My Hiroshima story goes back a bit further. My father was already in the
Navy, stationed aboard the U.S.S. Utah on December 7th, 1941. He fought
through the entire Pacific campaign until he was terribly wounded when a
Kamikaze struck his ship late in the war.
I was born in 1948, on Kwajelein, Marshall Islands. Dad had stayed in the
Navy and in 1951 we joined him at his duty station in Yokosuka, Japan.
My dad and mother both loved the Japanese. They learned the language as I
did. I stayed in town with Japanese friends. I always thought that one of
the finest things my father did was to find it in his heart to have so much
affection for a people at whose hands he had suffered so much.
We visited Hiroshima in 1952, I still have a souvenir we bought there. It’s
a handkerchief with an image of the City Hall, the word “Hiroshima” and a
dove with an olive branch.
My father believed all his life that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki was the only way to avoid the far greater loss of life and
devastation that would have followed an invasion of Japan.
We did let the genie out of the bottle in using those weapons. It is a
tribute to us all that in the ensuing fifty-odd years we have not allowed
ourselves to use them again.
Thank you for reminding us of the beginning of the nuclear age and
how the proliferation and sophistication of nuclear weapons has not
only advanced in the intervening years but is treated as the supreme
right of the US to possess. develop and, if necessary, use while
other nations are not. I am a woman, 88 years old and I recall my
feeling was one of utter horror that such a weapon could be used
against a population of other human beings. I lived in California in
1942 where the Japanese were rounded up, deprived of their property
and settled in concentration camps away from the Pacific coast where
the majority had been farmers. I recall a conversation I had with a
young man who was wildly excited at the prospect of nuclear energy
and what wonders it might produce for our comfort and convenience.
This as the news of the dropping of the bomb on Japan was just
announced. We in the US have no conception of what mass murder which
is what that was could possibly be like. And now, in relation to Iraq
and the war there, we are only concerned with the number of American
lives lost without ever considering the thousands of Iraqians
killed, maimed and displaced as a result of our “liberating ” and
“bringing democracy” to them. I feel betrayed that the country I was
taught to believe represented the highest ideals of liberty and
justice for all has become the instrument of torture and terror and
the exact opposite of the democracy we are supposed to represent.
How true it is! I wasn’t around, and it is a little like the legacy of the
Kennedy assasination. I know it affects us profoundly, in unutterable ways.
I found this morning when I heard from Garrison Keiler that it was the
anniversary, that the thought of what we did then, perhaps because of the
inglorious pain we are causing in the world now, is never very far from
consciousness, and it is never talked about.
This is an important story and one we should start talking about. If only
apologies were somewhere in our powerful arsenal.
Thank you for this beautiful writing.
San Francisco, California