We’ve just passed the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with all the usual alarms and horror stories from the many survivors of those events of war. At least this year I saw one article about one of the few surviving American POW’s who witnessed the Nagasaki bombing from miles away and what his perspective was. The article did correctly p0int out that the Japs had already issued orders to kill all remaining POW’s once the Allies launched the expected invasion of the Homeland Islands. The POW’s naturally were unaware of their impending death sentence and most had already reached the near end of their endurance due to the extreme cruelty and brutality of their captors. They were thrilled to learn within days that the Japs had surrendered and that they had a chance to live. They literally were given a ladder up at last from the depths of Hell.
I was very small at that time and don’t have a specific memory of the bombings or the end of the war. I don’t recall my dad or any of the other men coming home in a big parade. I do remember that dad was there and we moved to a new duplex from the old one and then a new baby brother. The War and its aftermath was the dominate event and topic of conversation for years. By the time I started school I knew we had used a really big bomb and that made the Japs surrender. I recall the adults when I listened to them really didn’t understand exactly how the bomb worked. It was an “atomic” bomb I knew from hearing them and that an atom was a really tiny thing you couldn’t even see.
It was a wonder to me that anything so small could make such a big bang. How did those miniscule bits mix around to make such a large whomp? As a small boy playing soldier I could understand rifles, cannons, hand grenades and regular bombs but the physics of the atomic bomb were beyond me. You could get a feel for the destruction regular bombs and artillery could do because the newsreels in the ’40’s after the War were often about the occupation of Germany, Austria and Japan and they would always show the unimaginable destruction of whole cities. Frankly, the newsreels of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t look any different than the cities like Berlin, Munich or Dresden.
When mom and dad had relatives or friends over to visit I was always watching for when the men would gather separate from the women folk and would immeditate ly stop whatever I was doing and slip in there and sit quietly somewhere so I could hear them talk. Sooner or later they always began swapping stories about the War. Virtually all of them were in the War. I guess the had some acquaintances that didn’t serve but I don’t remember a single one. They were in all services, Army, Navy, Air Corps and Marines. I wish I had those conversations on tape today. What a treasure trove that would be. All except one (with a minor wound) were still in the services in August of 1945. Without exception they expected to be soon shipped to Japan. Never heard one word of regret or sorrow for using the atomic bomb from one of them. They believed the Japs deserved it, earned it with their barbaric behavior and none of them were eager to face the prospects of death after four years of war. My dad could have been on one of those Navy ships off the coast of Japan facing the 5000 kamikaze planes (yes, 5000) that the Japs still had to deploy and planned to deploy against our invasion. I am sure glad my dad didn’t have to do that.
“These proceedings are closed” General MacArthur after the last signatures on the Japanese surrender documents. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com