see: "CHARACTER" for other related links
see: "WAR & PEACE" for other related links
ANDREA: Unhappy the land that has no heroes.
GALILEO: No, Unhappy the land that needs heroes.
--Bertolt Brecht (1898—1956)
_The Life of Galileo_ 
[Telephone call to his wife from hijacked airplane:]
I know we're all going to die — there's three of us
who are going to do something about it. ... I love
--Tom Burnett, a California businessman on
UA flight 93 saying goodbye to his wife.
Quoted in "S.F. Chronicle" [12 September 2001].
No man is a hero to his valet.
--Mme. A.M. Bigot de Cornuel (1605—1694)
French society hostess.
_Lettres de Mille Aïssé_, Letter 13 "De Paris, 1728" 
Nobody, they say, is a hero to his valet. Of course; for
a man must be a hero to understand a hero. The valet,
I dare say, has great respect for some person of his own
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749—1832)
German poet, novelist, and playwright.
Quoted in Maturin M. Ballou
_Treasury of Thought_, p. 233 [15th ed. 1894].
Winston Churchill (1874—1965)
British statesman and prime minister.
In the summer of 1941 Sergeant James Allen Ward
was awarded the Victoria Cross for climbing out onto
the wing of his Wellington bomber, 13,000 feet above
the Zuider Zee, to extinguish a fire in the starboard
engine. Secured only by a rope around his waist, he
managed not only to smother the fire but also to return
along the wing to the aircraft's cabin. Churchill, an
admirer as well as a performer of swashbuckling exploits,
summoned the shy New Zealander to 10 Downing Street.
Ward, struck dumb with awe in Churchill's presence,
was unable to answer the prime minister's questions.
Churchill surveyed the unhappy hero with some
compassion. 'You must feel very humble and awkward
in my presence,' he said.
'Yes, sir,' managed Ward.
'Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel
in yours,' said Churchill.
--_Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes_
edited by Clifton Fadiman and André Bernard [2000 ed.]
[Of veterans of the D-Day invasion:]
They may walk with a little less spring in their step,
and the ranks are growing thinner, but let us never
forget, when they were young, these men saved the
--Bill (William Jefferson) Clinton (b. 1946)
American Democratic statesman and president [1993—2001].
Speech on the 50th anniversary of D-Day,
Colleville-sur-Mer, France [6 June 1994].
The only true heroes are those who find ways that
help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would
like to see a million Mogadishus.
--Columbia University professor Nicholas de Genova.
In Ron Howell, "Radicals Speak Out At Columbia
‘Teach-In,’" _Newsday_ [27 March 2003].
We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.
The Heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
For fear to be a King.
--Emily Dickinson (1830—1886)
"Aspiration" in Mabel Loomis Todd (ed.) _Poems
by Emily Dickinson: Third Series_ [1896, 2nd ed.]
Nurture your mind with great thoughts;
to believe in the heroic makes heroes.
--Benjamin Disraeli (1804—1881)
British Tory statesman, novelist, and Prime Minister [1868, 1874—1880].
_Coningsby_, bk. 3, ch. I 
The cult of the hero is the absolutely necessary complement of the
massification of society. We see the automatic creation of this cult
in connection with champion athletes [and] movie stars. ... The
individual who is prevented by circumstances from becoming a real
person, who can no longer express himself through personal thought
or action, who finds his aspirations frustrated, projects onto the hero
all he would wish to be. He lives vicariously and experiences the
athletic or amorous or military exploits of the god with whom he
lives in spiritual symbiosis.
--Jacques Ellul (1912—1994)
French author and educator.
_Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes_ 
Heroism feels and never reasons and therefore is always right.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882)
American philosopher and poet.
_Essays_  "Heroism"
Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty,
are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure
heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious
--Victor Hugo (1802—1885)
French poet, dramatist, and novelist.
_Les Miserables_ , "Marius"
More books have been written about Napoleon than about any other human being.
The fact is deeply and alarmingly significant. What must be the daydreams of
people for whom the world's most agile social climber and ablest bandit is the
hero they most desire to hear about? Duces and Fuehrers will cease to plague
the world only when the majority of its inhabitants regard such adventurers
with the same disgust as they now bestow on swindlers and pimps. So long
as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly
rise and make them miserable.
