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V-J DAY 1945


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The stories have become priceless, because those who lived them are fading into the lost memory of time. The smell of death, gunfire and blood are part of a life gone from a generation of people all over the world who can never forget.

My father, who stood on the deck of his ship amid the unimaginable horror during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; Dr. Advice, who was merely nineteen year old Sam Rasmussen then, watching the first kamikazi dive over Okinawa, became part of the generation of men who didn’t want to talk about it.

This day marks the 70th anniversary of V-J Day, the day the Japanese surrendered to the Allies and the war came to a merciful end. It is a stark reminder of what some call the most momentous event in human history.

According to the World War 11 Museum in New Orleans, 16.1 million Americans fought in the war. An estimated 855,000 are still alive. Nearly 500 die each day, and fewer than 100,000 will survive to celebrate the 75th anniversary of V-J Day.

It’s hard to think of a comparable event that affected so many people in so many parts of the world. Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute reminds us that it was the most lethal event in human history. with seventy million people killed—greater than the Black Plague, World War 1 and the Napoleonic wars. It entered every ocean, every continent.

A young Japanese woman asked a 92 year old Marine friend who had made landings in every major Pacific Island, why we bombed Nagasaki. She knew nothing of Pearl Harbor. “Because you would never have given up”, he told her.

Without the bomb, as terrible as it was, our own casualties would have been over one million in the invasion.

In the silence of devastation Emperor Hiro Hito said “I swallow my own tears and give my sanction to accept the Allies proclamation.”

As the news of the surrender spread around the world, a collective breath was taken, sucking up air which had been filled with the waste of the youth of a generation. The world had been changed, and we were changed as well.

Those who had left as boys returned as hardened men, but in the meantime all Hell broke loose. Wherever we were, we celebrated–loud and long. At sea, aboard Sam’s ship, they brilliantly fired a 5 inch gun—straight up in the air. Fortunately it landed right beside the ship and not in the middle of the cheering men; the captain, the oldest man aboard, was only 28 years old.

The offices in San Francisco, where I was working in my first job at Matson Line at the age of 18, exploded at the seams as we all plunged down the middle of Market Street shouting and laughing. I don’t remember how I got home across the Bay.

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16 comments on “V-J DAY 1945

  1. The atom bombs dropped on civilians was a horrible act. I rather like this way of remembering the end of WW2
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-15/hundreds-of-couples-re-enact-famous-kiss-celebrating-end-of-wwii/6699624

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t remember getting kissed, but someone placed a bottle of apricot brandy in my open hand.
    The bomb was without a doubt, one of the most horrendous events in history. When it appeared the only way to halt the war was to add to the killing, it surely was the most appalling decision ever thrust on men.

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  3. I’ve just finished reading
    “Radiance” by Shaena Lambert, about a young Japanese woman who is brought to America for plastic surgery on her face, which was burnt by the blast in Hiroshima. It was a fascinating novel.

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  4. There are youtube videos of wildflowers blooming and spreading across the Japanese land, where the bombs were dropped. They’re wonderful as a sign of hope, and a reminder of the power of nature ot heal herself. I only hope they don’t add to the kind of collective amnesia that might well lead to equally horrifying events in the future. There’s a bitter irony to the fact that many of the same people who decry the dropping of the bombs in Japan are fully in favor of policies that may well lead to bombs being dropped in our lifetime.

    And you’re right — there was a whole generation who didn’t, and don’t, talk about it.

    Those are wonderful photos you’ve shared. Just don’t offer to share your apricot brandy with me. I remember apricot brandy, and it’s not fondly. My judgment in 1964 wasn’t the best in the world.

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    • “In Flanders fields the poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row—” Perhaps flowers have the power to help heal. We take flowers to someone dying in the hospital to ease their pain and give hope.

      No more apricot brandy for you! Can you imagine the scenario of hordes of people swigging booze while running in the middle of Market St.? I was easily influenced in 1945. You can hardly cross it now there are so many cars.

