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May 16, 2008

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A Little Bit of History

One of the fringe benefits of hunting is that you get to see and hear some unforgettable stuff, and this particular scene was acted out some time in the mid-1980s in a restaurant in Gillette, Wyoming. I was hunting mule deer with Norm Nelson, who is a history buff of the first magnitude, and we were having lunch with a friend of his whose name I cannot now remember.

Somehow we got around to the subject of the atom bomb and whether we should have used it. What follows, all these years later, is pretty much word for word from Norm's friend:

"I can tell you something about that. I started World War II as a private, and I lived through four landings. By August of '45 I was a warrant officer, but I was so frightened I was useless as a soldier. I knew that if we had to invade Japan I was not going to live, and when they dropped the two bombs and Japan surrendered it was like I had been born again. Anyone who says we shouldn't have used the bomb, you send them to see me."

For some reason that has stuck in my mind for all these years. I heard the same kind of story from an old outdoor writer, a newspaper reporter who made the D-Day invasion as an infantryman and survived. On D-Day plus one the Army, in its inscrutable way, decided it needed a reporter, saw in his 201 file that he qualified, and literally plucked him out of the hedgerows of Normandy and shipped him back to England.

"The strangest thing about it," he said, "was making the adjustment to knowing you'd be alive tomorrow. It took me a long time to get used to that."

Little bits of history that are vanishing every day.

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Comments

Robert W. Sprague

Dave, A while back you suggested a book called "With the Old Breed" by Sledge, which I immediatly purchased from Amazon and read. Anyone who thinks the A-bombs were unnecessary needs only to read this book to realize how many lives, Japanese and American, were saved by the bombs. Two action points come to mind. One, find a veteran and tell him thankyou, and two, whenever and however possible, support our troops in the middle east. Thanks for the history reminder, Dave.
Robert W. Sprague

KJ

I have a friend who served in the US Marines toward the end of WWII. He fought at Okinawa, and was part of the occupying force on mainland Japan after the bombs dropped. He witnessed first-hand many of the bunkers and underground warehouses filled with supplies and munitions in the event of the inevitable invasion. He said the bombs saved more lives - Japanese and American - than they took. I believe him. He's very old now. He won't be around too much longer, and I will miss him - then. Now, he's a friend.

snyder

I was too young to remember talking with my grandfather's brother about this, I was really little. We were at his house and there was a knife hanging hanging on the wall. I forgot all about this story until in high school I heard that this particular uncle had died, and he had given us that knife in the will. The actual story I don't know, we don't have either of his or my grandfather's service records so we don't know outfits, assignments, etc... However, I do know from the knife that he helped liberate a subcamp of Dachau called Allach. The Jewish community inscribed in the sheath, "To Lieutenant Charles C. Snyder from the Jewish community of Allach as a modest token of deep devotion." I have had the chance to visit Dachau and other parts of Germany's NAZI past so when people question why we did things during the war, you obviously don't understand what our soldiers went through mentally or physically. Or you are a two faced democrat, you stand behind the public so they don't see you when you trip them.

NH Philosopher

My grandfather fought in the War from day 1 to the end. He served primarily in Europe as an infantryman and was marked for service in Japan. Only physical injury he had was a broken jaw and loss of hearing in his right ear from artillery exploding in the forest next to him.

His greatest fear after liberating Europe was going to Japan. Knowing that the Japanese had a very different school of thought re: warfare from the West.

The day the first bomb dropped - "was the first day he smiled in 5 years." The decision to bomb Japan saved countless American & Japanese lives and helped stabilized a war torn world from further ruin.

My grandfather passed last year. When asked about the war, he had this to say,

"There were bullets flying everywhere - but we were in the right. I'll never go back to Europe."

Right before he passed, he told my mother that he's going to see the boys and that his dogs were in a cookie jar in the attic with tape and a rubber band around them. In between the two tags was a note, all it said was "Sorry."

We guess it was meant for my grandmother...if he took one.

Personally, the bomb saved our boys and our nation.