--Aldous Huxley (1894—1963)
English novelist (grandson of T.H. Huxley.)
"Decentralization and Self-Government" in
_End and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and
into the Methods Employed for Their Realization_ 
These heroes are dead. They died for liberty — they died for us.
They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under
the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the
sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.
They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike
of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless palace of rest.
Earth may run red with other wars — they are at peace. In the
midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity
of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead —
cheers for the living and tears for the dead.
--Robert Green Ingersoll (1833—1899)
American politician and orator know as "The Great Agnostic."
From an Address Delivered at the Soldiers' Reunion
at Indianapolis, Ind. [21 September 1876].
Heroism, the Caucasian mountaineers say,
is endurance for one moment more.
--George Kennan (1845—1924)
American explorer and author.
Letter to Henry Munroe Rogers [25 July 1921].
[When asked how he became a war hero:]
It was involuntary. They sank my boat.
--John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917—1963)
American Democratic statesman, President of the U.S. [1961—1963].
In Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. _A Thousand Days_ .
Although men flatter themselves with their great actions,
they are not so often the result of a great design as of
--François de La Rochefoucauld (1613—1680)
French classical author.
_Reflections; or, Sentences and Moral Maxims_ 
As an example consider what was arguably the most
famous home run in the history of baseball. While
every serious fan remembers Bill Mazeroski, few can
recall what Hal Smith did the inning before:
Letter to the Editor
"Hal Smith's Home Run"
October 17, 2006
_The Wall Street Journal_
Reader Neil Houston isn't totally accurate in his memory of the Pittsburgh Pirates' home runs in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series ("A Big Hit of Yesteryear in Game 7 of 2001 Series," Letters, Oct. 12). He has Mazeroski's homer exactly right, but not Hal Smith's. In the last half of the eighth inning, the Yankees led 7-6. The Pirates had already scored twice, there were two outs and two men on base. Mr. Smith's home run scored three runs, not two, and put the Pirates ahead 9-7.
The Yankees tied the game in the ninth, thus setting the stage for Mr. Mazeroski. Hal Smith, who comes to Bradenton for Pirates events occasionally, has said, "I was just not meant to be a hero."
Longboat Key, Fla.
Enthusiasm springs from the imagination, and
self-sacrifice from the heart. Women are, therefore,
more naturally heroic than men.
--Alphonse de Lamartine (1790—1869)
French poet, novelist, and statesman.
Quoted in Maturin M. Ballou
_Notable Thoughts about Women_, p. 250 .
[Of Abraham Lincoln:]
It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies
that the native metal of a man is tested.
--James Russell Lowell (1819—1891)
American poet, critic, essayist, and diplomat.
_The North American Review_ [January 1864]
See the conquering hero comes!
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!
--Thomas Morell (1703—1784)
"Judas Maccabeus" 
Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women
of no note do great deeds, speak great words and
suffer noble sorrows.
--Charles Reade (1814—1884)
English novelist and playwright.
_The Cloister and the Hearth_ 
We don't have to turn to our history books for heroes.
They're all around us. ... Don't let anyone tell you that
America's best days are behind her, that the American
spirit has been vanquished. We've seen it triumph too
often in our lives to stop believing in it now.
--Ronald Reagan (1911—2004)
American President [1981—1989] and former Hollywood actor.
State of the Union Address [26 January 1982]
When you talk to young girls these days about their role
models, very few mention a chemist like Madame Curie,
or an astrophysicist and astronaut like Sally Ride, or
a zoologist like Jane Goodall. Instead, they look to
someone like Madonna, whose inspiring achievement
in life is to parade around in her underwear while
proclaiming herself to be a "material girl." *And
people wonder why the country's in trouble.*
--Wynetka Ann Reynolds (b. 1937)
American zoologist and university administrator.
Quoted in Carolyn Warner _The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes_ .
We can't all be heroes because somebody has
to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
--attributed to Will Rogers [William Penn Adair Rogers] (1879—1935)
American humorist and actor.
A hero is a man who does what he can.
--Romain Rolland (1866—1944)
French dramatist , novelist, essayist, and art historian.
_Jean-Christophe_ [10 vols., 1904-1912]
In this world I would rather live two days like
a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep.
