We did not know at that time that there were only two bombs in our supply, and it would take quite a while to construct more. We also didn’t realize the struggle that was on going in Tokyo between the army and a selected group of civilians to continue the war. The army wanted to fight for every inch of ground and not give up. The civilian leadership wanted to persuade the Emperor to capitulate and not continue the fire-bombing and dropping of other atomic devices.
There were almost no Americans who realized the destructive power that atomic energy contained. Very few facts were immediately available concerning the bomb, and its characteristics were little known. Everyone knew what had happened to the two major cities in Japan, but no one really understood how or why it had been so devastating.
We are also aware now that the leadership of our armed forces predicted that over a million allied personnel would be lost if the U.S. proceeded in an invasion of the islands of Japan. We had seen a preview of that type of warfare on South Pacific islands and in the kamikaze attacks against our naval fleets. Our forces realized the task would be daunting. President Harry Truman understood the consequences of an invasion of this type and gave the order to drop the bombs.
The fourteen of August was my mother’s birthday. We would take my dad’s mother and sister along with my cousin out to dinner to celebrate. A Chinese restaurant on 38th Street and College Avenue in the near north side of Indianapolis was chosen. It seems strange now because I don’t believe any of our family was particularly enamored with oriental food. That’s not the case today, but I am sure that we youngsters ordered hamburgers rather than Chinese.
The dinner had just been completed and we were heading to the door when we heard a commotion outside in the street. We were amazed to see a flat bed truck filled with people shouting and waving American flags and proclaiming that the war had ended. They were headed south on College going toward downtown. My dad, who was in his dress uniform, suggested we follow and see what was happening. My mom thought that wasn’t such a good idea because of the crowds, if the war had really ended. My dad prevailed. In our 1941 Chrysler four-door with seven people crunched inside, we headed toward the Circle – the geographic center of Indianapolis.
Once on the Circle, we discovered that we couldn’t move. The crowds were not unruly, but there were so many celebrating that once established in the crowd, you couldn’t go anywhere. We were stuck. The Chrysler didn’t have air conditioning so all the windows were down. Because my dad was in uniform, everybody wanted to hug and kiss him. I distinctly remember several people coming up the car who were civilian patients of my dad wanting to know when he would be coming back to take up his practice again. Obviously he didn’t know, but he smiled and said that he hoped it wouldn’t be too long.
It took us over an hour to detach ourselves from the people in the midst of a full-scale celebration. More than once, my dad had to turn off the engine because of the possibility of over-heating and to conserve gasoline which was still rationed and scarce.
My dad was true to his word, but it took a few extra months before he received his “ruptured duck” symbol of his being relieved of duty. To be exact, February 1946, we arrived back in Indianapolis and began our civilian life once again. It was good to be home – particularly without the crowds.
The war that started on December 7, 1941, came to an end a little over four years, eight months and fourteen days later. There were sacrifices every day of the war. The “greatest generation” as it has become known, gave their lives to preserve freedom here and abroad. We should never forget the lessons learned and the men and women who made it possible. without the hype.