Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gonna Study War No More

By Pat Browning

Gonna lay down my burdens/
Down by the riverside/
Down by the riverside/
Gonna lay down my burdens/
Down by the riverside/
Ain’t gonna study war no more.
…….. Old gospel song

The TV special, "War in the Pacific," is almost too cruel to watch. Now a relative has directed me to a YouTube video of the official Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945, and it really rattled my chain.

I thought of my old cotton-picking buddy from my days as a skinny kid in the Oklahoma boonies. He was a Marine, killed at Iwo Jima. Couldn’t have been more than 18 years old. I thought of my cousin Rudy, who joined the Navy at age 16 as a machinist’s mate and was discharged in 1946 as a chief petty officer. On Sept. 2, 1945 he was aboard the USS Cleveland at Okinawa. The ship left Okinawa on Sept. 9 to cover the evacuation of Allied prisoners of war from Wakayama.

My cotton picking buddy and my cousin are dead, but an old high school friend who was the radar operator on a B-29 in the Pacific is very much alive and kicking. His B-29 was in the swarm of bombers that did a flyover of the USS Missouri after the surrender ceremony.

He lives in Colorado now. I e-mailed him to ask about that long-ago flyover in Tokyo Bay. The vehemence of his reply almost knocked me off my chair. The memory is still raw after 65 years. In fact, getting him to talk about the war at all is like pulling teeth.

Quoting his e-mailed reply (it was in caps and the color red):
Yes, Patricia, I was there. Every B-29 that could fly was there. We went north of Tokyo then turned south. We flew over mile after mile of ash and rubble … not much left of Tokyo. We flew low over the battleship Missouri during the signing. I have a picture of the battleship, taken with a cheap Brownie Hawkeye camera … no long range photo lens, of course.

The Marines hated MacArthur. We thought he was a pr**k of the first order. He let the U.S. Air Force be destroyed on the ground at Clark Field on December 8 … a full day after Pearl Harbor. He left all his supplies north of Manila when he should have stored them at Bataan.

During the Korean War he sent Marines to the Chosen Reservoir where it was impossible to resupply them or to enable their escape when the Chinese came in. Mac assured us that the Chinese would never enter the war – he knew the Oriental mind!!! I will give him credit for success in post-war Japan.
(end quote)

The YouTube video, a newsreel that is remarkably sharp and audible after so many years, is at

MacArthur was the Supreme General Commander of Allied Forces. On deck with him that day to sign the agreement were Allied representatives from Australia, Canada, China, France, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, the UK and the US.

MacArthur’s closing words were: “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always.”

It’s a bit of a jolt to read gossip columnist Liz Smith’s column in for Feb. 20, 2010. Speaking of the movie “The Hurt Locker” Smith writes:
Isn’t it also time that we acknowledge once again that war is the world’s business and, particularly, it has been America’s business over and over. So, perhaps we should be paying much more attention to the results of war and its perils and aftermath; as seen in "The Hurt Locker."

WHEN I say that war is America’s business, I am thinking of Dwight D. Eisenhower warning us that we might be taken over by the military industrial complex and we surely have been, despite his warning.

Beginning in 1775, we have been involved in
* The Revolution,
* the War of 1812,
* the Indian Wars,
* the Mexican War,
* the Civil War,
* the Spanish-American War,
* World Wars I and II,
* the Korean War,
* the Vietnam War,
* Desert Shield/Desert Storm,
* the Iraq War
* and now we are in Afghanistan in an ongoing war against terror.
(emphasis mine, end quote)

War seems to be always with us. Only the combatants change. As one footnote to World War II – Wakayama, former campsite of Allied prisoners, is now a Sister City to Bakersfield, California and Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons on the Web.


Gwyn Ramsey said...

Great article. Yes, war is a human thng. We think each one is different, but it's not. How sad.

Gwyn Ramsey

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pat, it's important that we keep the memories of WWII alive. Too many of our citizens have no idea at the cost of freedom. Vietnam and our current wars in the Mideast hardly compare with the global wars of the past. Unlike today where few citizens give our deployed soldiers a second thought, WWII was truly a fight for survival.

It's easy for people who did not live during WWII to critisize the actions of others because they have no frame of reference. While I never held any animosity toward the Japanese, one of my former bosses could never get over his hatred of them because of his WWII experiences. And even though the Vietnam War was my generation's battle, I hold no ill feelings toward the Vietnamese either. For most, time heals all wounds, but there is always a group who can never let go.

I'm thankful that series like The Pacific are aired on TV because they give a humanistic approach to war. So long as man rules this earth, wars will never end, but perhaps we can learn from them.

Anonymous said...

Gwyn, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I went to your blog and enjoyed it. I bookmarked it for further reading.
All the best to you,
Pat Browning

Anonymous said...

Your comment about young people having no frame of reference is right on. There was brief flap in OKC recently about whether or not to teach school kids about the Murrah Building bombing. That act of domestic terrorism was in 1995, before the World Trade Center bombings and only 15 years ago. Granted, many high school students were not even born 15 years ago but that's no excuse for skipping history.

There's no solution. Youth is what it is -- perhaps wasted on the young, as the saying goes? (:

Pat B.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Sadly, our schools keep re-writing history, Pat. We've seen it time and again in virtually every aspect, too often in the name of political correctness. All we can do is try to educate our own kids, if they are willing to listen.

Jaden Terrell said...

Food for thought. Our civilized veneer is sometimes very thin.

I recently listened to THE WAR on CD. It's the book on which the series THE PACIFIC is based. The book is far more comprehensive, of course. The loss of life in WWII was staggering, and the things our soldiers had to face was sobering.

One of the most chilling parts, though, was when one of our units was questioning a German soldier who spoke perfect English. The German asked one of the American soldiers where he was from, and the American named a small town. The German knew everything could possibly know about that little town, including some obscure landmarks. Why? He had been thoroughly briefed on it, because he was to be the officer in charge of that part of the country when Hitler had conquered America.

johnson said...

Thank you for your interesting and informative blog. I have enjoyed reading it and appreciate the work you have put into it. Here is some relevant information for you to review .
Kids Tactical Vests