Saturday, August 06, 2005

Little Pieces of History and What They Mean 60 Years Later

The 60th Anniversary of the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is upon us. The discussion is still with us today as to whether we should or should not have. I have a little puzzle piece that alone makes me believe it was a good thing that it happened. One of my fellow officers had served in Sasebo, Japan in the 80s. As a going away present, his office staff presented him with a nice pen and pencil set for his next desk. Of course it was on a wooden base, carved in a distinctive oriental style. His name and rank adroned the piece, as did two china porcelin spheres, about 4 inches in diamter. Of course, these orbs managed to invoke a conversation. Here's the story: Many years after the war, long after we had an established Naval Base at Sasebo, some dredging was needed in the harbor. As the dredging progressed, thousands of these spheres were coming up with the slit. No one had a clue as to what they were, but there many thousands of them. Each orb had a small tube, open to the hollow interior. The search began to find out what these were for and determine their age. After mnay questions of the residents, they found out that the spheres had been manufacturered by Noritake near the end of WWII, which had it's plant there in Sasebo. No records were kept of the production, for the intended use of these orbs were to be hand grenades. The plan was to issue them to every man, woman and child in the event of an invasion of the Allies, to ensure as many invaders were killed as possible. When the end of the war was obvious, they were dumped in the harbor to hide them. Today we see suicide bombers around the world and seem to take it as a modern phenomena. It has been with us for a long time, and the china spheres on Paul's desk are a testment to that. I have read about the history of modern war for most of my life, but it has been in moments like a seemingly offhand conversation with a shipmate, that make me realize the human cost of WWII is far less than it was due to the use of those two atomic weapons. Couple that with two other docuemtned things in the conduct of the war: 1) The "kamakaze" efforts by the Japanese in the air, on the ground and the sea; 2) the understanding that Japanese propaganda regarding what the Americans would do to them to the Okinawan civilians caused many families to commit suicide, either by the family gathering around a hand grenade, while the father pulled the pin, or jumping off the cliffs. Not only would the cost have been high for our troops, which is regularly quoted as a defense of the reason to drop the bombs. The two other situations I mentioned above tell me that not only would a fanatical Japanese military fight to very close to the death, but they had also convinced the civilian populace that their sacrifice would also be necessary, and weapons and tactics had been devised to that end. We risked losing the Japanese culture, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Allied troops, had we resorted to an amphibious invasion of the islands of Japan, and I can only conclude the horiffic events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually saved lives in the long run. Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

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