I was a Marine on some island during World War II. We were preparing for a Japanese attack. Apparently we knew the enemy thought we were in a certain position atop a ridge, so we had shifted to a different position, some ways to the west, and dug in.
Each of us had been issued their own individual small mortar. I crouched beside mine, holding a shell. At that moment, I saw the enemy artillery open up in preparation for the assault—but they were uselessly bombarding our old position. We braced for the infantry charge to follow.
Just then Mr. Wallee wandered into our lines.
He was a portly Japanese gentleman in an elegant suit and a Van Dyke beard. He greeted us kindly, chatted with us, gave us a ribald Japanese comic book. Apparently he was not with the enemy forces. He claimed to be a traveler, enjoying this Pacific isle.
All the guys liked Mr. Wallee immediately, but we still had to assume he was a spy. The enemy might have sent him to detect our new location. It seemed ridiculous that they would try such an unusual ruse, but maybe that sheer ridiculousness was part of the idea.
I was detailed to take Mr. Wallee back to the battalion command post, where he would be transferred to the prisoner of war system. He was offended that anyone would assume he could ever work against his Marine friends, protested his innocence, but came with me anyway. As we proceeded to the rear, I wondered if there was some classification kinder than P.O.W. that he could be given. Mr. Wallee seemed too civilized a man for such a vicious war.
I found myself in an Japanese-occupied 1940s American city. It was a setting akin to Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, although in this dream the war was still ongoing.
I left our apartment to run errands. There was steel foundry nearby. I could see the showers of sparks as battleship armor was forged. Then in my hand I found my grandfather’s copy of Battle Stations, a book that, in our timeline, the U.S. Navy published to commemorate their victory.
What was I thinking? Why had I brought this outside? If anyone noticed I had such piece of American propaganda, it would mean arrest and execution for myself and my entire family. I tried not to panic and immediately turned toward home, praying no one would notice the title.
Our apartment was located in an immense skyscraper–so immense that there was time, during the elevator ride up, to show propaganda cartoons. The car I was in was filled with people, including several Japanese soldiers. Everyone was laughing at the cartoon, laughing at the ridiculous Yankees being defeated by the Emperor’s troops. One of the soldier was standing right next to my hand holding the book. Would he happen to look down? Would he notice this criminal piece of subversive literature?
I held my breath and counted the floors until I could get out…
We cannot say “the good guys won World War II,” because the victors of World War II included Stalin’s Soviet Union, a regime that murdered millions of human beings and pioneered new ways of human evil in the same fashion as Nazi Germany.
The best we can say is that the forces of human freedom (or at least, the Enlightenment Package) survived the war to hold up their example against the totalitarian ideological movements spawned by the 20th century.
Which is just another data point to support the theory that World War II was the worst thing that ever happened.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
I think the atomic bombs were the natural culmination of World War II. The War was the worst thing that has ever happened, the single most terrible event in human history. To read its million-page history is to discover depth after depth of the human condition, endless subbasements of evil, and every time you think you’ve hit the bottom, it gets worse. Horror upon horror, abomination upon abomination, piling into a tower up to the blood-red sky. Of course it ended with a great advance in human evil, a revolution in human evil. It’s only appropriate.
The question “Should the United States have dropped the bomb?” misses the point. The war was Gehenna. From the very first day, it was Gehenna. Gehenna is the natural home of abominations, and there abominations multiply.
The Bomb was the gangrene gift of the war, the death egg. It’s like such unspeakable horror had to give birth to some token of itself, some breakthrough in human evil that would stay hanging over us always. As if the work of World War II is incomplete while a single human lives, so it reaches out with tainted arms into the future to destroy everything.