To the editor:
This is in reply to Jon Olsen’s letter (“Barbaric and totally unforgivable,” May 26) about the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of World War II, because he does not have his facts straight.
I was a sailor on the USS Goodhue APA 107 in the battle of Okinawa. As the battles got closer to Japan proper, they became bloodier. Contrary to Olsen’s statement, Japan was not on the verge of surrender. It was like advancing into a nest of hornets. We faced not only kamikaze planes, but suicide boats and suicide soldiers. They thought their emperor was a god and they died to the last man. There were very few prisoners. Remember the women and children that jumped off the cliffs in Saipan? Rather than surrender, they would commit suicide.
We arrived in the vicinity of Okinawa six days before the invasion with a group of eight other APAs and destroyer escorts. Each ship carried 1,500 troops and all of their equipment. Every one of our ships was hit by at least one kamikaze. Our ship had 30 or more dead sailors and soldiers and many were wounded.
Our resistor house was hit so the boom sliced through four of our landing boats. This delayed our landing until we got more boats from ships that were damaged more than our ship. The Henrico, next to us, got a plane in the engine room and was entirely out of action. All disabled ships went into a cove to be repaired.
We would be attacked in the gray of the morning and evening of every day so we filled the whole bay with artificial fog. At night the whole bay was bombed, hit or miss. In the morning we would see different ships on fire. After a month we were able to get our troops off and head back to load up again. We passed many disabled ships. I remember the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill was burned from stem to stern.
We loaded up with another group of soldiers and their equipment and trained them for the next invasion of Japan proper. We knew this would be the bloodiest battle of all. This would be mass suicide for everybody. There had been over 100,000 Japanese people burned to death in the fire-bombing of Tokyo, but they would not surrender. The targets for the A-bombs were manufacturing centers. Germany was defeated by destroying its ability to make war, and that is what the A-bombs did to Japan.
We were all done with our training for this bunch of soldiers and on our way to Japan when the A-bombs were dropped and the surrender was announced. We unloaded our troops and sailed to Tokyo Bay. The armistice had not been signed and we had to have a Japanese pilot guide us up through the mine fields.
We stayed one night in Yokohama and filled the ship with our released prisoners of war. We took them back to the islands where they could be flown to the USA. They were thin and some were sickly, but I’m told they were not in as bad shape as the prisoners in camps further away from Japan. The Japanese were masters at torture. We had our own bakery on the ship and each of these soldiers would take half a loaf apiece. They said it tasted like cake to them.
If it hadn’t been for the A-bombs, I know that we would have had far more deaths on each side. I know that I and everybody else was greatly relieved. Japan was in the process of making A-bombs of its own. If they had it first they would have used it.
Should we apologize? Absolutely not! Sympathy and forgiveness? Sure. Is war barbaric? Of course! Will we have more wars with greater suffering? Yes, as long as we have sin in the world, it will get worse and worse. Sadly, you can count on it! Our only hope is to look to God and to Jesus Christ for personal salvation!
Albert R. Boynton