A footnote on Hiroshma

Back in the 1960s, I had a friend named Willis who was married to a sweet young Japanese woman named Teri.

He had not fought in the war, but served in the Army during the Occupation of Japan.  Teri worked in the same office that he did.  He spent a year persuading her to go out with him on a date.  Six months after that they were engaged to be married.

cherry_blossom_The Army forbid troops to marry “indigenous personnel” and he had quite a time finding a job in Japan so that he could be discharged there rather than being sent back to the United States.

Teri as a schoolgirl had been given a dagger with which to kill herself rather than be violated by American soldiers.  Then she met big, gentle Willis, who was the complete opposite of the bestial, animal-like American depicted in Japanese propaganda.

When Willis got to know Teri’s family, he pressed his father-in-law to tell him what he really thought of the bombing of Hiroshima.  The father-in-law was reluctant to answer, he said there was no point in talking about the topic, but Willis pressed him—he was not one to take “no” for an answer—and the father-in-law finally did answer.

It’s been 50 years since Willis told me the story, and of course it was second-hand to begin with, but I think I remember the gist of ir accurately.  It was approximately like this.

We Japanese understand military necessity.  If we had possessed atomic bombs, we most certainly would have used them on San Francisco and Los Angeles.

What we don’t understand is your moralizing over the fact.  You dropped the bomb and killed a lot of people, but you act as if you are not the kind of people who would do such a thing, even though you did.

You Americans like to think that you are different from other people, but you aren’t.  And if you don’t understand that, we do.

I thought of Willis’s story every time I heard President Bush or President Obama say, “This is not who we are.”

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One Response to “A footnote on Hiroshma”

  1. williambearcat Says:

    Thanks for the reminder and the basis for questioning the “we are better than that” line that supposedly makes us “an exceptional nation”.


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