--Tipu Sultan [byname Tiger of Mysore] (1749-53?—1799)
Indian sultan of Mysore who won fame in the
wars of the late 18th century in southern India.
In Alexander Beatson, _A View of the Origin
and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun_ .
To say that there is a case for heroes is not to say that there is a
case for hero-worship. The surrender of decision, the unquestioning
submission to leadership, the prostration of the average man before
the Great Man — these are the diseases of heroism, and they are
fatal to human dignity. ... History amply shows that it is possible
to have heroes without turning them into gods.
And history shows, too, that when a society, in flight from hero-worship,
decides to do without great men at all, it gets into troubles of its own.
--Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917—2007)
"The Decline of Greatness" in _Saturday Evening Post_ [1 November 1958].
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
--Paul Simon (b. 1941)
American singer and songwriter.
"Mrs. Robinson" [song from the 1967 film _The Graduate_.]
I went over and introduced myself.
'Mr. DiMaggio, I'm Paul Simon. I'm the
guy who wrote 'Mrs. Robinson.' He
knew. He invited me to sit down.
It was still the hippie days and he was
wondering whether I was making fun of
him. I told him I wasn't making fun of
him. I said the song was about heroes,
a certain type of hero.
--Paul Simon (b. 1941)
American singer and songwriter.
In Mark Kriegel "DiMaggio Was Perfect Fit For My Song, Simon Says"
in _New York Daily News_ [27 November 1998].
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the
sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!
--George Lother, program intro for Superman radio show,
first broadcast [12 February 1940]
Superman was created in 1934 by Jerry Siegel, a graduate of
Glenville HS in Cleveland who had little luck with the girls.
The fantasy character was also luckless — but only as Clark
Kent. Siegel's partner was Joe Shuster, who improved the
character with tights, a cape, and a handsome face. They moved
to NYC, faced hard times there, so they sold the character to
DC Comics for $130. In June, the first Superman comic
appeared and the popularity of it was so high that both men
realized what a disastrous mistake they had made. Neither of
them ever gained a share of Superman's earnings. Siegel, a
clerk-typist, died in 1996. Shuster, a messenger, died in 1992.
Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend.
--Talmud (A.D. 1st-6th cent.) Rabbinical writings
in Louis I. Newman, comp.
_The Talmudic Anthology_ 
True courage is not the brutal force
Of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve
Of virtue and reason.
--William Whitehead (1715—1785)
English poet and playwright.
Attributed in _The Cynosure: Being Select Passages from the Most
Distinguished Writers_ [William Pickering, London, 1837].
paladin [PAL-uh-din], noun:
1. A knight-errant; a distinguished champion of a medieval
king or prince; as, the paladins of Charlemagne.
2. A champion of a cause.
A celebrity is a person who works hard all his
life to become well known, then wears dark
glasses to avoid being recognized.
--Fred Allen [John Florence Sullivan] (1894—1956)
Quoted in James B. Simpson _Best Quotes of '54, '55, '56_ .
A man can hide all things excepting twain —
That he is drunk, and that he is in love.
--Antiphanes (fl. early 4th cent. B.C.)
Greek comic poet.
As quoted in _Notes and Queries_ [23 July 1904].
He looked as inconspicuous as a
tarantula on a slice of angel food.
--Raymond Chandler (1888—1959)
American writer of detective fiction.
Quoted in "London Magazine" .
Danger — if you meet it promptly and without
flinching — you will reduce it by half. Never
run away from anything. Never!
--Winston Churchill (1871—1947)
Quoted in Sidney Greenberg _A Treasury of the Art of Living _ .
Age is like love, it cannot be hid.
--Thomas Dekker (c. 1572—1632)
English dramatist and writer of prose pamphlets of London life.
_The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus_ [c. 1598]
Tar-baby ain't sayin' nuthin', en Brer Fox, he lay low.
--Joel Chandler Harris (1848—1908)
_Uncle Remus and His Legends of the Old Plantation_ 
"The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story"
You can't get away from yourself
by going to a booze-bazaar.
--Elbert Hubbard (1859—1915)
American editor, publisher, and author who
died in the sinking of the "Lusitania."
_The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams_ 
Reporter: [Billy] Conn is going to use plenty
[of] footwork, and do lots of running.
Louis: He can run but he can't hide.
