Commentary

Snow: An ex-GI’s memory of a day in August

September 1, 2012 

From time to time , I’ve chided my wife for saving things I would have thrown away.

But I praised her extravagantly when she recently unearthed a 1995 issue of Newsweek magazine featuring the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, leading to the surrender of Japan.

Through the Newsweek issue, I relived the most momentous day of my youth.

Our Air Force squadron was located at Clark Field in the Philippines. On a quiet afternoon in August, we heard via radio and loudspeakers that a powerful new bomb had been dropped on Japan, almost wiping out an entire city.

We went berserk, screaming with joy, hugging each other and firing weapons into the air. We wept like babies, unashamedly.

We would live! We had a new life! A future! College perhaps. Marriage. Children. Grandchildren!

Moralizing on whether the U.S. should have released such a horrific weapon of war would come later. Few of us in uniform at that moment worried about the right or wrong.

The Newsweek article described the politics and the planning behind President Harry Truman’s decision to use the bomb and end the war.

Truman estimated that dropping the bomb and averting the invasion of Japan would save the lives of a million Americans, as well as millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians, including women trained to fight the invaders.

The city of Kyoto, not Hiroshima, was the original target of the Enola Gay, the plane carrying the bomb dubbed “Little Boy.”

But Secretary of War Harry Stimson, who had honeymooned in Kyoto years earlier and had fallen in love with the beautiful city, Japan’s cultural center, intervened. He ordered the military to scratch Kyoto. Hiroshima was next on the list of targets.

How ironic that one man’s sensitivity to beauty and culture spared an entire city and doomed another. But then war itself is replete with ironies.

Sept. 2 is the official U.S. commemoration of V-J Day.

Gaffes

This year’s presidential campaign should be remembered, among other things, as the one in which the word gaffe came into its own.

Time was when someone blurted out a goofy remark, he was said to have put his foot in his mouth and that was that. Life moved on. In today’s super-sensitive, politically correct culture, a gaffe can endanger, if not sink, a candidacy. A gaffe a day keeps TV’s talking heads happy.

Not long ago, The New York Times ran a lengthy piece on UNC’s pending comeback from its scurrilous academic/athletics scandal.

The article quoted new football coach Larry Fedora near the end of the article:

“I don’t think anybody cares one way or the other,” Fedora said of scholarship losses, pointing to Bill Parcells to make his point.

“I think Parcells had a saying, ‘Don’t tell me about the pain, just show me the baby.’ Nobody really cares about all that. Let’s just see you win.”

Watch it, Coach! The gaffe police are listening!

A Raleigh obstetrician immediately pounced, messaging me, “Coach Fedora might want to stick to coaching football and shy away from dismissing the pain of childbirth so lightly.”

Holy water

The recent revelation that Rep. Kevin Yoder went skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee during an 80-member GOP “fact finding mission” to Israel last year appears to be the trip’s most newsworthy event.

Although occasions when Congressman Yoder can boast, “Didja know I once swum naked as a jaybird in the Sea of Galilee” are limited, it must have satisfied some inner desire, while irking GOP leaders and some Israelis.

Israel holds a mystical appeal to Christians. Several members of my Baptist family have given me vials of water from the River Jordan.

I once asked the late Rev. W.W. Finlator what I should do with the water.

Without hesitation, he replied, “Well, the first thing you do is put a pot on the stove. Add water. Pour in the water from the river Jordan and then boil Hell out of it!”

Not bad advice. So many tourists have bathed in the Jordan, which supposedly washes away their sins, that the river is bound to be polluted by silt and sin.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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