Sixty-nine years ago, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 80,000 people instantly.
When I heard the report on the radio, I sat on the back steps of our home and shed tears of joy. I did not realize the enormity or the horror of the event at the time. To me, it meant my three brothers, who had served in the military, would soon return after an absence of over three years. (We dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki days later.)
Our neighbor’s precocious 5-year-old boy came running toward me, excitedly waving his little arms in the air. “We dropped a bomb on Japan and now my Daddy is coming home and everybody!”
The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, and papers were later signed in September to make it official.
My parents and I did not know back then that one of my brothers, who had fought on Okinawa, the Philippines, and other islands of the south Pacific, was on his way back to the United States to be discharged from the U.S. Army because his feet were so swollen he could not walk. He had contracted “Jungle Rot,” from wearing Army boots and socks in foxholes for weeks without bathing.
He told us how fiercely the Japanese fought throughout the many battles he fought, and he said they would have never surrendered. It has been argued ever since whether it was the right thing to drop those bombs. I am not trivializing the catastrophic fact that so many innocent lives were lost.
I simply don’t know if it was right. I leave that subject to the experts. In a recent obituary of the last crewman who was aboard the Enola Gay that dropped the historic bomb, it was said that “he thought he did his job.”
We have so few World War II veterans remaining today (my three brothers are all gone) and their number keeps dwindling. If you see or know any veterans still alive from any of our wars, be sure to tell them, before it’s too late, how much you appreciate what they did for all of us.
I’m sorry I did not say it when I had the chance. Blame it on my youth. I regret I did not show my gratitude to them often enough.