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We did defeat the Axis, right?
April 29, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
One of the things that happens when you stare at news stories, pages and computer screens long enough is that patterns emerge.
Revisionist history is one that always is a possible thread to find, and easiest to expose in a juxtaposition of counter-stories.
One such opportunity crossed my screen last week while laying out a high-fiber edition page on the last reunion of Doolittle’s Raiders, the daring pilots who took off in big B-24 bombers from an aircraft carrier and mounted the first offensive maneuver for the United States in the wake of Pearl Harbor.
These men, now in their 90s, have always been heroes to any aviation buff (include yours truly in there) and should be hailed as American heroes simply because of the daring involved.
First off, aircraft carriers in World War II weren’t all that big. Second, they surely were not meant for hurling big bombers into the air. So, takeoff was by no means a sure thing, even after the planes were lightened to help them get airborne.
Third, there wasn’t going to be enough fuel aboard each bomber to guarantee a round trip back from Tokyo, the objective for the bombing raid. The objective was far away, largely symbolic (there was not a belief that anything big would be taken out, but the Allies needed to show they weren’t doormats). The pilots knew their best bet for ever getting home again was to fly past Japan to China, land however they could and hope the Chinese looked kindly upon their American “guests.”
Contrast that with modern America, where it’s not OK to glorify anything remotely violent except football and hockey (which hardly carry the weight of the free world along with them). No, I couldn’t resist putting a story on an online petition to have the re-enactment of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima shot down as part of the Dayton Airshow.
The flight of a B-29 is pretty impressive, and a pyrotechnic display associated with the flight is even more impressive. The B-29 is the same kind of plane as the Enola Gay, which dropped the Hiroshima bomb, and Bockscar, which dropped the Hiroshima bomb and which is on display in part in the U.S.A.F. museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
The B-29 is still going to fly and there still will be an impressive pyrotechnic display, but it’s not going to be labeled as an A-bomb flight re-enactment. That’s for the best, because it’s hard not to get quite excited during airshow flight displays and forget the point that people died.
Folks of a certain age, namely us boomers for sure, were taught in our history classes about World War II that the dropping of the atomic bombs were painful, destructive and saved lives on both sides because a ground invasion of Japan would have led to a kind of door-to-door warfare. (Sound familiar to anyone paying attention to modern wars in urban areas in the Middle East?)
And it wasn’t until college for many that the time came to consider being the folks under the bomb instead of being the folks dropping the bomb. Indeed, I’ve read John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” a couple of times, as well as other books about life in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of the world’s only use of nuclear weapons so far (thank God). The human toll is frightening.
But it also was what it was at the time. Our guys made a bomb before Hitler’s guys made a bomb...or the Axis might have seen a different outcome for the war.
I can see the point of not glorifying the killing of people just living their lives in a hellfire blast in the name of government conquest.
I wish terrorists saw that point, too, but that’s the world we live in.
Which brings us back to Doolittle’s Raiders and their sacrifice and heroism. They’re all in their 90s, and said they won’t be making public meetings anymore. Which means that part of history is soon closing as a living, breathing document.
So, while we can think about the point about not being too glorifying with re-enactments, can we at least keep in our hearts and minds what it took to win the war, and make America into a superpower that lasted for a few decades?
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