Remembering Hiroshima

By David English of Milwaukie, Oregon. David currently lives in Korea and teaches English. Today is the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

Second Lieutenant Morris JeppsonI remember studying about World War II in middle school. It was about that same time in my life, that I had been told by my mother that my grandfather was on the plan that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. At first, I did not know what to think about the fact that one of my relatives had been involved in such a mission.

Over the course of my life, I have studied and read about World War II quite a bit. The main focus of my interest was on learning as much as I could about the building and testing of the bomb, as well as the mission on which the bomb was dropped. I remember that many times in school I wrote papers about the subject. It was of great interest because of my grandfather’s involvement.

After I found out about my grandfather’s involvement in the mission, I was not permitted to talk about the subject with him. My mom told me that it was not a subject we talked about in our family. I have always been the curious one in my family, so I continued to learn as much as I could about the mission.

At the age of twenty-three, my grandfather -- Second Lieutenant Morris Jeppson -- knew he was involved in a mission that could potentially end the war. Although he was never told directly what kind of a bomb they were dropping, he recently stated in a Time Magazine article (Aug 1, 2005) that he had figured it out. My grandfather was the Weapon Test Officer on the Enola Gay. His job was to monitor the electronics of the bomb while in the air, as well as to help to arm the bomb.

The first conversation I remember having with him about the mission, was on the day I graduated from high school.

I asked my grandfather what he saw after the bomb detonated. He said that it was a big grey cloud of smoke by the time he got to the front of the plane. I remember how nervous I was to finally ask him a question about the mission.

For many years, my grandfather remained silent about his involvement in the mission, refusing to grant interviews. He felt that if someone knew of his involvement in the mission, that it might put him or his family members at risk. In 1990, that changed however, when he granted an interview to NBC around the time of the 45th anniversary.

A project to rebuild the Enola Gay was begun in 1984. The plane had been sitting in pieces for many years in an airplane hanger. In 1995, the Smithsonian opened an exhibit that caused a great amount of controversy. The exhibit that was originally slated to be shown was much larger then the one that actually took place. Veterans groups from the United States protested some of the script of the exhibit saying that it made the Japanese out to be the victims. Therefore, the exhibit was scaled back, although it is unclear how much was taken out.

In 1997, I had an opportunity to view the exhibit at the Smithsonian. The front parts of the plane, as well as other pieces of it were being displayed. One of the pieces in the exhibit, was a firing plug which was switch during the flight. My grandfather had held on to the plug and loaned it to the Smithsonian Institute for the exhibit. Perhaps the most interesting part was being able to touch the plane my grandfather had flown on fifty-two years before.

Now at the 60th anniversary, the controversy will again be rekindled. People will again try to second guess history and whether or not The United States should have used the bomb. Yet another controversy will be how the Japanese are perceived in terms of the bombings. Were they the victims or the aggressors of war?

During the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary in Hiroshima, the city’s Mayor stated, “Let us not repeat this evil.” It is encouraging to see that Japan for its part continues to take responsibility for their aggressive behavior, especially in conjunction with the marking of this important anniversary.

To this day however, there is still a rift between Japan and Korea. Japan continues to aggravate the relationship between the two countries by claiming sovereignty over the Dokdo Islands in the East Sea. Right-wing factions in Japan have also deleted references in textbooks in terms of some of the atrocities that Japan committed during its occupation of Korea.

A year and a half ago, I moved to South Korea to teach English as a second language. The first day I was in Korea I visited Seodaemun Prison, which the Japanese used to imprison Koreans during their occupation of Korea. Even then, I had not begun to understand the bitterness that Koreans had toward the Japanese. Since then, I have tried to learn as much as I can about Korea’s history. After being in Korea for sometime now, I have started to understand why Koreans are so angry with Japan.

Certainly, no matter what history says about the bombing of Hiroshima, one thing will remain true. I will always admire and look up to my grandfather for what he did. There is no doubt in my mind, the mission he served on helped end the Second World War.

Comments

  • JustaDog (unverified)
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    Way before my time but I know it ended WWII pretty fast. Emperor Hirohito himself said it was because of the A-Bomb he was surrendering - a historic fact.

    It is also an historic fact that the President that ordered the two nuclear weapons dropped on Japan was Franklin D. Roosevelt - a Democrat. Don't think Democrates have anything on Bush when it comes to killing innocent people!

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    Slight correction to your history there, JustaDog - it was Truman. Truman ended the war. Granted the Manhattan Project and the development of the A-Bomb were all under Roosevelt but the ultimate decision to use it was Truman's. Had Roosevelt lived a few months longer would the same decisions have been made? Most likely. But Truman still gets the credit (or blame, as the case may be).

    When I was in college I took a Japanese Film as History class. It was one of those classes that just happened to fit where I needed it, I had no passion for the subject by any means. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating classes of my college career.

    During the course of the class, the professor assigned a paper on the subject of Truman's decision to use the bomb. The question being should he have or should he not have used it. The professor's final instructions on the assignment were "No fence-sitting, no waffling. Pick a side."

    You would think that'd be easy - bombs are horrible. The aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was nothing that anybody could have ever imagined - shadows burned into the ground where people once stood, flesh being ripped from the bone, people burning, trapped in the rubble of their homes, black rain. People's fate decided by how many inches they were from the edge of the blast. Some people would have rather died than live through the aftermath. It's something even after seeing film after film, documentary after documentary, as well as brilliantly written animated shorts which recreated the images as seen by children - something that I could not even begin to imagine. However, I ultimately wound up writing my paper in support of Truman's decision. Surprised myself just as much as anyone. It was a tough paper to write.

    If not for something drastic, hell we'd probably still be at war with Japan. Additionally, though we came out the bully, there were no innocents in propagation of this war. The biggest tragedy was the loss of innocent lives. The bombs served their purpose. It was an historic day, that's for sure. I think a lesson was learned after those two bombings - we don't ever want to do that again (yet we keep building bigger bombs....... but anyway...).

    "I know not with which weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV, will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein

  • Gregor (unverified)
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    On another blog it was suggested that the bombs sent a message to Russia as much as it did to Japan. Stalin had a huge, well equipped Army at the end of the war. Our alliance with this brutal dictator wasn't about friendliness, but merely a common enemy.

    PS - Justadog, The Japanese were all ready and willing to fight to the death as evidenced by four years of war, and we fought them in response to Pearl Harbor, among other reasons. The Japanese flew planes against our Navy. Now don't go bringing up 9/11. There were no Iraqi's on that plane. We have no just cause in Iraq, unless you found the Weapons of Mass Destruction. We HAVE found the pages of Mass Deception, however.

  • David English (unverified)
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    Hey Kari,

    Thanks for finding the picture for me. I can't believe I forgot to include that. I guess I was in such a rush to finish writing and editing the article.

    David

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