Concerned_Soldier

Dave,
As the Greatest Generation pass away, we will have to continue to re-learn their hard lessons.

On a positive note, There are two land wars going on right now and there are some wonderful, albeit terrifying stories coming from those theaters of War,

I have read three since I have been home and all are pretty damn good, must reads for anyone trying to find out what it is like over there.

Try Reading:
“House to House: An Epic Memoir of War”, by former SSG David Bellavia,

“The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family” by Martha Raddatz, and

“Battleground Iraq: Journal of a Company Commander” by Major Todd S. Brown.

I know how your outdoor writer friend feels, after I left my job and worked at a different place in Iraq, the gentlemen who replaced me was killed along with my same driver and gunner.

Thank you Dave for putting these types of post up.

I know as a veteran that it is important to remember those who have gone before.

Keep up the good work,

V/R

C_S

Beekeeper

My great uncle survived the D-Day landings as a 17 year old infantryman. Fought through the hedge rows and lived through the Battle of the Bulge. From his original squad he and one other "kid" survived the war. My uncle suffering only a broken nose. He would not talk about the war at all.

My father-in-law was a pharmacist's mate in the Navy. His ship struck a mine the morning of the invasion, so he missed the initial unpleasantness. After the beaches were "cleared" he was one of the unfortunate ones who became responsible for the recovery of the bodies. He told me of horribly wounded young men who had lain for hours in the cold and wet conditions yet managed to live. He also told be of picking up bits and pieces washed about on the beach. Skin, muscle, bone, eyes, scalp, internal organs, fingers, arms and legs composed this goulsih collection that formerly belonged to our finest young men. He also laughed at the contention that a full metal jacket rifle bullet was more humane and made only a neat hole in its victim, for he had seen different. My father-in-law was sent to the Pacific to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese mainland after VE Day.

Both these men were deeply affected by what they had experienced. Both dealt with it in their own way. Both recently departed of this life, lived into their 80's.

An opinion both men shared from their war experience was that the Bomb was the best thing that could have happened to end the war. Both knew far more young men would have died on both sides in that invasion that never was, than were killed by the Bombs that prevented it. Both had a narrow view of the revisionist historians who wrote from the warm and safe haven of a desk and decades of separation from the actual events and times. Both deeply regretted that mankind learned nothing from all the carnage...

May God bless and keep these men and women of our greatest generation.

Dr. Ralph

My great uncle was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed and he always said the a-bombs were a fitting retaliation. When somebody sucker punches you all the rules get thrown out the window.

Bubba

My grampa served in WW I. He seldom spoke of his service and I heard only one or two stories, only one of which I remember. The only other story, was related to me by a gentleman that had befriended him. After relating the story to me, David said, "I thought the old man was going to cry." David is now gone and he will never know how much telling me that story ment to me.
On the other side of the coin.
My dad entered the Nat'l Guard in late '41. After 12-7-42, his guard unit was called up for a special meeting. All were lined up and told to count off, 1, 2, 3 and 4. After the count off, each number was assigned a service, Army, Navy and Marines. Dad was sent to Camp Pendleton, California for basic training!
After basic, their training officer told the to pack their rucks and head to "Point A" where they would receive their assignments and shipping orders, they would be replacements headed to the Pacific. Arriving at "Point A", the TO told them he didn't know where they were headed but if they had writing materials, now would be a good time to write home since it might be a while before they got another chance. Pop broke out his pencil and paper and began writing. The TO came over and asked him who he was writing.
"My wife and daughter, sir."
"How old is your daughter (my oldest sister) son?"
"A year and a half, sir." Pop replied.
The officer immediately told him to pack his stuff and meet him at "Point B" in 15 minutes.
Pop said he had to really huff and puff to get there but he barely made it in time.
The TO handed him some papers and told him, "Good luck son, go home to your wife and daughter."
Opening his papers, it was re-assignment orders to go back to his Nat'l Guard unit!
To his dying day, he would say, "I have no idea who he was or why he picked me!" It's probably the only reason I'm here today!

