Opinion: Firestorms of August

Matt Denton
Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam gather together during a Veterans Day wreath-laying service held at Veterans Park in Monroe on November 11.

Right now we are having a heat wave, plus the uncomfortable restrictions imposed to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in August 1945, after the German surrender, we were mopping up the mess of a war-torn Europe.

Meanwhile, on the island of Tinian in the Pacific, a B-29 bomber, The Enola Gay, had lifted off and was headed for Japan. At 8:15 in he morning on Aug. 6, 1945, The Enola Gay dropped her payload over Hiroshima, Japan. The United States had used a nuclear weapon for the first time in modern warfare. A second bomb would be dropped over Nagasaki, Japan three days later. The amount of destruction and loss of life caused Japanese Emperor Hirohito to immediately call an end to the war.

The decision of President Harry S. Truman to use these weapons has been debated ever since.

I am sure the president spent many hours agonizing and praying over the decision he had to make. Worldwide, the war had caused a lot of destruction and an enormous loss of life.

The destruction can be rebuilt, as we have seen. But, the lost lives are lost forever. If I were president, I think I would have made the same decision as President Truman. I would not want to see any more lives lost, American, Allied and Japanese. The invasion of Japan would have been costly in lives lost for both sides.

I think Emperor Hirohito and President Truman were on the same page in their math book on that one.

How far have we come and how much have we learned in these past 75 years?

Many years ago, I took an oath ”to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.” That was a lifelong oath. But, it does not give me the authority to wantonly destroy people or property I feel may be enemies of the U.S. We have a lawful process in this country, which everyone should respect and obey.

As a veteran, I am probably considered “Hawkish” on war. While I believe in a strong national defense, I am more an advocate of Theodore Roosevelt who said “Walk softly but carry a big stick.”

On a personal level, I believe in the sanctity of life. We, as men, can build buildings, bridges, railroads, manufacturing complexes, oil refineries and amusement parks. But, only God can create life. Each life is unique, and made for a specific purpose. War and the disregard for life can obliterate that unique person, destroy their reason for being – and we are the losers.

Richard A. Pender is the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. He writes the occasional historical column for Newspaper Media Group. He can be reached at rapender@netzero.net.

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