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First Ashore at Nagasaki: Sept. 24, 1945

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A bombAccording to his Honorable Discharge papers (A108534, Series A, NAVMC70-PD) and war stories, my father invaded Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa. According to my father, after the battle for Okinawa, all but two Marines from his original Company were either killed or seriously wounded. The Marine Corps then ordered my father and his buddy to begin training for the invasion of mainland Japan with a new unit where they were scheduled to be among the first Marines ashore because of their combat experience.

My father told me that at the time he believed it was a miracle that he was still alive. He knew that he would never survive the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland, but had proceeded to train for this invasion anyway because he had enlisted for the "Duration" of the war. Semper Fidelis My father was a very aggressive, relentless, fearless, and ferocious warrior.

Instead of being among the first U.S. troops ashore to invade Mainland Japan, my Father was among the first U.S. troops ashore to occupy Mainland Japan. According to his Marine Corps records, my Father “arrived [by ship] and disembarked at Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan” on September 24, 1945 -- just after that City and its civilian inhabitants had been obliterated by an atomic bomb on August 9, 1945.  It must have been a truly horrific sight for a young man from the Irish Southside of Chicago to have witnessed and dealt with.  

By the end of the war I suspect my Father had become inured to inflicting death and destruction upon the Japanese Army and all of its accouterments.  But this scene was existentially different:  a devastated City where approximately 80,000 civilians had just been exterminated.  At the time my Father must have contemplated what damage one atom bomb could inflict upon his native City of Chicago and its beloved inhabitants. 

Be that as it may, my Father never told anyone in our Family that he had been at Nagasaki. Perhaps he did not want to recount the human horrors he had seen there to his Wife and Children. In fact, my Father told my Mother almost nothing about the war – unlike me, his oldest child and namesake. But he never uttered even one word about Nagasaki to me.  He might have concluded that Nagasaki was nothing for America to be proud of -- unlike the evident pride he displayed when recounting his war stories to me. There was no war story about Nagasaki. Just a deafening silence.

In any event, I grew up to believe that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had saved my Father’s life and thus had made my life possible.  But when I later studied international relations in college, I realized that this commonly accepted myth was not true to any extent.[i][i] The Japanese government was desperately trying to surrender. The Truman administration knew full well that Japan would have surrendered (1) without the need to demolish Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with their inhabitants and (2) without an invasion of Mainland Japan by my Father and his comrades-in-arms. The Truman administration dropped these two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their inhabitants in order to make it crystal clear to the Soviet Union and everyone else around the globe that the United States of America would be in charge of running the World in the post-World War II era.  So it has been.

[i][i] See Francis A. Boyle, The Lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence 55-91 (2002).


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