Bubba

Bubba

Guess I was dozing and typing at the same time.
Pop joined the Nat'l Guard in summer of 1941. He was called up after Pearl Harbor, which was Dec 7, 1941, in the summer of 1942.
Pop was also a railroader which may have had something to do with the TO's decision, I'll never know!
Another gentleman that I hunted with for years, was working on a sulfur drilling rig in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Texas. (the area between Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur, Texas) The military told him they needed the sulfur for munitions and the petroleum for fuel, just stay home and keep drilling.

Bubba

Jim in Mo.

Bubba,
No, your dad just got lucky. Who knows, the bus to take them to their destination may not have had enough seats for everyone to go. Ironic? I don't know. That word is misused.
The post you made about your dad is the stuff that hollywood makes movies about. And I say that with all due respect.

Jim in Mo.

Bubba,
PS. I meant to add that my dad was a cooks helper on a river barge and that didn't stop the Army from putting him in an armored car as a radio operator (morse code) during the 'big one'.
I donated all his radio gear to my towns military museum.

Thomas

The Chronicals of history were not written by historians but by men who where there and refuse to talk about it.

Thomas

Bubba

Jim in Mo.

I know that all railroaders weren't exempted. My mother's oldest sister actually ran a section gang (track maintenance)out in New Mexico during WW II because there weren't enough men to keep the rails in order. The rail traffic was impossible, moving war materials. In fact, a lot of folks don't know it, but it was President Eisenhower that brought about the Interstate Highway system because the railroads were so stressed. Had any foreign enemy ever done any major damage to any of the U.S.'s rail system, it would have been "Katie, bar the door!"
I worked for the railroad (Missouri Pacific RR, no longer in existance) for 14 years and worked with many WW II vets. I heard many, many stories.
Some funny, some sad. Wish I could remember more of them and the men that told them!

Bubba

wgp

You have to put yourself in that time to understand, and the best we can do now is listen carefully to those who were there while they are still here. My Dad is 89, and was a B-17 instructor. He has always told me that he was mad when they pulled him out of combat training to become an instructor because he wanted to kill Nazis, but NOW he knows that had they sent him over at that time he would have been dead or a POW within 30 days, max. Our kids don't understand these things. The bomb ended the war and perhaps made a very clear statement to the rest of the world. Perhaps the use of those two bombs is the reason no more have ever been used?

Jim in Mo.

Bubba,
Here's another fact about Pres. Eisenhower and our interstate hwy. system. Look at a map and the westerly highways from STL on. Always had a stretch 1 mile long.
That was because in a time of war (attack) an airplane had a place to land if airfields were out.
Thats a military mind performing as our president.

Ralph the Rifleman

No doubt the A-Bomb was necessary to use back then, and history has proven that althought the USA is not perfect we have helped rebuild nations after war.
We fight with a code of ethics, if such a thing exists in war, not perfect, but we come damn close in trying to preserve the concept of freedom for all!

ishawooa

My old dad passed away in '06. He was a vet of the 6th Field Artillery in the South Pacific from '42 to '45. He set foot on Guadacanal but was not in the initial invasion. After that he followed the 2nd Marine Division or the 37th Buckeye Division wherever the 105 mm's were needed. This included many stops including Luzon and finally Okinawa. He was involved in 4 major landings but somehow managed to get no closer to a 6.5 or 7.7 Jap than hearing the bullets ping off the howitzer a few times. By the way his hearing protection was whatever he could stuff into his ears. He suffered significant hearing loss most of his adult life. His uncle on Leyte was not so lucky as he came home in a box. Ironically on Luzon the convoy of trucks in which dad was traveling was attacked just at dawn by two P-38 Lightenings. Yep you read it right, friendly fire, and unfortunately some of it was accurate. In his opinion the two A-bombs shortened the war in addition to preventing an invasion of Japan that saved many allied and probably some axis lives meaning that the big bombs were appropriate in his mind. After all his outfit had spent three years killing Japanese which was what they were trained to do and apparently performed the function well. Perhaps William T. Sherman was not always right in his efforts to shorten the War of Northern Aggression but he certainly was correct in his famous "War is hell" statement. My old dad, the buck sarg, always agreed on that thought. I often reflect that my dad was only 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old when all this happened. He rarely spoke of combat situations but did talk about life in the jungle and the weeks at sea. I wonder if today's generation could fare as well as he managed.

