Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sixty-Four Years Ago Today

I recently enjoyed reading Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo. It is subtitled "The True Story of a Great American Road Trip", and it tells the tale of how, shortly after Harry left the Presidency, he and Bess climbed into their new 1953 Chrysler New Yorker and drove from Independence, MO to Washington and New York and back home again. Just the two of them. That was a different time and a different America.
The book is good (not great...I give it "four out of five stars") but reading it reminded me of how highly I esteem Harry Truman.
You see, on this date sixty-four years ago, 6th August 1945, my late father-in-law was on the island of Okinawa. He was a Carpenter's Mate 2c serving with a U.S. Navy Construction Battalion (a "SeaBee") and the word was that they were going to be in the early waves of the invasion of the Japanese homeland that they all knew was in store.
Of course, on that day in 1945 the course of history changed forever when Paul Tibbets and his crew dropped the first operational nuclear weapon from the B-29 Enola Gay onto the city of Hiroshima.
I'm of the school of thought that holds that countless American and Japanese lives were saved by the avoidance of the final invasion of Japan. I've always thought Harry did exactly the right thing (and so did he -- he always said he never lost a moment of sleep over the decision to proceed with the nuclear bombing). And I believe it is not unlikely that, had history turned the other way, my father-in-law could certainly have been a casualty of a very bloody invasion and of course then my lovely wife would never have been born. So I'm personally appreciative of Harry Truman's steadfastness.
It is, of course, a day to remember and regret the lives that ended in that awful explosion sixty-four years ago. But it's also time to remember how much worse things could have been.

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