March 26, 2009

"You probably shouldn’t generalize from a single data point."

Indeed.

How bad and good can one man's luck be?

20 comments:

rhhardin said...

In the annual Hiroshima peace ceremony, the names of all nuke victims who have died in the last year are read out and added to the tally.

Who knew the effects were so severe.

It's the world's most lugubrious ceremony. I have real audio somewhere...here, August 5, 2003 on Radio Japan.

Bissage said...

It’s funny because it happened to somebody else. BOOM!

Beta Conservative said...

He actually survived two man caused disasters.

The White House insists the term be used retroactively, moving forward.

Maguro said...

I read an article about this guy somewhere else and apparently he was telling his story of the Hiroshima bombing to his boss in Nagasaki just before the bomb fell there. The boss didn't believe a word of it and said there was no way one bomb could destroy an entire city. No word on how long his boss lasted after that.

Hoosier Daddy said...

No Pearl Harbor, no Hiroshima.

Paddy O. said...

Brings to mind the story of Wilmer McClean.

Speaking of the Civil War, he said, "The War began in my front yard and ended in my parlor."

No word on compensation.

EDH said...

Also made me think of that OJ scene in the Naked Gun.

David said...

My father in law was a Dutchman who worked for Royal Dutch Petroleum. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese in Java in 1942. In August 1945 he was a prisoner in a camp about 20 miles from the center of Hiroshima. He saw, heard and smelled the bomb and its effects. The prisoners immediately knew it was something remarkable, and quickly understood what had happened through the guards at the camp. The reaction of the guards was to go easier on the prisoners and dig foxholes for themselves.

My father in law was six feet five inches tall and weighed about 200 pounds when he was captured. A real stud and physically very strong. He's was not sure what he weighed in August 1945 but when he finally got on an American hospital ship in September he weighed 117. This was after two weeks of more and better food so he was probably about 110 pounds in August.

On his way to the coast from the prison camp, he went directly through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He said he felt pity but no remorse for what he saw in those places. He had come from Indonesia to Japan on one of the Hell Ships. About 25% of the prisoners on the ship had died in transit, so he knew what suffering was about.

He said the American hospital ship that took him to Manila was the sweetest experience of his life. That ship was one of many built to care for American casualties that would have been incurred in an invasion of Japan. He found Manila, where he had been several times before the war, in its own way as badly destroyed as the Japanese cities. There was significant physical destruction in Manila, but the deepest wounds were moral and spiritual. Nearly everyone had been impelled to compromise beliefs and ethics to survive--dog ate dog.

My father in law was still a private in the Dutch army, and it took him three more months to get permission to go to California to join his American wife and their now three year old son. He was still ill and spent some time in an American hospital.

He stayed in California and became an American citizen. In 1946 he was able to see his Dutch mother for what turned out to be the last time. She had survived the German occupation but from January 1942 to September 1945 had no idea whether her son was dead or alive.

My father in law died in 1998, of a rare cancer that has a correlation with radiation exposure. He carried no grudge against the Japanese and in fact traveled to Japan twice. He also had no moral objections to the atomic bombings, which he knew had saved his life and many others.

traditionalguy said...

How horrible to see that death can be caused by Insane Murdering Monsters who worshiped the Sun God(Emperor) so much that they wanted to die for him and kill all his Non-Japanese Slaves as they killed themselves.This guy is a sufferer of the Jap Emperor's insanity.The sooner that second A-Bomb dropped the better.

David said...

My father in law did not see the Japanese as monsters. He understood that they had done monstrous things, but he preferred to think of it as a time of worldwide insanity. He also had seen individual Japanese up close (he taught himself Japanese while in the camps) and could actually make a connection. Mainly, I believe, he felt that a lifetime of hatred of the Japanese would not serve his spirit well.

The return to California was just as shocking to him in a way as was prison camp. They lived in a small town near Santa Barbara: fertile, lovely, prosperous for the time, completely untouched by war. It took him a while to get used to the plenty, the freedom, the ease of life compared to his experience for the past four years. He made the adjustment. He and his wife bought a small "ranch" with his back pay from Shell and the Dutch army together with a inheritance his wife received. They had four children, grew lemons, avocados and later flowers and lived a life that would have been unimaginable to them during the years 1942-45.

His wife Sue had her share of the war too. She got out of Indonesia in the last days, running the Japanese gauntlet to Australia on a small cargo ship. In Darwin, Australia she was on a plane on the runway when the Japanese attacked. Hundreds on the ground were killed but she was spared.

They knew how lucky they were and lived with gratitude for their good fortune.

blake said...

Excellent stories, David!

Bissage said...

Thank you, David.

Robert Cook said...

"How horrible to see that death can be caused by Insane Murdering Monsters who worshiped the Sun God(Emperor) so much that they wanted to die for him and kill all his Non-Japanese Slaves as they killed themselves.This guy is a sufferer of the Jap Emperor's insanity.The sooner that second A-Bomb dropped the better."

You might want to try getting your history from somewhere other than comic books. The Japanese had imperial ambitions and wished to expand their reach and dominance, as well as to gain access to and control of resources, oil prominent among them. Among the Japanese populace were those who supported the war and those who opposed it. We don't know how many among those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in which camp.