--Joe Louis [Joseph Louis Barrow aka The Brown Bomber] (1914—1981)
American boxer and heavyweight champion [1937—1949]. He retired undefeated.
_My Life Story_ 
Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.
--H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880—1956)
American journalist and literary critic.
_A Book of Burlesques_ 
The best armor is to keep out of range.
abscond [ab-SKOND], intransitive verb:
To depart secretly; to steal away and hide oneself --
used especially of persons who withdraw to avoid
arrest or prosecution.
absquatulate [ab-skwoch-uh-leyt], verb:
To flee; abscond.
hermitage [HUHR-muh-tij], noun:
1. The habitation of a hermit or group of hermits.
2. A monastery or abbey.
3. A secluded residence; a retreat; a hideaway.
sanctum [SANK-tum], noun;
plural sanctums or sancta::
1. A sacred place.
2. A place of retreat where one is free from intrusion.
skulk [SKUHLK], intransitive verb:
1. To hide, or get out of the way, in a sneaking manner; to lurk.
2. To move about in a stealthy way.
3. To avoid responsibilities and duties.
see: "SIXTIES (THE)"
see: "TIME" for other related links
see: "LIFESTYLE" for other related links
There was talk in those days that the scraped
interiors of banana skins, dried and smoked, would
get you high: "Mellow Yellow," in the vernacular and
the Donovan song immortalizing it. Just before the
Chicago Be-In, I joked about organizing a group to
pass out leaflets saying that "The Bananas You Smoke
Were Picked by Men Earning So-Many Cents a Day
and Whose Land Was Taken Away by United Fruit."
--Todd Gitlin (b. 1943)
American political writer and professor of journalism.
_The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage_ , "Everybody Get Together"
All these hippies wandering about thinking the world was going to be
different from that day on. As a cynical English arsehole, I walked
through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them, trying to make
them realize that nothing had changed and nothing was going to
change. Not only that, what they thought was an alternative society
was basically a field full of six-foot-deep mud laced with LSD. If that
was the world they wanted to live in, then f**k the lot of them.
--Pete Townshend (b. 1945)
British rock musician and songwriter.
In Geoffrey Giuliano _Behind Blue Eyes: The Life of Pete Townshend_ .
When you look back at the flower-power era, it all looks daft.
--Pete Townshend (b. 1945)
British rock musician and songwriter.
Quoted in Mike Evans & Paul Kingsbury
_Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World_ .
In 1968, in San Francisco, I came across a curious footnote to
the hippie movement. At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, there
were doctors treating diseases no living doctor had ever
encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago
they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as
the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff,
the rot. And how was it that they now returned? It had to do with
the fact that thousands of young men and women had migrated
to San Francisco to live communally in what I think history will
record as one of the most extraordinary religious fevers of all
time. The hippies sought nothing less than to sweep aside all
codes and restraints of the past and start from zero. At one
point, the novelist Ken Kesey, leader of a commune called the
Merry Pranksters, organized a pilgrimage to Stonehenge with
the idea of returning to Anglo-Saxon’s point zero, which he
figured was Stonehenge, and heading out all over again to
do it better. Among the codes and restraints that people in the
communes swept aside–quite purposely–were those that said
you shouldn’t use other people’s toothbrushes or sleep on other
people’s mattresses without changing the sheets, or as was
more likely, without using any sheets at all, or that you and
five other people shouldn’t drink from the same bottle of Shasta
or take tokes from the same cigarette. And now, in 1968, they
were relearning…the laws of hygiene…by getting the mange,
the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.
This process, namely the relearning–following a Promethean
and unprecedented start from zero–seems to me to be the
leitmotif of the twenty-first century in America.
--Tom Wolfe (b. 1931)
American journalist and novelist.
_Hooking Up_ 
see: "ANIMALS" for related links
by Flanders & Swann
Musical duo who performed comic and
--Michael Flanders (1922—1975) British actor and singer &
Donald Swann (1923—1994) British composer and linguist.
The amorous Hippopotamus, whose love song we know,
Is now married and father of ten.
He murmers, "God rotamus!" as he watches them grow,
And he longs to be single again.
He'll gambol no more on the banks of the Nile
Which Nasser is flooding next Spring.
