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Vet recalls Japan's surrender

When Martin Haag was drafted into World War II in 1944, he thought he would just do his duty for his country and hopefully make it back home.

Little did Haag know that he would witness the end of the war firsthand.

"When the war ended, my ship was one of the ships that was asked to go over for the signing of the surrender of the Japanese," Haag said.

In fact, Haag was just a couple feet away from the Japanese generals who signed the surrender. He was serving on the security detail for the historic event.

Haag served in the Navy for 21 months in World War II's Pacific Theater from March 1944 to September 1946 aboard the 555 feet long, 55 feet wide USS Richmond.

Immediately following the surrender, Haag said they were sent home as the war was over.

Haag said during his time overseas he saw a lot of things both good and bad, but it was all for his country.

Their experiences in war is something a lot of people don't like to talk about, Haag said, but he believes as one of the few who survived World War II, it's important his story is told.

"Well I like to talk about it and say what happened, because there's not many of us still around," Haag said.

Haag said there are a lot of things about war that are nasty. And like the stories of John McCain in a Vietnam War prison camp that may have been uncomfortable for some to hear during the last election cycle, it is important to hear them.

"It's OK for people to know what I think. It's not something you should forget because it might be something we go through again, you never know," Haag said.

For his service, Haag was recognized as Naval Veteran of the Year at Cowboy Christmas in Medora in 2006.

Haag said he feels proud when he sees young people go into the service.

I like to see people go into the service," Haag said. "They learn something they'll never learn otherwise."

Haag said if he could and was capable, and if his country asked him to, he'd do it all over again.

"It's not that I was crazy about it. ... I wanted to do my part," Haag said. "I was glad I came back and I was glad that I went. I seen a lot and I learned a lot that I would never have got to otherwise."