Thursday, August 27, 2020

VJ Day Artifact Series (Part 2): Schoolhouse Arisaka Rifle

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we will be highlighting a few artifacts from the Navy's collection that highlight unique aspects of the Navy during the war. This week we are featuring an artifact from our own collection. 

This Type 99 Arisaka rifle was brought back to the U.S. by USS Wisconsin (BB 64) crewmember Frederick Mauritson. (HRNM 2000-347D-013/Elijah Palmer)

By Elijah Palmer
Deputy Director of Education

Small arms are typically not as common in naval museums as other, more ground based military museums. However that does not mean they are non-existent. Within the collection at HRNM is a captured Japanese Type 99 Arisaka rifle. The Arisaka was the standard issue rifle for the Japanese military during World War II, and thus became a fairly common war souvenir for American military personnel. 

Mauritson etched in "Sept. 16, 1945" on the rifle butt, the date he went into Yokosuka. (Elijah Palmer)

Signalman 3rd Class Frederick Mauritson found this rifle in Yokosuka, Japan. The rifle was one of a cache hidden under the floor of an elementary school and were meant to be used by civilians in the case of the feared American invasion ("Operation Downfall"), which the entire nation was prepared to defend against. 

Japanese schoolgirls train on Arisaka rifles and a light machine gun (Wikipedia Commons)

A Marine destroys Japanese small arms (including Type 99 Arisaka rifles) with a hammer near Yokosuka Naval Base on August 30, 1945. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

American ships outside of Tokyo Harbor on August 27, 1945, with Mount Fuji in the background. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Mauritson was a plankowner on USS Wisconsin (BB 64) and was off the coast of Japan on August 15, 1945 when word of the Japanese surrender arrived. The battleship came into Tokyo Bay on September 5, 1945, a few days after the surrender ceremony. He was able to finally get liberty and go ashore on September 16th. USS Wisconsin would leave Japan on September 22nd to participate in Operation Magic Carpet, bringing soldiers and marines back to the United States. When the ship sailed away, Mauritson had a few souvenirs stashed in his seabag, which would eventually find their way into HRNM's collection. 

Signalman 3rd Class Frederick Mauritson with his father, Lieutenant Frederick Mauritson (USN, 1919-1946) after the war. (from Mauritson's scrapbook in HRNM collection)

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