With hippopotamas in silken pajamas
No more will he teach them to sing:
Mud! Mud! Glorious mud!
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So, follow me, follow, down to the hollow,
And there let us wallow in glorious mud.
see: "ATOM BOMB"
see: "WAR & PEACE"
see: "WORLD WAR II"
Some argue that the U.S. could have demonstrated the bomb on an
uninhabited island, or could have encouraged surrender by promising
that Japan could keep its emperor. Yes, perhaps, and we should have
tried. We could also have waited longer before dropping the second
bomb, on Nagasaki.
But, sadly, the record suggests that restraint would not have worked.
The Japanese military ferociously resisted surrender even after two
atomic bombings on major cities, even after Soviet entry into the
war, even when it expected another atomic bomb — on Tokyo. [...]
It feels unseemly to defend the vaporizing of two cities, events that
are regarded in some quarters as among the most monstrous acts of
the 20th century. But we owe it to history to appreciate that the
greatest tragedy of Hiroshima was not that so many people were
incinerated in an instant, but that in a complex and brutal world,
the alternatives were worse.
--Nicholas Kristof (b. 1959)
American journalist & author.
"Blood On Our Hands?" in _New York Times_ [5 August 2005].
Truman’s supporters countered that, in fact, a blockade and
negotiations had not forced the Japanese generals to surrender
unconditionally. In their view, a million American casualties
and countless Japanese dead were adverted by not storming the
Japanese mainland over the next year in the planned two-pronged
assault on the mainland, dubbed Operation Coronet and Olympic.
For the immediate future there were only two bombs available.
Planners thought that using one for demonstration purposes
(assuming that it would have worked) might have left the Americans
without enough of the new arsenal to shock and awe the Japanese
government should it have ridden out the first attack and then
become emboldened by a hiatus, and our inability to follow up the
As it was, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, General Tojo’s followers
capitulated only through the intervention of the emperor. And it
was not altogether clear even then that Japanese fanatics would
not attack the Americans as they steamed into Tokyo Bay for the
These are the debates that matured in the relative peace of the
postwar era. But in August 1945 most Americans had a much different
take on Hiroshima, a decision that cannot be fathomed without
appreciation of the recently concluded Okinawa campaign (April 1—
July 2) that had cost 50,000 American casualties and 200,000
Japanese and Okinawa dead. Okinawa saw the worst losses in the
history of the U.S. Navy. Over 300 ships were damaged, more than
30 sunk, as about 5,000 sailors perished under a barrage of some
2,000 Kamikaze attacks.
And it was believed at least 10,000 more suicide planes were waiting
on Kyushu and Honshu. Those who were asked to continue such fighting
on the Japanese mainland — as we learn from the memoirs of Paul
Fussell, William Manchester, and E. B. Sledge — were relieved at the
idea of encountering a shell-shocked defeated enemy rather than a
defiant Japanese nation in arms.
Hiroshima, then, was not the worst single-day loss of life in
military history. The Tokyo fire raid on the night of March 9/10,
five months earlier, was far worse, incinerating somewhere around
150,000 civilians, and burning out over 15 acres of the downtown.
Indeed, “Little Boy,” the initial nuclear device that was dropped
60 years ago, was understood as the continuance of that policy of
unrestricted bombing — its morality already decided by the ongoing
attacks on the German and Japanese cities begun at least three
Americans of the time hardly thought the Japanese populace to be
entirely innocent. The Imperial Japanese army routinely butchered
civilians abroad — some 10-15 million Chinese were eventually to
perish — throughout the Pacific from the Philippines to Korea and
Manchuria. Even by August 1945, the Japanese army was killing
thousands of Asians each month. When earlier high-level bombing
attacks with traditional explosives failed to cut off the fuel for
this murderous military — industries were increasingly dispersed in
smaller shops throughout civilian centers — Curtis LeMay unleashed
napalm on the Japanese cities and eventually may have incinerated
In some sense, Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only helped to cut short
the week-long Soviet invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria (80,000
Japanese soldiers killed, over 8,000 Russian dead), but an even more
ambitious incendiary campaign planned by Gen. Curtis LeMay. With the
far shorter missions possible from planned new bases in Okinawa and
his fleet vastly augmented by more B-29s and the transference from
Europe of thousands of idle B-17s and B-24, the ‘mad bomber’ LeMay
envisioned burning down the entire urban and industrial landscape of
Japan. His opposition to Hiroshima was more likely on grounds that
his own fleet of bombers could have achieved the same result in a
few more weeks anyway.
