April 12th, 1945, an announcer broke into our afternoon radio broadcast.
Roosevelt’s death left my family emotionally raw, as if something had broken. A funny little guy with a bow tie, a
haberdasher from the mid west named Harry Truman, was president.
Three weeks later Hitler committed suicide on April 30th. Germany surrendered on May 6th.
VE Day. My father came home early from work. Victory celebrations were muted by the war in the Pacific which dragged on through some of the most brutal fighting of the war. My 19 year old brother graduated from Harvard and became elegible for the draft. Vivid newsreels of the concentration camps, pictures of war torn Europe with millions of displaced people roaming highways, cities in utter ruins, dominated movie trailers.
War for me was never again romantic after the summer of 1945. My parents took me to a 4th of July day picnic, held by one of my mother’s cousins to honor local wounded verterans. On a green, summer hillside, with a stand of trees along the ridge, food and drinks were laid out on brightly colored quilts. Children played, tired wives laid out the food, while the boys with broken bodies and spirits sat in wheel chairs or leaned against trees on crutches, with distant stares and unspoken pain.
Later that summer, August 6th we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later we dropped another on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered nine days later, on August 15th. The war was finally over.
No one in my family questiond the use of the bomb. It kept my brother out of the fighting. At the same time, it was clear that something irrevsible and dark had been leashed upon the world. For the rest of her life, my mother’s response to any and all nartural calamities was, “it’s the atomc bomb.”