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  5. Well written post, AK. Good for you for taking a position, hard as it may be, about Truman’s decision to end the war by dropping the bomb. Pacifists from around the globe haven’t a clue about all the historical circumstances that made such a difficult decision inevitable. The Japanese have no one to blame but the megalomania of their own ruler. And now we deal with another growing evil: ISIS. My hunch is that there is only one leader of the modern world with the foresight to end their reign of terror…

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  6. The situation in the Middle East is so dire it will need a strong pragmatic leader to end it. We have been criticized for using the bomb, but the Japanese would NEVER have surrendered, and our losses were already so great with the promise of losing a million more. IS seems of the same mind-set.
    People don’t seem to realize the collective guilt we shared after dropping the bomb, but it had to be done.
    Robert Oppenheimer’s quotation from the Bhagavad Gita was chilling:
    “Now I am Death, the destroyer of worlds.
    The destroyer of that world led to new worlds which are again threatened by evil.

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  7. (My dad was a Marine in China.) Often overlooked or censored: August 6, 1945, 70th Anniversary Hiroshima
    July 21, 1945: Secretary of War met several top U.S. generals in Germany. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower would years later in Newsweek write: “Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.

    “It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude.”

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    • This has been a moral ambiguity for 70 years. I am of that generation, and the event was surely the most mind-wrenching decision ever made. The US is again in a situation of possible peril with IS and Iran. We can only hope that wiser heads prevail. Thanks for your comment Michael. Eisenhower’s speech was worth revisiting.

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  8. A line in your post caught my eye, “…the generation of men who didn’t want to talk about it.” I watched the film last night “Hurt Locker”, and like “American Sniper”, it brought home the start and desperate reality of what fighting in a war is really like. If’s worse now because the other side doesn’t wear uniforms, nor (like Japan) do they have the same Judeo-Christian values that we have in Western countries. My uncle enlisted at 17, fought and was injured on Peleliu, one of a series of awful battles across the Pacific islands. He only began talking about the War in his 60’s; how he held it in the long, I don’t know, but a lot of men came back from that victorious war and just wanted to settle down and be “normal”. At least these days we realize there is more mental trauma than we previously accepted. Perhaps not being victorious in an unpopular war makes it worse.

    I’ve read the pros and cons of dropping “the bomb”, and I really don’t know if it was right or wrong. Every year we watch TV programs reliving the horror of 9/11 — it is a cautionary tale; perhaps we should revisit the bombing of Japan, and the horrible force of atomic weapons more frequently too. Would that make people of the world more or less likely to use them? I don’t know, but I hope so.

    Are you aware of the wonderful service to WWII (and Korean and Viet Nam) vets that Honor Flights performs? These guys still get choked up when they reunite and visit the memorials in Washington D.C. http://www.honorflight.org

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    • Toward the end of my father’s life, he was interviewed regarding his wartime experiences by the local newspaper. He declined an in-depth interview, although a year or so before he had helped a young grandson with a school project regarding the War. We were able to learn a little of what he had seen and done during those years.
      Your uncle, at 17, was the age of so many of our boys. My father, career navy and an officer, was 31 at the time of Pearl Harbor, an “old man”, young by our standards today.

      It seems as a people we don’t learn. That old saying “Old men start wars for young men to fight”.

      I did not see “Hurt locker” but I did see :”American Sniper” which gives us some idea of the situation in that part of the world. It is easy to see why there is so much mental trauma today. There is no “victorious war”. Someone always loses sons, husbands and fathers.
      Pelelieu as you know, was completely devastated.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I recently read a reprinted article that told the stories of several people’s lives in the hours and days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. It was something I had of course heard about, but to hear the stories first hand was shocking. And of course at that time the atomic bomb was unknown, so there was a lot of confusion about what was happening. What a tragic time in human history.

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    • An interesting side to the story of the bomb was in Los Alamos, New Mexico where it was being developed. It was necessary to keep the entire thing under wraps, so they took over a private boy’s school and scientists and their families all lived and worked there. They all used the same mailing address, and shopped by catalog. When catalogs were delivered to the post office using the same address it naturally brought up questions, but somehow they managed to keep it secret. I can’t imagine being “locked up” for those years without contact to the outside world. Not at all like periods of R and R in your peaceful wilderness vacation.

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