--Victor Davis Hanson (b. 1953)
American military historian and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
"60 Years Later" in _National Review_ [5 August 2005].
There's no doubt the atomic bomb wound up saving lives — American,
Japanese, and maybe millions in the lands the latter occupied. The
more interesting question is to what degree it enabled the Japan
we know today. They were a fearsome enemy, and had no time for
decadent concepts such as magnanimity in victory. If you want the
big picture, the Japanese occupation of China left 15 million Chinese
dead. If you want the small picture, consider Tarawa in the Gilbert
Islands. It fell to the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the
22 British watchkeepers surrendered to vastly superior forces. The
following year, the Japanese took their British prisoners, tied them
to trees, decapitated them, and burned their bodies in a pit. You
won't find that in the Geneva Conventions. The Japs fought a filthy
war, but a mere six decades later and America, Britain and Japan sit
side by side at G7 meetings, the US and Canada apologize unceasingly
for the wartime internment of Japanese civilians, and an historically
authentic vernacular expression such as "the Japs fought a filthy war"
is now so distasteful that use of it inevitably attracts noisy complaints
about offensively racist characterizations. The old militarist culture —
of kamikaze fanatics and occupation regimes that routinely tortured
and beheaded and even ate their prisoners — is dead as dead can be.
Would that have happened without Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the
earlier non-nuclear raids?
--Mark Steyn (b. 1959)
"The etiquette of modern warfare" in _The Jerusalem Post_ [3 August 2005].
Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb
on Hiroshima. . . . The force from which the sun draws its
power has been loosed against those who brought war to
the Far East.
--Harry S. Truman (1884—1972)
American Democratic statesman, President of the U.S. [1945—1953].
First announcement of the atomic bomb [6 August 1945].
Editorial in "The Wall Street Journal"
August 5, 2005
Today — or August 6 in Japan — is the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which killed outright an estimated 80,000 Japanese and hastened World War II to its conclusion on August 15. Those of us who belong to the postwar generations tend to regard the occasion as a somber, even shameful, one. But that's not how the generation of Americans who actually fought the war saw it. And if we're going to reflect seriously about the bomb, we ought first to think about it as they did.
In 1945, Paul Fussell was a 21-year-old second lieutenant who'd spent much of the previous year fighting his way through Europe. At the time of Hiroshima, he was scheduled to participate in the invasion of the Japanese mainland, for which the Truman Administration anticipated casualties of between 200,000 and one million Allied soldiers. No surprise, then, that when news of the bomb reached Lt. Fussell and his men, they had no misgivings about its use:
"We learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, and for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live."
Mr. Fussell was writing about American lives. What about Japanese lives? The Japanese army was expected to fight to the last man, as it had during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Since the ratio of Japanese to American combat fatalities ran about four to one, a mainland invasion could have resulted in millions of Japanese deaths -- and that's not counting civilians. The March 1945 Tokyo fire raid killed about 100,000; such raids would have intensified had the war dragged on. The collective toll from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is estimated at between 110,000 and 200,000.
* * *
Nuclear weapons are often said to pose a unique threat to humanity, and in the wrong hands they do. But when President Truman gave the go-ahead to deploy Fat Man and Little Boy, what those big bombs chiefly represented was salvation: salvation for young Lt. Fussell and all the GIs; salvation for the tens of thousands of Allied POWs the Japanese intended to execute in the event of an invasion; salvation for the grotesquely used Korean "comfort women"; salvation for millions of Asians enslaved by the Japanese.
Not least, and despite the terrible irony, the bombings were salvation for Japan, since they prompted Emperor Hirohito to intervene with his bitterly divided government to end the war, thus laying the groundwork for America's beneficent occupation and the country's subsequent prosperity. [ . . . ]
Looking back after 60 years, who cannot be grateful that it was Truman who had the bomb, and not Hitler or Tojo or Stalin? And looking forward, who can seriously doubt the need for might always to remain in the hands of right? That is the enduring lesson of Hiroshima, and it is one we ignore at our peril.
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