Carney

You can pick your friends -- but usually not your enemies. And enemies is enemies! The bomb's always been a good idea!

DAVE2

IF ONLY WE COULD HAVE DROPPED THE BIG ONE ON JAPAN 30 DAYS OR 6 MONTHS SOONER. ASK THE PEOPLE THAT LOST THEIR LOVED ONES DURING THIS TIME FRAME "IF THE BOMB WAS A GOOD THING?" IF ONLY-----.
WE HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING HOW MANY LIVES IT SAVED BUT WE DO KNOW IT SAVED A COUNTRY THAT IS SAVING THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.

Longshot_34

My grandfather had flat feet and a bad heart and thus couldn't enlist. He tried. Until this day he still sheds a tear for the friends he lost at war while he was sitting at home farming. I wish he could understand that his crops fed our boys and that his efforts were just as needed as the men that were sent over. We are witnessing the passing of a great generation of people. If only we could reflect on their lives and adapt some of their qualities into our own, what a country we would have.

DJM

Thomas: i know what you mean by writing and not talking.
My grandfather was a radio operator on the Liberator bombers. On his very first mission we was shot down by flack, and spent the next fourteen months as a POW in Austria. I was the only person in the family who was able to get him to talk about his time over there, and he passed away before i was old enough to really understand what he was talking about or to ask the right questions. His generation will all be missed, but their stories that are told will live on a very long time.
DJM

brian

My grandfather was an artillery captain in the army during WW2. He was set to be part of the invasion of Japan, but the A bomb happened. It is not a stretch to say that I wouldn't have been here without that piece of American technology.

Zermoid

My Dad got lucky, wasn't drafted till the war was almost over, and went to Japan as part of the occupation force after the surrender.
Never talked much about it, said about all he did was drive a duce and a half around.

Bernie Kuntz

My Dad is almost 91, started working for the railroad in 1936 when he was 19, was drafted into the Army and served in seven campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He even survived the debacle at Kassarine Pass in North Africa and the crossing of the Ripido River in Italy where the U.S. Army suffered thousands of casualties. Deaf as a post these days, he refuses to put in a claim with the V.A. His mind is sharp though and he still walks at least as well as I do. Jake lives by himself in Jamestown, ND and does a lot of gardening.

Every year, just like clockwork, you can read and see the handwringing by pacifists on the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan. They completely discount the hundreds of thousands of deaths that would have occurred on both sides with an attack on Japan. Few of the critics, of course, have served a day in combat. I wish THEY would have had to make amphibious landings in the face of machinegun fire like those many brave Marines and soldiers in World War II. They'd be singing a different tune.

wolfjaw

I have always been proud to be in the company of the men in my family. My dad was a Seabee and performed his heroics in Cherborg shortly after the land invasion on D-day. My Uncles served in the Navy, Army and Marines. Not one shirker in my family - ever. My Uncle Pete was a tail gunner on a B-24 and engaged in bombing Okinowa when the "big one" was dropped; my father in law was an Army infantryman in New Guinea grinding out yardage the hard way. Every one of them, regardless of where they served, knew what a land invasion of Japan would mean. It was something to be dreaded. The Japanese were fanatical, tenacious and brutal. Especially sadistic and brutal. One needs only recall their actions against the Chinese (think Rape of Nanking, for one), or the atrocities committed in the Philippines. President Truman had cojones the size of watermelons and he made the right decision in giving the go ahead to drop the bomb. He indeed saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I read somewhere that the estimated cost of a land invasion of Japan would resulted in over a million deaths.




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