Syracuse’s Bud Stapleton Raises U.S. Flag over Tokyo during World War II

Bud Stapleton

On September 3rd, 1945, Lieutenant Bud Stapleton climbed to the top of the Nippon News building in downtown Tokyo and raised an American flag.

A Solvay/Syracuse native, Bernard J. “Bud” Stapleton was a 1939 graduate of Christian Brothers Academy and worked many years in radio as an announcer and news director, mostly at Syracuse stations WSYR and WNDR. He was also an account executive at the Barlow Advertising Agency. He moved to Orlando, Florida in 1989 and passed away in August of 1999 in Daytona. He was survived by five daughters and three sons.

A full-size figure of Stapleton is on display at the Onondaga County War Memorial’s permanent veteran’s exhibit created and managed by OHA.

On October 2nd, 1945, Virginia Charles published this story in the Syracuse Herald-Journal about Bud:

The Syracuse boy who raised the Stars and Stripes over Tokyo is home.

“He can’t talk!” exclaimed Lieut. Bernard “Bud” Stapleton, while his family gathered around him in the New York Central station, chattering in the excitement of welcome.

“Bud” wasn’t talking of the Emperor Hirohito. His enthusiasm was for his year-old son, whose recent illness has sent cables and radio messages flashing between here and the Japanese Empire.

One month ago — three days before the final surrender — the Syracuse officer rode proudly into Tokyo in an Army Signal Corps photo truck officially designated with signs in Japanese and English, and “Bud” got the chance to raise the first American flag over the Japanese capital. When he and Captain Morton Sontheimer went into the city they were among the first Yanks there. After they reached the Tokyo News building, “Bud” put out the flag while photographers “shot” it to document this “story for his grandchildren.”

Today Stapleton “came home for keeps.”

To meet him were his parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. Ray Stapleton, 250 Rider Avenue, and his younger brothers, Johnny and Don, who got out of school for the big day.

His wife, Mrs. Beverly Stapleton, and his son, “Buddy,” are waiting for him at 744 Lansing Street, Watertown. “Bud” got a chance to hear his son “talk” from Cheyenne, Wyoming. He called home when his plane was grounded there. It wasn’t until then he got “things straight” about the critical illness of the boy the first part of the month.

The appeal made for Stapleton’s return when his son was ill is responsible for the lucky break which brought him back to the States. The Red Cross requested his return and while he was waiting to make definite arrangements, his group moved on without him. So the way was still clear for him to come home when he learned his son was out of danger.

“Captain Sontheimer, a San Francisco newspaperman, and I have plenty of stories to tell of our times in the Jap home islands,” said Lieut. Stapleton. “Our first stunt was to walk around the Tokyo streets unarmed, just to see what the people would do. They stared after us for blocks and when we went into a department store all business in the place stopped. We pretended not to notice, but, of course, it was a great show.”

Stapleton will report back to camp October 6, and expects to be discharged. His brother, Ray, a naval ensign, who was among the first to fly over Tokyo, has also been placed on inactive status. “Bud” plans to return to work at WSYR radio station.

The 23-year-old Syracusan has been overseas since February. He entered the Army in 1942. A graduate of Christian Brothers Academy, he took an eight months’ Signal Corps course at Syracuse University after entering the service. In September of last year he received his commission after taking an accelerated course in officer’s candidate school.