|Note the top label...|
That friend saw these, thought of me and my interest in history. That jar sits on a shelf, amongst other bits and pieces of World War memorabilia (First and Second). It's just a few bits of what appears to be rock. From a place where the end of World War Two was launched. It's a small thing, but a reminder of something far greater, far more terrifying.
I have spent many years trying to come to grips with the horrors visited upon two Japanese cities in August of 1945 - Hiroshima on the 6th of August, Nagasaki on the 9th of August. For those of us of a certain age, growing up facing the prospect of nuclear annihilation was an ever present thing. Air raid drills in elementary school were common, sheltering under our desks or out in the main hallway at least once a month as I recall. Of course, for the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was nothing prospective about nuclear annihilation, for them, it was a very real thing.
|Tinian, North Field (Source)|
|Aircraft of the 509th Composite Group that took part in the Hiroshima bombing. Left to right: Big Stink, The Great Artiste, Enola Gay. (Source)|
|The Enola Gay dropped the "Little Boy" atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In this photograph are five of the aircraft's ground crew with mission commander Paul Tibbets in the center. (Source)|
|Bockscar and its crew, who dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb on Nagasaki. (Source)|
|Enola Gay as she appears now at the Smithsonian (Udvar-Hazy)|
|Bockscar as she appears now at the National Museum of the Air Force (Source)|
Other than the air raid drills, I have, more precisely my wife has, a more personal connection to the events which occurred in Japan in August of 1945. Both of her parents were living in Japan in that month, in fact they lived in Japan during the entire war as Korea was a Japanese colony, and had been since 1910.
While I never had the opportunity to speak with my father-in-law about those days, I did have occasion to speak of World War Two with my mother-in-law, once or twice. One day I was perusing one of my many books on the war and my mother-in-law, looking over my shoulder, casually remarked (in Korean of course), "Ah, a B-29."
Looking at The Missus Herself, I inquired as to how her mother knew what a B-29 looked like. Seems that she was surprised her mom had that knowledge as well. It was then that I learned that my in-laws, like many Koreans of that time, had moved to Japan to work. I was never sure if that had been voluntary or involuntary. I guess if one wanted to eat, one went where the work was, in those days the work was in Japan.
My mother-in-law told us of having seen the B-29s heading to some Japanese city, and the clouds of smoke they would leave behind. She told us how much parachute silk was treasured. She also mentioned, almost casually, that she had been living in southern Japan during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Though my memories of that conversation are very vague (discovering that one's own service had actively been trying to kill one's in-laws, war or not, was somewhat startling, to say the least) I seem to recall that she had been living in, or near, a city which had been a planned target of an atomic raid. There were more cities on the list of atomic targets than the two which were actually bombed.
So, for that reason and a number of others, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the August 1945 residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While I am an historian and I understand that many more lives were saved by the atomic bombings than were lost, the human cost of war is never far from my mind.
|Picture found in Honkawa Elementary School in 2013 of the Hiroshima atom bomb cloud, believed to have been taken about 30 minutes after detonation from about 10 km (6.2 mi) east of the hypocenter. (Source)|
Those who doubt lives were saved by the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki need to re-read the histories of the battles in the Pacific. The fanaticism and devotion to the Emperor of not just the average Japanese serviceman but of the civilian populace as well in places like Saipan, Guam, and Okinawa were no small thing. An invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would have cost millions of lives. The Japanese people, soldier, sailor, airman, and civilian alike, were ready, and quite willing to die for the Emperor. Regardless of what the idiot revisionists claim. I have talked to men who served in that theater, men who faced the Japanese in combat. They, nearly to a man, felt as if they had been saved from a death sentence upon hearing word of the atomic bombings.
|Atomic cloud over Nagasaki. (Source)|
The Japanese people would not have gone gently into that good night, not without exacting a horrendous toll from the invaders. Not to mention the deals which would have had to be made with the Soviets. Many believe that Soviet occupation of Hokkaido would have been one cost of Russian participation in the attack on Japan.
All conjecture, I know.
While I weep for the people who lost their lives on the 6th and the 9th of August, in 1945, I also remember the many more who would have died otherwise. War is horrible. Sometimes necessary but always terrible.
While the tires of the Enola Gay and Bock's Car may have rolled over those small bits of coral in that jar on my shelf, while the missions to end the war may have been launched from there, the cause for the need for those two sorties began well before 1945...
Was it the Mukden Incident which eventually led to the need for the atomic raids of August 1945?
|Japanese troops marching into Mukden on September 18, 1931. (Source)|
The attack on Pearl Harbor certainly guaranteed that when the time came, and the necessary materials were to hand, there would be no mercy, no second thoughts.
|Aftermath: USS West Virginia (severely damaged), USS Tennessee (damaged), and USS Arizona (sunk). (Source)|
Thinking about it, the event which led to the nuclear destruction of two cities in Japan might have been this one...
|Cain slaying Abel by Peter Paul Rubens (Source)|
We are a violent species. Of that there can be no doubt...
Prayers for those who survived and for the souls of those who did not. On both sides...
Mostly though, prayers that it never happens again.