On the topic of Memorial Day sacrifices, I just finished the amazing Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the story of Olympic runner, and Army Air Corp officer Louie Zamperini and his amazing journey and multiple escapes from death. Unfortunately, the book is also about dozens of other stories of sacrifice by pilots and crew who weren’t so lucky. Knowing what these men went through at the hands of the viciously cruel Japanese provides new perspective on Memorial Day.
Hillenbrand also reveals that all American POWs in Japan were scheduled to be liquidated on August 22, 1945. Over 30,000 Americans were set to be executed in a variety of ways. Only Enola Gay’s and Bockscar’s special deliveries halted the liquidation plans – and even then barely. Even after Hiroshima was destroyed, the Japanese kept rehearsing the execution plans. In some cases, POW’s would be marched into the woods, simply to get used to the event. On August 22, 1945, they were all scheduled to die.
So next time you hear equivocation on whether dropping the two atomic bombs was necessary, think about those tens of thousands of American POW’s who came home. One of them might even be in your family.
Update: Indeed, the total number of all Allied POW’s held by Japan was 132,000. Americans comprised about 35,000. The story has been updated. Thanks for the comment.