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Mark Hatfield on the end of WWII and the aftermath of Hiroshima [View All]

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Ouabache Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-07-05 08:35 PM
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Mark Hatfield on the end of WWII and the aftermath of Hiroshima
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Mark Hatfield was a Republican Senator from Oregon serving from 1966-1996.

I am posting some excerpts and paraphrasing some of the material on pages 334-339 of Tom Brokaws, The Greatest Generation. I am aware Brokaw is held in no huge esteem around these parts but his chapter on Hatfield from this 1998 book, published by Random House is a very good contrast of an old guard Republican versus todays kool aid drinking party. Hatfield had the independence to buck the party during the Vietnam era, in fact he was the first lonely republican to do that, and he opposed Gulf War I on the grounds that it just looked like an oil war to him, even at that early juncture, and given even that Hussein had occupied Kuwait. He believed the basics of the Republican Party from its inception in 1856 were support for education, small business, and reductions of military spending.

It is a real synchronicity that I came upon this. I have this book laid out for another person who plans to pick it up and read it, and yesterday, I picked it up myself and just happened to open to this spot where Hatfield and Brokaw discuss his World War II experiences, and I was particularly struck that I had opened it to these passages where he relates his visit to the Hiroshima area following the detonation and surrender, and how it is formative in his views on nuclear weapons, and war in general. Anyway now for the excerpts and paraphrasing---

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During World War II the future senator participated in the landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa as a pilot of landing craft that took fresh marines to shore from mother ships, and ferried back wounded from the beaches to the ships. It was multiple trips in each operation, using maps that werent always accurate failing to show the correct pitch of many of the beaches involved. The assignment had to be repeated again and again under heavy fire, with death near at any moment. He says he assumed an attitude of fatalism as most of the service men in the situation did, and relied on his faith as well. After Okinawa he was sent to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. But, after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrender he went with Mac arthurs force to begin the occupation of Japan.

Per Hatfield- "We sailed by the US Missouri as the Japanese diplomats were going aboard to sign the terms of surrender. Quite a moment. MacArthur had instructed the Japanese to place a white sheet in front of every gun emplacement, so when we were coming into Tokyo Bay it was like a checkerboard on all sides of us. We would have been caught in a murderous crossfire in the invasion. It would have been terrible, terrible, invading Japan," Hatfield concludes.

Hatfield relates this experience from September of 1945. "I was part of a crew of people that went into Hiroshima. This was about a month after the bomb had been dropped. There was a smell to the city---and total silence. It was amazing to see the utter and indiscriminate devastation in every direction, and to think how one bomb had done it. We had no comprehension of the power of the bomb until then. When we landed, the little kids saw we werent going to kill or shoot them (they had been watched warily by some parents and kids) so they began to gather around. We realized they were very hungry, so we took our lunches, broke them up, and gave them to as many kids as we could. He goes on to say, You learn to hate with a passion in wartime.but, sharing those sandwiches with the people who had been my enemy was sort of a therapy for me. I could almost feel my hate leaving me. It was almost a spritual experience."

These experiences were what provided Hatfield with his lifelong "unshakable anti-nuke philosophy".

Hatfield later was part of an undertaking to transport Chinese Nationalist soldiers from Haiphong Vietnam back to China. After also visiting Hanoi on that expedition with the military, Hatfield said, "Seeing the terrible misery imposed on the Vietnamese by the French affected my Vietnam war position from the beginning, I never could buy the idea that America somehow had a national interest out there, or was threatened."

Brokaw adds this as the final paragraph in his chapter on Mark Hatfield:
"Some of the newer Republican Senators, with their strict conservative dogmas, may never understand a man like Mark Hatfield, but then they have never shuttled marines ashore under heavy fire at Iwo Jima or Okinawa. They have never looked out on the unworldly landscape of nuclear devastation and shared their lunch with a starving Japanese child."

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I think Brokaw is describing a major symptom of Chickenhawk syndrome in that last paragraph.
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