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The A-bomb saved American lives



Published: Sat, August 6, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By JAMES L. MARTIN

KNIGHT-RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Sixty years ago today, Hiroshima, Japan, became the first target of an atomic bomb, with Nagasaki the second target three days later. Thus, a war that lasted four years was ended in four days.

To those who decry the devastation caused by President Truman's decision to develop and detonate this awesome weapon, I remind them of the lives saved, not lost.

I'm very proud of the fact that my uncle was not only a member of the Enola Gay crew that dropped "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, the first atomic bomb in history, but he was actually the bombardier. The bottom line, as my uncle said many times, was that he helped save more lives than he killed by bringing the war to a sudden halt.

The late Tom Ferebee, a native of Mocksville, N.C., was an Army Air Force lieutenant, hand-picked for a highly secret mission by pilot Paul Tibbets Jr., to be part of the Enola Gay's 12-man crew.

Debate still swirls around the exhibit of the rebuilt Enola Gay at a Smithsonian museum near Dulles International Airport near Washington, mostly by liberals awash in shame that the United States of America would wreak such damage upon the population of Hiroshima. Never do they show remorse that the Imperial Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in a sneak attack that got us into World War II.

In a story I wrote years ago about my uncle's participation, here's what I said:

He quietly answers accusations that he must feel guilty with "all that blood on your hands," responding firmly that he has never tossed and turned in his sleep, never second-guessed his country's decision and knows in his heart he was responsible for saving thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of lives -- American lives.

Famous son

How do real Americans, that is, those outside the confines of political Washington, feel about Ferebee? Let's take a look at a celebration in Mocksville in 1991 in which the town erected a marker to its famous son.

A local news story of the occasion, unembellished with political nuances, read in part:

"Ferebee changed the world when he launched the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, 1945. A second atom bomb was dropped by a different crew on Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Japan surrendered Aug. 10 and World War II ended."

The marker erected at the city limits simply reads: "Family Home Site of Colonel Thomas W. Ferebee, Bombardier on the Enola Gay. Dropped Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1945."

To refute today's politically correct critics, perhaps it should also have some fine print explaining the stark fact that this action saved 38,000 American lives, the "low ball" estimate by revisionists, or up to 1 million, if you value the judgment of those who participated in the decision to drop the bomb. It also saved 100,000 Allied prisoners of war.

Why? Because Tokyo had ordered that at the very moment the U.S. invaded Japan, these 100,000 POWs were to be stabbed, shot, beheaded or otherwise slaughtered.

But Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed all that.

Someone once said war is hell. Kill or be killed. Even Japanese survivors at Hiroshima have said that "if Japan had the bomb, it might have used it in a worse way." Others have said, "We need to admit the crimes committed by Japan before we can ask for an apology from the United States."

Atrocities? The Bataan death march, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima. Those are names for Americans to remember, but most of all, Pearl Harbor.

X James L. Martin is president of the 60 Plus Association, a senior citizens' advocacy organization. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.




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