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Family donates WWII documents to NMMI

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Matt Nichols holds the leather-bound copy of the 1945 Japanese Instruments of Surrender from World War II that he and his family, including his mother, Madelon Nichols, fourth from left, have donated to the New Mexico Military Institute. Only 12 copies for high-ranking military and government leaders were ever made. Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle and members of the board accept the donation during an Oct. 25 meeting. The board members are, from left, Col. Tim Paul, Brad Christmas, Col. Barbara Trent and Dr. Cedric Page. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Copy of Japanese surrender documents described as ‘rare’ and ‘important’

This page of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, one of a few in Japanese, includes the emperor’s stamp in the upper left corner. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The New Mexico Military Institute has received a unique piece of World War II history from a New Mexico family.

Madelon Nichols and Matt Nichols have donated to the NMMI archives one of only 12 known copies of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender that ended the world conflict.

The Nichols’ copy had belonged to Maj. Gen. Lester J. Whitlock, an aide to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Toyko Bay when the documents were signed Sept. 2, 1945. The Japanese military’s declaration of surrender had occurred Aug. 14, 1945. Germany had surrendered in May.

“The importance of the final surrender to the NMMI family is poignant even as we near the 75th anniversary of the event, as every American family was impacted by the war and more so here where faculty, staff and students were involved in both theaters during the war,” Lt. Col. Kalith Smith, associate dean and head of the Toles Learning Center, wrote in his thank you letter. “Bringing this important piece of history to NMMI is an important tribute to the sacrifices of those who served in the Second World War.”

Smith told the NMMI Board of Regents that he and the Nichols had worked together for about a year to arrange the donation.

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Matt Nichols said that his mother had been a good friend of Ann Whitlock, the daughter of Maj. Gen. Whitlock.

An artist in the Corrales, New Mexico, area, Ann Whitlock had never married or had children. Upon her passing about 10 years ago, Madelon Nichols received many of Whitlock’s personal effects, including the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and its related documents, such as a certificate authorizing Whitlock to attend the surrender signing, a certificate documenting his attendance, a schedule of the ceremony and a list of those attending.

The Nichols also have donated many records of Gen. MacArthur’s speeches to the U.S. Congress, but some other documents belonging to Maj. Gen. Whitlock remain in their possession.

A former Marine, Matt Nichols said that he began thinking about where to donate the surrender materials soon after they came into the family’s possession. He said he wanted them to be accessible to the public and that, as a former military member, felt they should be held by a military institution.

“I looked at the actual Missouri, because I was stationed in Hawaii, and they already had a copy, and I didn’t want it to go to some little museum that might be closed in six months,” he told regents. “And I just happened to be driving to work and it hit me that this would be a great home for it. It will benefit the students and it will remind future generations of everything they went through. It was real, and because of their sacrifices, we are able to sit here today.”

The archives held at the Institute are used by students, staff and faculty, with the public able to request access.

Archivist Nicole Katz said the materials probably will be displayed by early next year and that she is working on the best methods to preserve the documents, which she said are showing some environmental damage. She said she also is considering how the MacArthur recordings might be transferred to a digital format.

The original Allied Forces version of the documents are held by the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. A replica of the documents is also on display in a Tokyo museum.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.