By Verne Strickland, December 7, 2012
*First posting of this feature.
I had the great fortune during my sixteen years on the air at WRAL-TV in Raleigh to get in a considerable amount of international travel, visiting over thirty countries on U.S, trade and reverse investment missions.
A favorite destination was Japan, which I visited a dozen times or more during that period. I personally enjoyed the Japanese experience, studied the Japanese language at N.C. State, and produced some films through the auspices of the NC/Japan Society on campus.
Unfortunately, my ardor has cooled toward that society and culture in the intervening years.
One damper has been by virtue of a great opportunity which has come my way -- to collaborate on a project with an extraordinary friend and documentary film producer at Research Triangle Park -- Scott Long.
Scott has won the rights to co-produce a full-length docu-drama on the exploits of the legendary Flying Tigers, aerial aces in China's war against the invading Japanese in the late years of World War II. Scott asked me to help out with the script for this film, but my personal bout with cancer at the time prevented that.
Accounts of the savagery with which Japan's military attacked Chinese civilians in Hunan Province is at first hard to comprehend. Then we Americans remember Pearl Harbor -- a date "that will live in infamy."
The December 7 sneak attack on the peaceful Hawaiian islands brought America into the war against Japan, and that bloody conflict cost the lives of countless Americans and our allies, and of the Japanese aggressors.
During my trips to Japan, I was asked on a number of occasions if I wished to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Each time I declined -- for patriotic reasons. I refused to be brought into a situation where misty-eyed Japanese -- yes, and cynical, arrogant American expatriates -- would attempt to shame me over our use of the atomic bombs employed by American bombers to force the Japanese into unconditional surrender, essentially ending hostilities in the Pacific theater.
I did not -- and do not -- feel shame or regret over that supreme victory over the Japanese. To me, Hiroshima and Nakasaki are merely exclamation points that ended a war that Japan triggered by its own disgraceful actions. Our bombs snuffed out two big Japanese cities in a heartbeat, but spared an estimated one million American lives that surely would have been sacrificed by taking that country using conventional forces.
That not only is a fair trade-off as far as I am concerned -- it is clear and convincing payback. And no nation could deserve it more than Japan.
As the legendary Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto intoned with dread during that onerous attack: "I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant." Boy did he have that right.
So, in my mind, Pearl Harbor was the fire that started the Pacific war, but the all-consuming flames from our atomic explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended it.
I hate to say it so bluntly -- but in those by-gone days when America found itself in harm's way due to powerful foreign enemies, we put on big boots and kicked the hell out of the attackers. Would that we had such a no-nonsense philosophy today. And no malevolent and belligerent United Nations to tell us how to manage our own affairs.
As December 7, approached this week, I spotted a related story about Japan's attempt to assign guilt over "the bomb" incident. It relates the experience of Clifton Truman Daniel, 55, eldest grandson of former president Harry Truman -- Give 'em hell Harry -- who gave the fateful nod that loosed the atomic age over Japan in 1945. I admire the President's courageous decision, which he made apparently with no second-guesses.
In August of this year (2012)Truman Daniel made a personal visit to Japan -- and to the two cities whose fates intersected with the most powerful weapon ever utilized to this date in history. His trip to Japan was not welcomed by all, he said.
“There are those in Japan who are still very angry about the bombings,” Daniel said. “Most people would tell me ‘We appreciate your coming.’ But some of the meetings with survivors were very emotional.”
Following the Nagasaki ceremony, a French journalist asked Daniel, again, why he had come.
“I said the trip was about reconciliation and healing,” he said. “I didn’t try to duck anything, but neither was I going apologize for my grandfather. He never did, first of all, and the country has not. “But I can still reach out to these people.”
And the Truman family spokesman disclosed another reaction -- this from Americans who were awaiting an amphibious assault on the Japanese mainland.
Said Clifton Daniel, "Over the years I have shaken the hands of dozens of American survivors of World War II, veterans who have told me, ‘I wouldn’t be alive if your grandfather had not dropped that bomb,’ ”
Give 'em hell, Harry -- and thank you Mr. President.