Tag Archives: World War II

Nagasaki: That bomb ended it!

The United States Army Air Force dropped a second big bomb 73 years ago today.

That one exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. The first big blast, at Hiroshima, didn’t bring Japan to the surrender table. The second one did.

The atomic age had entered the world of warfare. It was called the Manhattan Project, where some of the world’s most brilliant nuclear physicists worked to perfect the atomic bomb.

They did. It worked.

The United States had been at war with Germany, Italy and Japan for nearly four years. Germany surrendered in May 1945; Italy called it quits in 1943.

Japan was left as the remaining Axis power. President Truman, new to the office he inherited when President Roosevelt died in April 1945, had the most difficult of decisions to make: whether to use this terrible new weapon.

He went with his gut. Yes, drop the bomb and hope to save many more lives than will be lost. That calculation proved accurate, too.

Nagasaki was devastated on Aug. 9, 1945 by an even bigger bomb than the one that leveled Hiroshima three days earlier. Less than a week after Nagasaki was incinerated, the Japanese surrendered.

World War II came to an end.

President Truman said he didn’t regret deploying the bomb. Many of the great men who developed it had second thoughts. The likes of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein eventually expressed some form of regret for their roles in developing this monstrous weapon.

We all hope never to use them again. Twice was more than enough.

I can recall a quote attributed to Einstein, who once was asked how he thought a third world war would be fought. He said, in effect, that he didn’t know with absolute certainty, but was certain that the fourth world war would be fought “with sticks and stones.”

Going to thank World War II veterans

I have made another command decision, which I can do now that I no longer work for anyone else.

From this day forward I intend to thank every World War II veteran I see. The only way to know you’ve seen a WWII vet is when you see someone wearing a gimme cap or a t-shirt identifying a member of The Greatest Generation.

I saw a gentleman this afternoon in front of a fast-food joint in Allen, Texas. He was wearing one of those caps. I extended a hand to him and said, “Thank you for saving the world.”

If you do a bit of simple math, you learn about the ruthless march of time. In 1945, the last year of World War II, the youngest enlistees were 17 years of age, meaning they were born in 1928.

That makes ’em 90 years of age today. If they’re still among us.

During the length of World War II, the United States put roughly 16 million men and women into uniform. Many of them were thrown into harm’s way.

Their numbers are diminishing every hour of every day. They need a thank you from their descendants. I plan to offer them whenever I see a veteran from that great conflict.

I have been unable since September 1980 to thank my favorite World War II. My father — who died 38 years ago — enlisted in the Navy in February 1942; he was 20 years old at the time. He wanted to get into the fight. Oh, brother, did he ever … get into it.

The thing is, Dad enlisted and pledged to fight “for the duration” of the war, not knowing when — let alone if — he would be returning home. That, I submit, is a far more difficult concept to embrace than what those of us who served in Vietnam faced when we were called to duty. We knew when we were coming home.

The Greatest Generation’s task was to save the world from tyranny. They succeeded. They came home, returned to their former lives and for the most part didn’t talk much about the hell they endured.

These men and women have earned a heartfelt thank you from those of us who came into this world upon their return.

I intend to give it to them.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole; thank you for saving the world

Robert Dole’s 95th birthday shines a vivid light on what we all have known for a long time.

It is that the world’s Greatest Generation is getting very old. Many of them are in failing health. They remind us daily — even without saying a word — of the sacrifice they made to protect us from tyranny and the tyrants who practiced it.

I saw a gentleman today, in fact, with a “World War II Veteran” ballcap. I thanked for him saving the world from the monsters who sought to enslave the world. He smiled and said, simply, “You’re welcome.”

That’s how it is with the Greatest Generation. They went to war, did their duty, answered the call and returned home to start their lives, rear their families, and live normal existences.

Sen. Dole is getting his share of good wishes today. He earned them all. He served for decades in the U.S. Senate, representing Kansas. He ran for president a couple of times, winning the Republican nomination in 1996 and then losing to President Clinton who won re-election in near-landslide proportions.

His service, though, preceded his political years by a good bit. It began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and deployed to Italy, where he fought the Germans in the waning weeks of World War II.

Dole was wounded grievously in the Italian mountains. His right arm was shattered. He would keep his arm, but it became virtually useless.

He didn’t let the wound stop him from fulfilling many years of dedicated service to the country.

That’s how the Greatest Generation rolls. Indeed, subsequent and preceding generations of fighting men and women have exhibited these traits of selflessness.

However, I want to single out the Greatest Generation as a way to recognize one of its members, his service to the nation and take note of time’s inexorable march onward.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole. And thank you.

Does our president want to disband NATO?

Hey, I believe it is fair to ask: Does the president of the United States want to get rid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

He is yapping, yammering and yowling about NATO allies not paying their fair share for their defense. I get his concern on that one specific point.

