles.
On 30 Aug 1945, Mac served as bodyguard for Cowpens’ Skipper Captain Herbert S. Duckworth, Commander of Naval Air Operations in the Tokyo Bay Area during the occupation of Japan. Orders show that Mac and Capt Duckworth were both aboard the first of eight TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers that landed that day on Yokosuka Naval Plane Base. A yellowed Kansas City Star article proudly proclaims, “Pfc Bernard F. McCarty made history today by becoming the first Marine of the American occupational forces to set foot on Japanese soil.”
Although supplemented by newspaper articles, official documents, and military orders, Mac tells much of his story first hand. He was an experienced journalist. In a lenghty16,703-word letter to his wife Martha written just a few days after arriving in Japan, he gave an extremely interesting and eloquent description of his landing at Yokosuka, being the first Marine to set foot on Japanese soil, raising old glory over a Japanese base, his first impressions of Japan and the Japanese people, and life as a member of the initial American occupational forces. He documented his experiences with a number of photos taken in and around the base, some of which show him interacting with Capt Duckworth, Admiral McCain, and other dignitaries. Mac was also an accomplished artist, and produced many pen and ink drawings of life aboard the Cowpens and at Yokosuka.
Mac always considered himself a Marine until the day he died. His uniform perpetually hung in the bedroom closet, and his M1 carbine was always close at hand; clean, locked ‘n’ loaded, and ready for action.
Mac was certainly not a unique individual. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Like all four of the McCarty brothers, almost every able-bodied man and many women of Mac’s generation shared similar wartime experiences. Many were less fortunate and gave up much more than just two or three years of their lives. After the passing of well over sixty years, recounting Mac’s military experiences now serves as a reminder to us all of the similar sacrifices and countless contributions made by those other nameless thousands who also answered the same call and those thousands of patriotic Americans who still choose to do so today.