A Day I’ll Never Forget to Remember
September 2, 1945, seventy-two years ago, at the end of the summer between, for me, kindergarten and first grade, the Empire of Japan surrendered unconditionally in a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. Thus, a global conflict that had actually been started almost exactly six years earlier, on September 1, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland came to an end on the deck of a United States Navy battleship. After taking the lives of an estimated 60 million human beings.
Though the shipboard ceremony was the official end of World War II, it had actually ceased some two weeks earlier, when the U.S. dropped the second of two atomic bombs on a Japanese city, and they decided maybe they wouldn’t fight to the absolute end after all. In truth, I probably remember the dropping of the bomb(s) more distinctly than the surrender signing ceremony. And in a way, it’s even more important in that it has been estimated to have saved the lives of perhaps a half million American servicemen, and I’ve always firmly beleived that my cousin, Blaine, could very well have been one of them.
By the summer of ‘45, he already had used up most, if not all, of his chances of surviving the war in the Pacific. He’d hopscotched across that ocean, making I-don’t-know-how-many landings under heavy fire. He’d had a landing craft sunk out from under him during one of those landings, wherein he and a buddy decided that instead of waiting around to be picked up, they’d just swim in, a distance of several miles. And on a Sunday morning that he was assigned to an anti-aircraft gun crew, a kamikaze pilot flew his bomb loaded plane into the company worship service, killing many of his friends and a chaplain that he adored. When he came to our house for dinner, after making it home in the fall of ’45, he broke into sobs when he told my parents about that incident, agonizing over the fact that because the suicide pilot came in with the early morning sun at his back, the gun crew was unable to acquire him as a target and interrupt his deadly mission. Today, we might call it survivor’s guilt
Ironically, Blaine’s brother Jerome, was also in the Pacific theater, but stationed in Honolulu for the duration, didn’t really have such a bad war…if any can be good. Blaine, on the other hand, came home rope thin, malarial, and shell-shocked, which today we’d term PTSD.
But you know what? He healed. He got a job, went to work, married, raised a family and lived a fine, useful, and fulfilling life. A life that might well have been denied him if he had participated in that final landing of the war in the Pacific. The one that got cancelled.
So seventy-two years ago today, Japan gave up its cruel vision of a world which would live under its conquest after the perfectly horrible death and destruction brought about when the United States unleashed on them a terrible destruction of two atomic bombs, and Blaine got to come home.
Am I morally conflicted about that? What do you think?
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