Friday, August 13, 2010

V. J. Day 65 years later

I do remember the original VJ Day. I was almost 4 on August 14, 1945. I was standing in the barn yard when suddenly one of my older brothers, Joe or Dave...and only Dave can help me with which it was... and a friend came busting out of the house shouting both carrying shotguns. The shouts were something to the effect that the war was over...repeated over and over. And with that they pulled up and shot the guns in the air up over the spring house to the west.I was shocked, but impressed because after all these years I can recall it clearly in my mind. My original "shock and awe" event so to speak.

At the time there was no doubt in the minds of those around me about the wisdom of using the first and second atom bombs. In fact, that event lead to me being dubbed "Tom the Atom Bomb." When I was old enough to understand I learned that my dad, who spent the entire war in the States, was at that time undergoing training to man the WWII equivalent of a MASH unit since the anticipated casualties were in the neighborhood of a million Americans. The logic was that using the bombs actually saved lives. Of course, no one knew what the future would hold vis-a-vis the atomic age, atoms for peace and the Cold War term Mutual Assured Destruction.

The subject of whether or not to use atomic bombs has been debated for as long as I can remember. In fact, I had more than one instructor at Penn State take up the matter in class. The biographers of Eisenhower and Nimitz maintain that both those Theater leaders did not agree with Truman's use of the bombs. But neither publicly spoke out against it...the biographers had documentation in the form of notes or letters written to family or close associates that neither considered their use necessary. One recent book I read "Fly Boys" spent quite a bit of time detailing the consideration of the Army Air Corps's General Curtis LeMay's importance in the decision. It seems LeMay, more than any other General or Admiral in the Pacific was intent upon the complete destruction of Japan...even exceeding the destruction of Germany which was extensive. But the facts remain that the Japanese leadership was intent on fighting to the last human since that was their custom and style and that after the first bomb on the 11th exploded over Hiroshima they supposedly were unimpressed.

I have given up on the debate after agonizing over it for the past 50 years. The War ended and my dad came home four months later. So, The Bomb has been a part of my entire life from its inception to the present. There are those who think the U.S. should apologize to Japan for using The Bomb. But one observer pointed out that until this year the Japanese have remained silent about their 100 occupation of Korea prior to the end of WWII and that they were responsible for the mistreatment of millions more in China, and other nations of the Western Pacific. I think we did what we had to do to win the war. The more I read the more it is evident that we in the U.S. did not have a lock on the outcome of The War. And in sheer numbers, more Russians were lost than any other nationality or nation. I think the number is 20 million.

I read today that we are losing WWII vets at the rate of 1,000 per day. Soon we will be as far removed from WWII as we were from the American Civil War when my contemporaries and I were born. Feeling old anyone?

On a lighter note, Aleene and I drove to the coast this morning (65 miles) had lunch and returned. The weather in Lincoln City this morning at 10:00 was foggy and 54 degrees while we were in the upper 80s here. But we did see the ocean at Yaquina Head...just north of Newport. When I see the Pacific I am reminded of the war that was waged on its western edge...the islands secured at great loss of life, of the ships lost and the sailors killed. The great Pacific...if only she could talk...maybe I could get some answers about those historical events that have taken place on and around its waters. I will continue to return to its shores and continue to listen for clues. It is one of my favorite things to do.

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