Saturday, August 06, 2005

REMEMBERING HIROSHIMA : AUGUST 6, 1945


All over the world today, people are coming together to tell us how awful it was we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They have their memories – and I have mine.

Sixty years ago, I was with my Dad and my brothers : haying in the hot August sun. We had a portable radio with us, and we stopped work to listen to the broadcaster – who spoke of a bomb – hotter than the sun – that had been dropped on, and that had utterly destroyed the entire city of Hiroshima.

We knew – right then and there , the awful horror of World War II would soon be over.

( Funny the things you remember : Dad told us to stay put while he went into town. When he returned, he had a bag containing half-pints of Hershey’s ice cream – and spoons. We sat on the wagon ,eating ice cream , and speculating about how long it would take the Japanese to surrender.)

It took one more atomic bomb – this one on Nagasaki – and a few days of negotiations before the Emperor of Japan decided he could surrender without loss of face.

I remember that day – August 14,1945 – as a day the farmers and townspeople of our little village drove around :using scarce gasoline without a thought of tomorrow , honking their horns, setting off fireworks…or just walking into a church or temple to give thanks.

Did we regret Hiroshima and Nagasaki ? Consider the following.

Almost every family in America had an immediate family member, a relative,or a friend in military service. Our family was no exception.

One cousin served in North Africa ; another in Europe. ( He was one of the "walking wounded" , who never recovered ,and, soon after his return , he committed suicide.)

A second cousin on Dad’s side was a chaplain, who served on a hospital ship. The Japanese thought the white hospital ships,with big red crosses on the sides, made wonderful targets. The sub that sank our cousin’s ship surfaced to do so – apparently so the crew could get some practice with their deck gun – according to one of the few survivors.

We also knew about the Bataan Death March, the death camps, the prisoners who were sent to Japan to work as disposable slave labor in Japanese mines, or used as guinea pigs in germ warfare tests.

If you knew Japanese soldiers had formed American POWs into loose circles at bayonet point; had doused them with gasoline; had pushed one POW into the center and set fire to him-then laughed as the hapless victim stumbled blindly into those around him – setting them afire as well …would
YOU be overly concerned with the fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ?

World War II began in 1937 and ended in 1945. By the time it ended , at least 65 MILLION people had been killed , and much of the world was in ruins ,with starving,often-diseased refugees streaming from nation to nation:clogging the roadways, and stripping the land bare in a frantic search for food – but, less than a decade later, revisionist "history" was being published – and taught – suggesting that WE were the "real villains" of the war ,because we ended it with two decisive hammer blows.

Let the Japanese ring their little gongs in remembrance of Hiroshima…and let them meditate – deeply – on the road they traveled to get there.

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