Remembering Hiroshima, Nagasaki

Remembering Hiroshima, August 6, 1945…

then Nagasaki…


Tears have filled my eyes again. It happens every year on this day.


I had just turned thirteen years of age.


My father had scarcely been around for several years. He was busy "Saving the World!"  which in 1944 and 1945 meant, stopping and destroying the Nazi and Japanese war machines.


Along with my Dad's fellows, he was getting around a lot. After helping General Eisenhower stop Hitler's onslaught in Europe, Dad was quickly on his way to the Pacific to join General MacArthur's efforts to drive the Japanese back to their own islands.


The American people did not know it, but there was something happening called the "Manhattan Project" which was to change the world and the destiny of everyone in it, forever. Only a handful of people personally involved in the plan, knew what was going on.


President Roosevelt did not even tell his Vice President, Harry S. Truman. On the day of FDR's death, Truman not only inherited the Oval Office in the White House - he inherited the biggest and most frightening secret ever revealed to a new U.S. president:


A carefully selected group of scientists had been recruited to split the atom and fashion a weapon of war which could destroy cities and the tens of thousands of innocent people who lived in them. The project had an eighteen-month deadline.


The moral rationale which those "in the know" repeated to themselves and to each other was - "This will end the war quickly, saving thousands of lives of American military personnel who would otherwise soon invade Japan. The end will justify the means."


My Dad, being a loyal part of the "in the know" group, kept up an appropriate front when he visited us at home. Of course, he never talked about what was being prepared. He had even promised to take me on a camping trip, but it did not happen. He and his fellows had to

"Save the World." Of course, he never used that expression - he didn't talk about his work.


Dad was a bomber pilot, a strategic planner, and commander of a bomber wing of the United States Air Force. After Japanese troops had been removed from the island of Okinawa, Kadena Air Base was built up quickly to accommodate American planes and personnel for the final push to defeat the Japanese.


After the Japanese surrender, September 2, 1945, the American occupation of Japan began. Dad wrote to my mother, telling her to begin planning and preparation for moving the family to Japan for one year. She was to purchase and bring EVERYTHING that we would need for one year - and Mom succeeded well in this challenging task. The USAF would ship the "stuff".


We began our journey by automobile. The plan was to first drive from our home in NW Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we would leave my grandmother with my mother's sister and her family. Then we went to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore.

From there we proceeded to Los Angeles, California to visit with my Dad's aunt and uncle who had helped raise him. (Dad had been orphaned by the age of nine years.)


One day I walked near Hollywood and Vine, and rounding a corner, was startled to see a familiar face. Does anybody remember an actor named Chill Wills?


The day of our departure for Okinawa drew near. We said goodbye to Dad's aunt and uncle, and drove up the California coast to San Francisco. There at Fort Mason, we boarded a ship - no, not a luxury cruise ship, but a troop transport - bound for Okinawa.


Remembering it now, it was two weeks of rolling on the Pacific Ocean, trying to occasionally keep some food down. At least the war was over and we were not in danger of attack by airplane or submarine.


It was good to see Dad again, and give him a chance to talk about some things he was able to share. At age thirteen, I wasn't an adult, of course, but after all I was my Daddy's girl, and he did want to relate to me.


One day he asked if I would like to go up in a six-seater with him for a few hours of flight over the Japan Sea. Of course! So there we were flying over the water when he said:


"Would you like to take the wheel for a while?"


I grinned, said "Yes!" and with a brief instruction from Dad, I took the controls of the little airplane for about one half an hour.


At the end of it Dad said, "You did fine! You kept the plane on course, and you only lost 200 feet of altitude!" Well, that made my year, for sure. I've always enjoyed flying experiences since then, and I still get a kick out of take-offs and landings - but nothing can ever top that afternoon over the Japan Sea alone with my father, and actually flying that little airplane!


My experience with the jeep came a while later. Dad had gone to the Philippines for the better part of a week. I had been given some brief instruction on starting and driving the family jeep. So since Dad was gone, and I was bored, I decided to practice a little. I took the jeep keys and headed out the door. No one was around so things looked safe enough.


Confidently starting the engine, I put the jeep into gear, thinking to back it away from the stone wall in front of it. I still like to drive a stick shift vehicle. But that day was not a good one for me. Expecting the jeep to move backward, I was shocked when it moved quickly forward instead. In short order the stone wall stopped its progress - or I would have fallen down a steep cliff, jeep and all.


Getting out quickly to look at the wall, I saw a crack in the mortar holding the stones in place. "Oh-oh! What's my Dad going to say?" And I quickly got back into the Quonset hut where I stayed several days until Dad came back. On his return I was "grounded" for a week. Ouch! That hurt more than a physical punishment would have done.


Women and children could not wander at will on Kadena AFB. Although the war was over by a year, there were still a few Japanese soldiers hiding in the burial caves who had "live" ammunition and guns. At times one would come to the cave entrance and shoot at any one within range. Therefore, an armed escort was always required for American women and children to venture from their Okinawan Quonset world.


After six months on Okinawa, the family moved with Dad to the outskirts of Tokyo. Dad's job would be in MacArthur's headquarters there until we returned to the United States.


My first sight of Tokyo was a shock I shall never forget. People lived in shanties for miles and miles. Before the Japanese surrender after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tokyo was fire-bombed, leaving nothing standing for many miles except the Imperial Palace, and a small area surrounding it containing government buildings.


Dad would not permit me to climb Mount Fujiyama -a big disappointment. A good memory however was being in the Imperial Hotel, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed to withstand earthquake shock. Before flying back to the U.S., Dad presented me with a string of cultured pearls. [I really would have preferred to climb Mt. Fuji!]


Many years later in 1988, I visited my aging Dad, and brother and his family in California. At that time I realized a dream of many years - to drive Pacific #1 south from Monterey.


Before beginning that splendid visual experience, I stopped for lunch at a small restaurant and took a table on the patio next to a wall covered with magenta bougainvilia. Half-way through my meal, a couple took a table nearby in the shade. I heard the lady say she was disappointed not to be in the sunshine.


I rose from my table and greeted the couple, explaining that I would soon be leaving. "Would you care to join me at my table?" They smiled, nodded their heads, and came to join me. As they waited for their order to be brought, I finished my meal.


After some exploratory conversation about who we were and from whence we came, I looked at this Japanese lady and taking her hand in mine, I said:

"I want you to know how sorry I am that the military from my country destroyed so much of your country and people. As an American, I ask that you please forgive us for these things."

As we looked at each other, tears came first to her eyes, and then to mine.


Never shall I forget that moment as she said, "Yes, I forgive your people, and will you please forgive mine?" I nodded. "Yes, I forgive your people as well."


Immediately there was a perceivable change in the atmosphere. Something in the invisible realm of the spirit had changed. I knew it, the Japanese lady knew it, and her American fiancé knew it.


Our meeting that day was not an accident. Today I remain convinced that there in that sun-lit patio in Monterey, California, the kingdom of God won a great victory, and that (although we did not hear them) angels were singing.













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