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“harry truman saved my life”


In my twenty plus years of practice, I have had the honor and privilege of treating hundreds of WWII vets.  Unfortunately, I do not treat nearly as many as I used to because there are not many left (THE GIANTS ARE DYING).  As a student of the second World War, I believe that for the soldiers on the ground — the infantryman if you will —- fighting in the South Pacific was worse than fighting in Europe.  It is a belief that most of the European Vets would probably agree with as well.  One thing, however, is undebatable.  As bad as being a POW was in Europe, it was worse in the Pacific Theater — much worse. 

I was jawing with G.W. in the office the other day and listening to some incredible stories.  You see, G.W. was an infantryman on an island called Paupa New Guinea.  I asked him the question that I ask all veterans of the war against the Japanese —- Do you agree with our government’s decision to drop the bomb?  His answer was not only telling; it was the answer that I have heard veteran after veteran after veteran give (including the vets who fought the Germans) —- “Harry Truman saved my life“. 

Harry Truman was back in the news today because of his grandson.  It seems that Clifton Truman Daniel met today for meetings and “dialogue” with survivors of the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  One of the survivors said, “Since he is a grandson, he has no direct responsibility……”   I believe that most veterans are not thrilled about what happened to Japanese civilians in those bombings — many of them women and children.  But to say that we should not have done what we did is to revise history.  Forget about Political Correctness for a moment.  Let’s get back to how it used to be in this country and call a spade a spade. 

If you want to understand why we had to bomb Japan, you simply need to speak with the men that were there — those who survived.  I might also suggest a few books on the subject as well.  These are just a few that I have in my personal library.

  • E. Bartlett Kerr’s Surrender and Survival: The Experience of American Pow’s in the Pacific 1941-1945 (HERE)
  • Death March: The Survivors of Bataan by Donald Knox (HERE)
  • Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides (HERE).  This is the book that the 2005 movie, The Great Raid was based on.  Rent it if you have not seen it!

The last book on the list is the most graphic and well-written of several books about the battle for Okinawa.  When you begin to understand what it cost in American materials and lives to subdue the well-fortified but poorly supplied Japanese soldiers on this relatively small island, you will understand why the projected casualties of our armed forces were estimated to be at least 1,000,000 (yes; one million) in the event of an all out invasion of Japan — an invasion that was projected to take several years to complete.  In fact, one of the slogans of the Pacific soldiers was “Golden Gate in 48“.  Because of Harry Truman, the war ended in 1945.

Do I have anything against the Japanese people?  Certainly not.  In different years, my sister and I were short-term exchange students in Japan.  In the early eighties, my family also had the privilege of hosting two different exchange students from Japan as well.  The Japanese are a humble and industrious people that Americans could undoubtedly take lessons from in numerous areas.  I also think that it’s probably a good thing that we “dialogue” with Japan on this issue.  However, do not ever discount G.W. and the millions of Americans who survived WWII (HERE is another).  They are the ones who know what it was like to be there.  Take a minute and talk to a vet today (thank them while you are at it).   And if you ask them about the two bombs that were dropped on Japan 67 years ago this month, you’re almost certain to hear, “Harry Truman saved my life“.  More than likely, they’re right.


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