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Friday, July 1, 2016

Where Were You in August, 1945? 
By John Deering

In August, 1945, I was 18 and in a destroyer pool of new construction on Treasure Island, San Francisco. The European war was over, but here was still the Pacific war to win.  We were going to school after school in preparation for being on and operating our ship sometime soon -- U.S.S. James E. Kyes--DD-787. There we were young men and somewhat older men who had already “been there and done that.” We younger ones were quite eager to go.   (Naive?  Well maybe!)  The experienced men largely kept to themselves.  They were rather quiet, played cards often, spoke of their families and the things they already had done. We younger ones listened in; however all of us assumed we would be in the attack on Japan relatively soon. November was the intended date of the completion of the construction of our ship; but as we learned later, it was also the date of the first invasion of Japan. Therefore, we could not do both the shakedown cruise of our ship and the attack on Japan.  Our being a part of the attack was going to have to wait – for a while anyway. We’d more likely have been in the second wave of attack.  Suddenly everything changed and the war abruptly ended.

The results of the Manhattan Project came to pass with the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  We were not going anywhere for a while. We had mixed emotions about that. As a result of the bombs, we were reasonably sure we were going to live, but there was a note of disappointment – perhaps frustration.  (Psyched-up maybe?) I have often facetiously compared it to a post-season football game that was cancelled because of bad weather.  (Okay, I admit that is an over simplification.)

President Obama is the first in-office president to visit Hiroshima.  While he was there he made a speech concerning atomic warfare and how horrible the Hiroshima demise had been and how another   such  war would forever be. Then he placed a wreath on the site where the first bomb had detonated and killed 100,000 or more human beings.  The report went on to say he had not apologized for the bombings; allegedly some expected him to do so. Should he have apologized?   Think about this. I was not the only young man on Treasure Island. I had lots and lots of company, and this does not count the thousands upon thousands of other Americans, allied personnel on ships and islands, and civilians. Do we count?

Perhaps we should have a séance with President Harry Truman and ask him about an apology. After all, he was the person who had to   give the permission to use the bombs. Parenthetically, even he -- the vice president -- knew nothing of the Manhattan Project until after the death of President Roosevelt.  He was immediately informed about the Manhattan Project and the bombs that were about to come forth, not to mention the aftermath of using them.  When they were ready for use, he has been quoted as having said, “I gave them permission. Then I went upstairs, got into bed, and went to sleep.”  Of course, President Truman was a veteran of WW I. He too had “been there and done that.” That can make a big difference in considering warfare and apologies.  

How many other things are deserving of apologies? We can consider Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March,* capturing young Chinese women to be the “play things” of some Japanese soldiers, ** the unbelievable death rate of allied prisoners- of- war in Japanese prisons, ad infinitum. Are these worthy of apologies?  Yes, war is evil. There is no doubt about that; yet there has been a constant parade of wars ever since World War II – Korea, Vietnam, and on to the constant parade of wars in the Middle East.  One has to wonder why these wars have not exploded into a major world war.  It might well be the presence  of atomic weapons in the hands of major powers – the United States and Russia, not to mention some others in the hands of some idiots who want the “prestige” of ownership.  

For example, there is North Korea where the”leader” [puppet] has the audacity to threaten us and Russia with his missiles and has allegedly developed atomic weapons.   Obviously the loss of one future English teacher does not deserve any city being devastated. However, I repeat I was not the only person in the service in August, 1945. If there is a coming apology, has any one considered us? We survived and went on living – most of us in rather worthwhile and valued positions.

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