The Horrors Of War on the Home Front

After breakfast, the boy spent a short time in the bathroom and hurried back into the kitchen where his father was reading the paper. “Hurry, papa, I don’t won’t to miss any of the show, especially the air show. It was Saturday morning, and the man had promised his ten-year-old son he would take him to the airshow today. He was happy to see the boy so excited because it was the first time he had acted like a healthy ten -year old since the heart-breaking news the family had received more than three years ago. His older brother had joined the navy when events indicated that the nation was going to war and was trained as a torpedo bomber pilot. He was killed in the Battle of Midway just a week after receiving a medal for bravery at the Battle of the Coral Sea, and his body was not recovered.

It was a pleasant day in early August, and a perfect day for a drive through the countryside. There were lots of people out for a stroll and even more on bicycles Most of the motor traffic was headed in the same direction as they were, most likely going to the airshow. The boy talked on and on about his anticipation of seeing the torpedo planes fly over, and he could hardly wait to see the torpedo bombers, especially the type his older brother had flown. They arrived, parked and hurried to the stands and found seats from where they had a good view. The first flight of planes was a formation of light bombers, the type which had served to weaken the defenses on islands where ground troops had to go ashore. The crowd cheered and waved, and they could see some pilots salute the crowd. When the boy recognized that the second flight of planes was a formation of torpedo bombers like the ones his brother had flown, he jumped up and down with joy and yelled, “look papa, just like my big brother flew.” That brought bittersweet tears to his father’s eyes, and he yelled and clapped along with the boy. He was sad for the loss of one son, and happy that he still had one wonderful, heathy son.

When the airshow ended at 9:30 am, the public address system announced that the fireworks show would begin at 10:00. Firework shows had been restricted to daylight hours since the war began because of the weapons factory in the city. The break would give the father and the boy time to eat the sandwiches that the mother had made them for a snack. Suddenly, the father felt dizzy and weak, and when he touched his forehead, he was certain he had a fever. He said, “I’m sorry, son but we must leave now. I’m afraid I have contracted a bug, and I must get home, take some medicine and get some rest. I can’t afford to miss my classes Monday morning.” The boy heard the urgency in his papa’s voice and followed him to the car. The father told the boy to get into back seat and on the opposite side of the car.

When they arrived home, the mother wanted to know why they were back so soon. The father said, “Never mind that now; just get me some antibiotics and some hot tea. I’m going to bed. Keep the boy out of my room, and let him play outside, as long as he doesn’t mingle with other children.”
She said, “He’s outside, and all the neighbors’ children are at the air show. At that moment, they heard the boy scream, “Papa, mama, come get me, I can’t see.” They rushed to the boy and found him covering both eyes with his hands. He screamed, “I can’t see, I can’t see, I think I’m blind.” They put cold wet towels to the boy’s eyes and got him into the car and started for the closest hospital.

As the father drove at a reckless speed to the hospital, the car radio blared the news of an incredible explosion over the city of Hiroshima which killed thousands of people. The news said that the hardest-hit area of the city was where the fireworks show was taking place. The mother gasped and said: “The gods have spared us a terrible tragedy today, and I am so thankful to them that you and our son are alive.”The father had heard of warnings by the Americans that this might happen, but the Japanese press had played down the threat as American propaganda. The father instantly surmised that the boy had been blinded, by the flash of light from the explosion at Hiroshima and grasped the irony in what had happened. The father was a professor of western literature at a university in Hiroshima, and the events of the day reminded him of similar tragedies expressed in that literature.
“DAMN THE GODS.” He said and quoted these lines, spoken by The Duke of Gloucester, from Shakespeare’s tragic play, “King Lear.”

The date was August 6, 1944; The United States exploded a devastating bomb over the city of Nagasaki August 9, and the Japanese government surrendered its military forces August 15. The war and the killing were over, but not the dying and the suffering. This Japanese family and untold millions of people, some still unborn, all over the world would bear the scars of that war for decades.

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