Why, though, does he keep disparaging our allies? Why does he continue to play into Vladimir Putin’s hands with his tirades against Germany, the United Kingdom, France … indeed, the rest of the alliance.

Does this clown understand a fundamental truth about U.S. history?

Let me remind him — and you — of something we need to remember.

We had a generation of Americans go to war in Europe. They died in defense of liberty and freedom. They fought the tyrants. They won that war.

My father was one of them. He served in the U.S. Navy. He fought in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He once endured 105 consecutive days of aerial bombardment from German and Italian air forces. An Italian dive bomber sank Dad’s ship off the coast of Sicily, forcing Dad to dive into the drink, where he awaited rescue from a British warship.

These men, including my father, set the stage for the creation of NATO immediately after the end of World War II.

Dad wasn’t a particularly political man. He and I didn’t discuss the issues of the day too often. However, I knew instinctively that he didn’t trust the Russians. He wanted NATO to stand watch as a deterrent against potential communist aggression.

Dad’s been gone for nearly 38 years. I believe in the deepest recesses of my gut that he would be aghast at the rhetoric we are hearing from the president of the United States.

Donald Trump, you’re no Harry Truman.

USS Arizona still gets earned reverence

A social media acquaintance of mine has voiced an objection to the placing of a USS Arizona artifact eventually at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.

She believes the Arizona is too sacred a place — a resting place for more than 1,000 U.S. servicemen — to be taken apart for display in other locations.

I will disagree with all due respect to this person.

I happen to endorse the idea of placing this artifact at the War Memorial. I also happen to agree with her that the USS Arizona — a World War I-era battle wagon that was sunk by Japanese bombers on Dec. 7, 1941 — is a sacred place.

But the ship’s hulk that rests on the bottom of Honolulu harbor isn’t being dismantled. It isn’t being taken apart. The sailors’ remains are still interred with the superstructure that sank during the attack. Thus, they haven’t been disturbed.

The USS Arizona serves to remind all Americans who came along after the Second World War of the sacrifices made by those who served in harm’s way.

We all can rest assured, in my view, that the War Memorial board — along with Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell, who engineered the delivery of the Arizona artifact — will ensure that it is displayed with all due respect and reverence.

As for the ship’s hulk that will serve forever as a reminder of the “date which will live in infamy,” it remains a sacred place.

USS Arizona to add to War Memorial

AMARILLO, Texas — I guess it can be stated clearly: A piece of one of the darkest days in U.S. history is going to adorn the Texas Panhandle War Memorial in south Amarillo.

It’s the product of some wheeling and dealing by Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell, who has been working with federal and state of Hawaii officials to bring a piece of the USS Arizona to the Texas Panhandle.

They’re going to add the piece to the War Memorial on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7. It will arrive around 11 a.m. Saturday at the Randall County Event Center, where they’ll have a welcoming ceremony.

This is an extremely poignant addition to the War Memorial, which already includes — in addition to the stone tablets chronicling the conflicts this nation has engaged in and those who died in them — an F-100 Super Sabre jet and a UH-1 Huey helicopter.

The Arizona was one of several big ships sunk in Pearl Harbor more than seven decades ago in the event that brought the United States into World War II. President Roosevelt called it a “date which will live in infamy.”

It’s a date we cannot forget. We must always remember it.

Judge Houdashell told me some months ago about the Arizona memento coming here. He was thrilled beyond belief to get it done.

I am proud of my friend for scoring this magnificent addition to the War Memorial.

Happy 97th birthday, Dad

I play mind games with myself on occasion. One of them involves the man in this picture. He is my father. This weekend would be his 97th birthday. He didn’t live much beyond the date of this picture.

He was 59 years of age when fate intervened. Dad was fooling around with some friends and business associates in British Columbia when their speedboat crashed. Dad died on the spot. That was in September 1980.

The mind game involves asking myself what kind of old man Dad would have become. Pete Kanelis could be a complicated man. He was well-educated and well-spoken; he often was the life of any gathering he attended; he came from a large family with many siblings, to whom he was devoted beyond measure; he was the eldest of seven children born to my grandparents and on occasion had to assume the role of family “leader.”

Dad also had some heartache in his life. He sought to run a business, but it didn’t work out. He and my mother faced financial ruin in the early 1950s.

How would he have aged? I cannot know this, but my sense is that he would have traveled a difficult journey into his so-called “golden years.” Dad didn’t take good care of his body. He was an “old” 59 when he and his pals crashed that boat.

I am left, thus, to merely speculate.

Today, though, I want to call attention briefly to another key aspect of Dad’s life. He was part of the Greatest Generation. I salute his service in the U.S. Navy today — and always. He went to war just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor.

He joined roughly 16 million other Americans to fight the tyrants in Berlin, Rome and Tokyo who sought to conquer the world. Dad would have none of it. He saw the bulk of his combat in the Mediterranean Sea theater of operations. He fought the Germans and the Italians from the deck of a ship, firing his anti-aircraft weapon at fighters and bombers flown by men intent on killing him and his buddies.