In short, Japan's ambitions were much as America's has been, and as has been so with every other empire or would-be empire in history, and there have always been those in warrior nations who supported the imperialistic expansionism of their leaders, and those who opposed it. One doesn't need to resort to fanciful tales of fanatic sun-worshiping I.M.M.s to explain Japan's act of war against us, just as one doesn't neet to resort to fanciful tales of son-worshipping white devils to explain our acts of war in the world, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, (but beginning internally with our genocide against the indigenous peoples here before us). We wrap up our violence in pretty tales of "bringing democracy" and "defending (sic) ourselves against Saddam," but, as is always the case with imperialist nations, we go to war to increase our dominance throughout the world and to find and acquire and control access to resources. 'twas ever thus.

David said...

Blake and Bissage: It's not my story but I am always interested in telling it. For me it's a reminder of how incredibly fortunate my generation (I was born in 1943) is, and how hard and uncertain life was for those who preceded us. I was lucky to have a personal connection with people who persevered through the war and the Depression. My children and grandchildren's generation have less of a palpable sense of how different and blessed their society is, and unfortunately many of them have no concept at all.

Robert: I began to write a point by point refutation of what you say but it's clear you are a hopeless case. The notion that we provoked the Japanese to attack is ludicrous. They had already been at war, principally with the Chinese, for nearly a decade. Pearl Harbor (a fatal mistake for the Japanese) was an extension of a long standing military expansion.

I do not recall being involved in the genocide of indigenous Americans. Nor were my Ancestors, who did not live in the United States during the westward expansion. You might want to take a page from my father in law, and live in the present for the sake of the future, rather than wallowing in the horrors of the past.

traditionalguy said...

Robert Cook... You need to find out the history of what the Japanese did to the Chinese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Pacific Islanders, the Russians, the Filipinos, all prisoners, and would have done to Australians and Americans if possible. This was never merely because they wanted natural resources and labor without paying money. These guys were dedicated to conquest and the ritual killing of all non-Japs according to an openly racist ideology. They fully cooperated with the Nazi efforts in Europe and surpassed them in cruelty and inhumanity towards captured people.

Robert Cook said...

"The notion that we provoked the Japanese to attack is ludicrous."

I agree...which is why I never said or suggested such a thing. Please read more carefully. I merely pointed out that the Japanese were not and are not some sort of unfathomable sub-human race who waged war in obeisance to their Sun God Emperor, as one poster suggested. They are like any other culture in history with ambitions to expand its power and gather riches. Their actions were political and imperialist in nature.

We do ourselves no favors and gain no understanding of the ebb and flow of currents of power in the world by idealizing ourselves while dehumanizing other cultures as barely human, whose motives and actions are beyond our ken.

I don't say all warlike cultures are equal in their savagery, but only that what drives warlike cultures are common ambitions to power, dominance, and acquisition of riches.

Bill said...

David: On his way to the coast from the prison camp, he went directly through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ... He said the American hospital ship that took him to Manila was the sweetest experience of his life. ...

I wonder if you are misremembering a detail. Hiroshima is a seaport itself, and Nagasaki is fair ways away, on the other side of a different island. Perhaps the ship stopped there, on the way to Manila?

David said...

The ship was USS Sanctuary (AH-17). She arrived Nagasaki on 22 September 1945, which was her second call to Japan. The earlier call had been at Wakayama. There is a famous picture taken from the air of the Nagasaki harbor in September 1945 with American warships at anchor and Sanctuary tied at a dock.

Hiroshima's port is on the Inland Sea. It was thus in a more vulnerable position for American ships, who were still wary of possible attack. Nagasaki and Wakayama are ocean ports, and more easily secured.

The choice of ports was probably (I have not researched it) also influenced by proximity to the camps and by the availability of transport in Japan. The Japanese were responsible for delivering the prisoners to the ports, and their capacity to marshal assets must have been a factor.

Nagasaki was convenient also because it was closer to Okinawa than Hiroshima. The former prisoners were taken to Naha in Okinawa, and treated at a hospital there. My father in law was then flown to Manila. (My earlier post misstated that he went by ship to Manila.)

It was one hell of a time.

traditionalguy said...

@Robert cook... Your statement about the Japs being like all powerful nations from 1938 thru 1945 is wishful thinking. I am not dehumanising them, they did that to themselves. Your term sub-human is meaningless. The Japs were 100% human, and they were humans driven to kill all the non-Japanese humans who lost to them in battle, and they could not be wished away. Be thankful that realists who fought Japs to the death won that war with expensive weapons.

Robert Cook said...

@ Traditional Guy: "Your statement about the Japs being like all powerful nations from 1938 thru 1945...."

Please read more carefully. I didn't compare them to other nations of the world from 1938 to 1945. I said they were like any other imperialist nation in world history, expanding into other lands and making war there to gain possession of that land and its resources, to broaden and strengthen their power and dominance. There is no argument against this. Your original comment presented them as irrational "sun-worshiping" fanatics, killing for their emperor. One would think you're summarizing GUNGA DIN.

My comments would cause no careful reader to assume I excuse or justify their violence, either against us, or against the Chinese or any others. No careful reader would assume either that I excuse or justify the violence asserted by any empire as it rapes the lands around it; in all cases it is to be deplored and condemned as mass murder and mass theft. However, deplore such imperial crimes though we may, this is how all powerful empires have acted, back to the Romans and up to and including us, today. The degree of violence visited by the conquerors over the conquered may vary in kind and degree, but violence is always the means and the result. We have been barbarically violent in Iraq, a land that offered no threat to us, but that did offer us access to and control over precious oil fields. We do what all empires do, and the Japanese were doing the same.

One has to understand the behavior of nations rationally, and not according to whatever xenophobic myths are promulgated to offer simplistic "good guys/bad guys" cliches.