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This Day in History: August 1945

Wikipedia: Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The New Yorker: Nagasaki — the Last Bomb

Hiroshima Hit By Atomic Bomb         

          Even the pilots who dropped the atomic weapons on Japan did not know what they were dropping.   The firebombings of Tokyo and other places were expected to foreshorten the war, as the German bombings had done, but it was not known that Japan’s unconditional surrender was really expected, or why. 

          My Grandfather, working for the Red Cross in Okinawa, expected the war would be another five years, even though Okinawa had been defeated, and was in ruins.  He wanted out, and was hoping to be flown home to a job in the US.  He was still in pretty good shape, and he thought maybe the government would help him get a PhD.   The GI Bill helped former enlisted men with academic work, but Grandpa Knowlton had not enlisted, so did not qualify.  The Universities he corresponded with were no help, even though he had been in closer combat than many GIs, and more relevant, had direct knowledge of the sociology of the war, and of the effects of war on the indigenous Okinowan people.

          His fondest hope, of accreditation by the Army or Navy as a correspondent, never came to fruition, even though he had submitted stories under a pseudonym to some newspapers, and had been published both by the US military and by the Red Cross.

In fact, according to the Army document which has just been DECLASSIFIED in 2012, he was recognized for his contribution as a Red Cross Correspondent.  See the post Henry Knowlton Was A Correspondent  For The Red Cross.

          Meanwhile he continued to do his Red Cross job and write letters to my Grandmother back home.

August 1, 1945, 1 page, handwritten:

August 3, 1945, 2 pages

“Sunday afternoon I went to the opening of a big general hospital, and it was a very impressive affair.  The doctors, corpsmen, and nurses stood on three sides of a large hollow square around the flag pole.. with mike in the center.. the ranking officers across the end.  They had a color guard and went through the traditional military flag raising ceremony.. it was something I will never forget.  The officers in their unpressed, but immaculate cottons and combat boots, the nurses in their seer sucker uniforms and pert caps… you may see it in the noozereels.. if so I am the little guy in the sun helmet perched on a bank in the rear of the picture.. taking it all in.”

As I told the folks, we had a bad morning the other night… about as close as I ever want to come to being knocked off… a piece of heavy flack came sailing in at me…. I dove for a bank, and the thing.. screaming through the air.. struck with a sickening sound.  Clarence Oliver was close behind me, and just then he fell sprawling toward me… (caught his foot on something) and I thought he had been hit.  Somehow I wrenched my back in the process and got one of those “rib injuries” that make you so damn miserable, but there is nothing you can do but sweat them out.”

August 7, 1945, 5 pages

August 7, 1945, 5 pages to father (my great-grandfather) in Cadillac, Michigan

         About this time the Japanese had had nuclear weapons dropped on them, and were in the process of surrendering, but nobody knew it yet.   Grandpa Knowlton describes a Japanese attack and says the attack must be avenging the attacks on their cities.  He asks for a psychiatric evaluation of a problem staff member, spends a whole day getting supplied with 2 boxes of carbon-copying teletype roll paper, and has a good meal, a sign that the war is going well.

 August 10, 1945, 2 pages, carbon of Dear Eloise letter

          This  letter uses those new carbon-paper teletype rolls he had just acquired.   It is a copy of a letter he sent to his former lover, Eloise, in which he acknowledges that she is going to marry Doug, who has been injured in the war.   In the next letter (on August 11) he also mentions it, and asks Grandma Knowlton for more details about the wedding, as he has just read about in it her letter of July 30.

          Grandpa Henry is also trying to let Grandma Katherine know that he makes no more claim to Eloise’s attentions.

August 11, 1945, 4 pages

August 12, 1945, 2 pages

Rare film of atomic war on Japan has only had 464 views, on May 12, 2018

The cloud went higher than the plane that dropped it.

August 17, 1945, 4 pages

August 18, 1945, to all ARC personnel, 2 pages


Pilot who dropped bomb

Peter Jennings on why.

August 19, 1945, to Barbara, 2 pages

August 20, 1945, 1 page

August 24, 1945, 6 pages

Eloise writes that Doug was coming to Dayton this last week end, and I expect by now those two have made a deal. She was very much upset in one letter, saying he had not called, or written, and she went so far as to call his mother long distance, who reported that he had gained 50 lbs. and looked fine. At that point she thought there was “someone else” and was about ready to jump. The next letter, however, was different. She had not yet received my brief note, of which I sent you a copy, where I signed off, and she did exactly the same thing, so the letters crossed. There endeth a painful lesson which, I trust, will never be repeated.”

August 28, 1945, 4 pages

August 30, 4 pages

General Douglas MacArthur, with his corn cob pipe, accepted the Japanese surrender, then left for North Korea, which he lost.  Until now, nobody has been able to win it back.  Kim Jong Un has ICBMs that can reach Ottawa, New York, or Washington.  He also has nuclear weapons.  We have not yet learned that war will not win anything, and will lose everything.  “I am all there is.” – (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) – Chris Sullivan, May 12, 2018

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