We’re going to honor those who didn’t come from various battlefields over the course of our nation’s history. Dad, of course, did return home after World War II. So this Memorial Day holiday doesn’t honor his sacrifice precisely. I choose to honor it here and, yes, I am likely to say something again on Veterans Day.

Fate dealt Dad a mortal blow 38 years ago when left this world without warning. I am proud of and grateful for the role he played in keeping us safe from the monstrous tyrants who sought to enslave an entire planet.

Thank you, Dad, for saving the world. And happy birthday.

‘First lady of the Greatest Generation’

I cannot let this day pass without offering one more tribute to Barbara Pierce Bush, although I won’t take any credit for a profound description of her offered today during her funeral.

It came from historian, author and journalist Jon Meacham, who called Mrs. Bush “the first lady of the Greatest Generation.”

Think about that for just a moment.

She died this week at age 92. She was married for 73 years to the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, who, before he was elected vice president and then president compiled a stellar record of accomplishment.

Meachem’s tribute to his friend spoke eloquently about the generation of which she was such an integral part. She married the love of her life, U.S. Navy Lt. jg. George Bush, who came home on leave from World War II to marry the love of his life. He had been shot down while fighting Japanese warriors over the Pacific Ocean. He was among the 16 million Americans who answered the call to defeat tyranny and defend the United States of America.

His beloved “Bar” worked at the home front while her man was far away.

Yes, Mrs. Bush served in that unofficial — and until today, it was the first time I’d ever heard it said — capacity as “the first lady of the Greatest Generation.” Indeed, the direct descendants of those then-young American men and women — and that includes yours truly, as my father also fought the tyrants in Europe — understand what Meachem’s tribute was meant to convey.

She stood as strong in defense of our nation’s values as the man she married more than seven decades ago.

I want to thank Jon Meachem for telling us all today about Barbara Pierce Bush’s contributions to forging the Greatest Generation.

Trump managed to yank spotlight from WWII heroes

Leave it to the inimitable Donald John Trump Sr. to do the seemingly impossible.

Three men — all heroes from World War II — came to the White House recently to be honored for their exploits during the great conflict.

So, what did the president do? With a thoughtless, careless quip he turned attention from the men and those who they represent and turned it onto himself for all the wrong reasons.

He said he “liked” the men who stood with him in the White House. He then chided a member of the U.S. Senate who has said she, too, has Native American heritage in her background. Trump just had to call Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” which he has used for years to deride her claim. That’s what the media have been talking about, not about the men who served so heroically.

The men are Code Talkers. They are of Navajo descent. They were deployed as Marines during World War II to communicate battle plans and intelligence in a language the Japanese couldn’t de-code. They were instrumental in several key Pacific Theater battles.

CNN.com published a story chronicling the men’s heroics.

See the story here.

The story notes that the use of Native American tongues in war began in World War I, when Choctaw soldiers spoke to each other to confound the Germans on the other side of the battle lines. But in the period between the world wars, the Germans figured out that language.

The Navajo was more difficult to decipher. As CNN.com noted, it isn’t a written language.¬†Therefore, the enemy was unable to figure what they were listening to when the Navajo Marines were communicating.

They risked their lives. They fought for their country.

Only 13 of the Code Talkers are still living. They all are old men who are suffering the usual ravages of aging.

The president should have known better than to yank the spotlight from those heroes. He should have shown a semblance of class and grace as he welcomed these brave Americans to salute their commitment to their country.

Indeed, if the president understood or appreciated anything about the sacrifice these men paid, he might have seen fit to keep his mouth shut about a political foe.

 

POTUS bullied Sen. Warren?

I have heard some “bullying” references in the past day or so about Donald John Trump’s idiotic reference to “Pocahontas” at a ceremony saluting the Native American Code Talkers who helped win World War II.

The president, standing in front of President Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson, made a tacky and totally inappropriate reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native American heritage. He referred to her as “Pocahontas,” which he has used to disparage the Democratic senator for as long as he’s been a politician.

Trump’s crack about Sen. Warren yanked attention away from the Code Talkers, who were deployed during WWII to communicate battle plans in their native language, which the enemy couldn’t translate. What’s more, he did so while standing in front of an American president, Jackson, who issued an eviction order that launched what amounted to a 19th-century Native American death march, aka the Trail of Tears.

Now comes the references from some observers that he sought to “bully” Warren with that idiocy.

This brings to mind an issue I have raised before: When is the first lady going to launch her anti-bullying initiative, which she announced she would make her theme during her time in the White House?

Many of us out here have wondered whether Melania Trump should counsel her husband, the bully in chief, about his own proclivities toward using Twitter as an intimidation tool.

The first lady aims to target her campaign toward children bullying their peers. My thought is this: Children aren’t born to bully; they learn about it from many sources, including their elders.

Melania needs to sit down with Donald and tell him about the consequences of his own juvenile behavior.

If only he would listen.