Maxine Clamage

Letters to a Lost Soldier – The USS Indianapolis, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August, 1945

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Dear Daddy,


(I originally wrote in August, 1945) Japanese war ships sank the American cruiser USS Indianapolis on July 29, killing 883 seamen. Only 316 sailors survived out of a crew of 1,199. The Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Our ship had delivered parts of the atomic bomb to be assembled by scientists at Tinian Island. It was the worst sea disaster and loss in our navy’s history.

President Truman authorized an atomic bomb to be dropped over a military center in Japan. The civilian residents received warnings to evacuate.

Leaflets were delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and 33 other Japanese cities on August 1st, warning the people that “their cities would be destroyed in the absence of immediate acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam agreement.” President Truman, Prime Minister Attlee and Chang Kai-Shek of China demanded unconditional surrender by the Japanese government. The Japanese people were told to evacuate their cities and “demand new and good leaders who will end the war and restore peace.” The American Air Force said “they were not fighting the Japanese people but the military clique which has enslaved them.”

After the naval disaster and when the Japanese government refused to surrender, we exploded atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The invasion of Japan will thankfully not happen because the emperor convinced his military commanders to surrender unconditionally. Russia declared war on Japan and the Japs realized they were defeated.

“President Truman ordered an immediate halt to further atomic attacks while surrender negotiations were ongoing.” Another bomb was ready for delivery on August 17 or 18, but Mr. Truman did not like the idea of killing “all those kids.”

It’s a relief to know you won’t be reassigned to fight in Japan. Dropping the bombs saved your life and possibly the lives of countless American servicemen preparing to fight there. Many American and civilian POWs won’t be murdered as the Japanese threatened to do if invaded. Japanese people were preparing to fight and die for the emperor if their country was invaded.
The Japanese have an army of two million soldiers and 10,000 aircraft. Half of the planes are kamikazes, ready to defend their homeland.

You are finally having some good luck. You have had a furlough to rest and recuperate before going to Miami, Florida on August 18th for reassignment. The bombing of Japan came just in the nick of time for our family. The worst that can happen now is you will be reassigned to finish your military duty by serving during the occupation of Japan. At least you won’t be killed when the fighting is over.

The emperor will remain a figurehead in Japan with no power. President Truman is doing that much for Japan since it was the emperor who told his military leaders it was time to admit defeat and end the war for the sake of the remaining people and the country. If our forces continued to bomb and the Russians were fighting, Japan might be completely devastated.

Our country has been at war almost half of my life since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. You have sacrificed almost two years of your life in the military and our family has been without a means of livelihood most of that time. We could not have survived without the help of Mommy’s parents and your brothers.

I am sleeping better at night now and planning for the future when you can once again be an ordinary civilian and not a military man. Mommy said she will soon be able to take the blue star out of the window. We are grateful that we never had to put a gold star in the window like families who lost a loved one during the war. But we still grieve for Cousins Raymond and Jordan who died during the war. Our family is not the same without them.

We want to be regular people like everyone else. I want to have my father at home. I want us to put the war behind us and heal. I hope we can.

Love,

Maxine

 
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