Pebbles in the Pond

    With the increasingly maundering commemorations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki encroaching, it is once again time to loosen an unavoidable skunk upon the apologist/revisionist/revanchist picnic.
Pearl Harbor. Isn’t it strange reading that location in August?

    No a-bombs apology from this corner. May one be an Arizona graduate who has attended mainland memorials consecrating that December 1941 day without agreeing why those detonations occurred 68 years ago this week?

    Every American of the Boomer Generation (and our successors) alive today should be grateful for Harry Truman’s orders. But too many Americans are not. Seems the percentage rises as the age lowers, too. One or two more generations and might we become what George Santayana cautioned?

    The Japanese have done an exceptional job instilling victor’s guilt in Gen-Xer’s and Millennials. They’ve gradually sold a reversal of their collective shame to gullible Westerners, buyers with no sense of asking the “why” behind history. This duplicity should be recognized and acknowledged, though never commended.   

    Since this post is in no way a bend-over backwards exercise in anguish or remorse, someone else must speak for long-ago dead Japanese.

    However, it is fair to ask whether those who succumbed to the strange and sudden devastation above the Japanese home islands of Honshu and Kyushu were as revered or valued as the American combatants ultimately saved. On this side of the Pacific? No.

    While clearly comprehending the power and menace of atomic weaponry, and hoping no other populace suffers that force now or later, the then use of Fat Man and Little Boy (the bombs’ respective nicknames) assured our presence today. I can’t imagine the selflessness, the incredible altruism required to wish those who sired a vast number of us had died before we could’ve been born.

    Must be rough being led astray by run amok consciences. It’s beyond me.

    Yet that will be the basis behind this week’s demonstrations railing against the United States’ introduction of the atomic age. Or, if preferred, the Atomic Menace.

    Premature suicide is right up there with premature anti-fascist, isn’t it? One is marvelous justifying bureaucratese. The other is the height of self-loathing, self-abnegating anguish. Readers can sift which is which. Those seeking to compare how the allies’ bold stroke ended Pacific hostilities with Axis cruelties have already chosen. Wrongly at that.

     We can have such false debates now. Good and safe apologists can even concede revisionism to the revanchists.

    We can and we do because Second World War warriors are fading the way of First World War doughboys. Though aren’t never-combatants better served through the recollections of those who were involved in the conflict? Participatory immediacy shortens the telling. There’s scant digression. The garnish comes afterward, when incidents have had time to mull. That is, having mostly been mulled by individuals far removed from the fields.

    That written, a few readers might suggest perhaps The Red Badge of Courage refutes the above statement. While late birth kept the novel’s author Stephen Crane off any active Civil War battlefield, his work is lauded for its “true voice.”

    Crane told a story intended for a likewise safely kept audience. He had distilled overheard campfire tales into a naturalistic excursion. Listening astutely, letting what filled his head ferment, Crane then wrote like hell.

    For his readers who’d never experienced the absolute clarity of mind that follows being shot at, The Red Badge of Courage was the closest Civil War romanticists would get to vicarious wartime living. For the vast majority of fortunate Baby Boomers our touchstone in this regard might be Talking Heads’ Life During Wartime or REM’s Orange Crush.

    Both songs are ear-worm candidates, but will either leave as an indelible cultural imprint as The Red Badge of Courage?

    While scholarly study often produces exemplary tomes, these are frequently, excuse the expression, bloodless. Nothing muddles the mind more than being at some safe remove imagining someone else’s life or death/life and death struggles. No. My error. A worse muddle is picturing events incorrectly.

    Which is where the opposition to how the allies concluded World War II stand.

    Decades distant from the conflict, there are those who will swear Japan could’ve been brought to heel through Western industrial might. Through embargoing the home islands. Starving the empire would eventually have led the Japanese to a negotiating table. Otherwise, and most horrifically of all, the allies would’ve resorted to a conventional military invasion, a la Normandy. As in France, direct action could’ve provided the decisive blow. An assault that should’ve struck fear and futility into enemy hearts … after a reasonable amount of increased incalculable suffering.

    Looks like plenty of current somebodies ignored casualty figures resulting from the War Department’s Pacific Island-hopping strategy. On those parcels Americans tried bombing and depriving into submission, invading forces encountered Japanese defenders mounting Spartan-like resistances. Before dying, these noble forces exacted terrible American losses.

    Now, if anything must be imagined, imagine since the emperor’s troops willingly sacrificed themselves on godforsaken rocks, what might the reception be upon Japan proper? Where the true fanatics seethed and waited.

    The apologists claim factions, among them “peaceseekers,” fragmented the Imperial War Council. Rumors of peace from Tokyo. Okay. But none of the actors, even those who held what could be charitably called less absolute views, were going to consent to allied terms. 

    Therefore, if not for atomic bombs invasion it would have been.

    Whether the estimates of allied losses through subduing Japan by hammer and tong are exaggerated is moot. The bombs reduced that figure to a manageable zero. However, had one more American marine, sailor, airman or soldier been killed, who among us would be absent today? Or, farther along, how many missing from that chopped family branch?

     Let the movie It’s a Wonderful Life serve as model. Rejigger the past, the present and future are altered. If fathers (mine among them) or grandfathers don’t survive World War II, Westerners today regretting August 6th and 9th, 1945, never see light. A certainty for an unfathomable number of us.

    Maybe if errant sympathizers checked their own family trees, they will find former combatants who became sires that fortunately lived after those two fateful dates. Failure of either or both atomic devices would’ve prompted amphibious assaults on Japan. These battles would have sped past medieval on the way to abject barbarity. Be assured this slaughter would’ve ended innumerable timelines.

    Maybe even the reader’s. And of those spared, the question still begged is how would peripheral absences have changed the lives of survivors and their successors? Don’t forget, many who returned from the carnage reentered civilian streets with new outlooks which formed an improved society.

    Our world. This world. Now.

    Can’t create if you or your inspiration doesn’t exist, can you? Nor can you complain about actions which guaranteed your presence either.