Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A few survived both Hiroshima AND Nagasaki


    History offers many lessons. About suffering. About struggle. About resilience.  About the cruelties of fate. On Aug. 6, we remember the atomic bombing of Hiroshima—68 years ago today—and, to a lesser extent, three days later, on Aug. 9, we sometimes remember Nagasaki too. 
    Though, being second, Nagasaki doesn't hold the central place that Hiroshima claims in our collective memory, assuming such a thing as collective memory exists anymore.  Having a limited capacity for history, people tend to remember events in a stripped down, outlined fashion, if at all. I've never seen a poll asking if Americans have any associations with "Hiroshima" — most ask if the bombing was justified, which I'm sure spilled the beans to more than a few who at first drew a blank, wondering, "Bombing? What bombing?"
     In that light, this might seem unimportant. But ever since I read this letter in The New York Times 18 years ago, it's lodged in my mind, teaching something that is more than mere World War II trivia -- that a number of people survived both the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, having fled from the former city to the latter just in time for the second bomb. Here's the letter itself:
     There would almost be something funny about it, in a dark, horrible way, the ultimate example of fleeing one disaster by running into the arms of another, if it weren't so enormously tragic.     
     And perhaps this is disingenuous — the very human tendency to focus on the positive scrap in the face of an overwhelming horror, to think about the Warsaw ghetto uprising and not the 6 million Jews who died, sheep to the slaughter. As many as 200,000 people died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and bringing up a handful of survivors of both should not distract from that awful fact. But that said, we may also remember, as we face our own daily challenges, that the human vessel can be very resilient, and there were some people who were in a city that had a nuclear bomb dropped on it, not once, but twice, and yet lived to tell the tale. There's something incredible about that, something also worth remembering. 

5 comments:

  1. No, more incredible was the fact that after both A-bombs had been used, there were a substantial number of the Japanese military that wanted to keep fighting the war until every Japanese had died for their country!
    Those bombs weren't dropped to kill Japanese, they were used to prevent the killing of a million American GIs!
    BTW, those were the only two bombs finished, it wouldn't be until two months later in October that 10 more would be ready.

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    1. Yes, the Jap fighters were fanatics. They thought it was an honor to die for the Emp. and a disgrace to come home in one piece from the war.

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  2. That letter puts me in mind of another WWII story that I came across in Antony Beevor's "The Second World War" - Yang Kyoungjong, an 18-year-old Korean was forced to fight for the Japanese Army, then the Soviet, then the Wehrmacht before being captured during D-Day and eventually settling here in Illinois where he died at 72 years old.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yang_Kyoungjong

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  3. I should also add that if there wasn't anything like the A-bomb, the US military & the civilian politicians were prepared to flush the Geneva Convention down the toilet & use poison gas on Japanese troops.
    The plans for Operation Olympic, invading Japan made Overlord [D-Day] look like child's play!
    There wasn't any way they were going to sacrifice a million or more Americans & an equal number wounded, plus only unconditional surrender was acceptable after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

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    1. That's right, many forget about the sneaky way in which so many were killed at Pearl Harbor.

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