Monday, August 9, 2010

Dreams of Peace

This collage was done by my artist friend Mizu Sugimura of Federal Way. Until I began writing on the Tacoma News Tribune blog I’d never met Mizu and yet although we were separated by only a few degrees. How I am connected to this soft spoken gentle soul, so unlike me and yet so connected, has been much on my mind lately as I have begun to climb the mountain of memoirs my father left. Mizu’s Japanese American family was imprisoned during WWII. My father was at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on the island of Oahu on December 7th, 1941. It is this chapter of his life that I have been working on to try to catch the eye of a publisher. That day changed the lives of Mizu’s and my father’s forever.

Recently I heard that an Atomic Museum has opened in Los Alamos, New Mexico featuring replicas of the Enola Gay and “Fat Man” and Little Boy,” the bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This year for the first time the United States sent representatives to Hiroshima for Japan’s Peace Day remembrance of what happened sixty-five years ago. I am happy that we can now acknowledge the destruction we wrought and fascinated and revolted all at the same time with the museum. Following WWII my father participated in Operations Redwing and Hardtack testing the atomic bomb on Eniwetok in the South Pacific. I am revolted that there’s a cathedral to an event that caused in the neighborhood of 240,000 deaths immediately and an estimated 350,000 by 1978.

I know the conventional thinking is that American lives were saved when an invasion of Japan wasn’t needed to end the War in the Pacific, but I cannot help but wonder if the same effect would not have been achieved had a bomb been dropped over the ocean as a demonstration of its destructive power. I am also fascinated to learn that Japan may have been in negotiation with the Soviet Union at that time to surrender to them because the government thought they would get a better deal with the USSR. I will be interested to find out more about that since I cannot imagine that any sort of occupation by the Soviet Union would have been superior to that by the US.

Pearl Harbor and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened before Mizu and I were born and yet they shaped our lives by creating the atomic age we grew up in. Both of our father’s went on to work for Boeing and both of us attended the University of Washington School of Communications, although we did not meet until some four years ago. Getting to know Mizu has put a face on the other side of a conflict and period of time that was pivotal in my father’s life. As I work at finding a publisher for my father’s memoirs and as we recognize what happened sixty-five years ago I wonder if we will ever universally understand how close we are as human beings. By the time he wrote his memoirs in the late 1980s my father expressed his hope that we were seeing the dawn of universal peace for all time. He self published his writing for the family and went on to live to see September 11th and our invasion of Afghanistan and his hope end. Do we still dare to dream of peace?


Guy Holliday said...


As a Navy officer I lived with my family in Japan for four years, so these are questions we have considered closely. We made some friends there. The best international relationships are person to person. Answers are hard in times of existential crisis.


Stephanie Frieze said...

Did you have occasion to talk to people in Japan about Hirshima and Nagasaki, Guy?

I know I saw my father's attitude change between shortly after the war and the 1960s, '70s and '80s when he began traveling the world, including to Japan. He had occasion to meet a retired admiral who had been a lower ranking officer during the battle of Midway. My father had been a gunner on the PBY in that battle which had circled the life raft the admiral was in until the US Navy was able to take them aboard a ship. The admiral had sent my father his cap device as a war trophy and his thanks for not shooting him and his companions. Years later he saw a picture of the life raft in a book about Midway. He contacted the author to find out about the picture and tracked down the men in the raft. Of course Boeing was more than happy to assist in making a reunion and photo opportunity. All of the men, save one, came and the adirmal refused to take back the cap device. He and my father became friends and visited with one another over the years prior to the admiral's death. I do not know if they ever talked about the bombings. I wonder what a conversation like that would have been like.