Histories and biographies teach us life lessons. Please allow me to share with you some excerpts from recent reading.
I think New Orleans is one of America’s most fascinating cities. It’s also one of the most violent, and that’s nothing new. “In 1907, reformer Carrie Nation described New Orleans as ‘too tough a place for me to tackle.’ She concluded, ‘It is a very, very bad place.’” – From “Race Crime and Policing in the Jim Crow South: African Americans and Law Enforcement in Birmingham, Memphis, and New Orleans, 1920-1945” by Brandon T. Jett, Louisiana State University Press, 2021.
Harry Truman, my favorite Democrat President, ordered the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki three years before I was born. The Allied Supreme Commander in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower, succeeded Truman in the White House and at the time, had misgivings about the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. But later, as President, “…Eisenhower’s contradictory determination to rely increasingly on nuclear weapons indicates that he had thought the issue, that it was less a matter of dollars saved than a new way of looking at deterrence, one first suggested by Bernard Brodie and now amplified by the H-bomb into an entirely new proposition: ‘Therefore let him who desires peace, make war entirely too horrible to fight.’” – From “Team America: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, Eisenhower, and the world they forged,” by Robert L. O’Connell, Harper-Collins, 2022.
From the same book, I learned something that surprised me. Douglas MacArthur, a bad-ass gunfighter in his younger days told his aides at the time of the Japanese surrender ceremony that he didn’t want them carrying handguns. O’Connell writes, “The general noticed that Kenney, Sutherland, and the rest were packing pistols in shoulder holsters. ‘Take them off. If they intended to kill us sidearms will be useless. And nothing will impress them like a show of absolute fearlessness. If they don’t know they’re licked, this will convince them.’”
Let me end on an upbeat note. I grew up reading the commentary of Art Buchwald. In “Funny Business: the legendary life and political satire of Art Buchwald” by Michael Hill (Random House, 2022) we learn that when the elderly writer was dying of kidney failure he kept his nurses laughing hysterically, survived in hospice longer than anyone who knew him had ever heard of, and may have been the first person to gain weight while in hospice. My own role model for dying would be Nelson Rockefeller (I’ll let you look that one up yourselves), but if I could die laughing, well, there are many worse ways to go.
“Therefore let him who desires peace, make war entirely too horrible to fight” was a sentiment of weapons designers from Nobel to Maxim. Unfortunately, people chose to use their weapons to slaughter millions. I’ve often thought that if Truman had not authorized the use of the atomic bombs against Japan, either the US or the USSR would have used one later, possibly leading to a general nuclear war and devastation on a scale we could hardly imagine.
You taught me something, I did look up the circumstances concerning Rockefeller’s death. Somehow I missed that. I think it was because at that time, my wife and I were busy raising three daughters, ages 4, 3, and 2. Lots of outside things got by us during those days. 🙂
“…told his aides at the time of the Japanese surrender ceremony that he didn’t want them carrying handguns.”
I do not understand MacArthur’s logic here. As I understand it, the surrender ceremony took place on the deck of an American Battleship, the USS Missouri. There were numerous other American warships nearby plus formations of American Aircraft flying by overhead. His comment that “If they intended to kill us sidearms will be useless” seems meaningless since we could respond to any attack with overwhelming force. Not just sidearms either but with everything up to 2,000 lb. bombs and the 16-inch guns of the Missouri. What did a few pistols matter when the entire might of the US Navy stood nearby to enforce the surrender?
Such a comment makes no sense to me. Are you sure that this really happened? Maybe some hoplophobe is inserting a piece of anti-gun fantasy here?
I believe this comment occurred when MacArthur and his staff flew into Tokyo on a plane prior to the surrender ceremony. He made it before they deplaned to meet the procession that drove them into Tokyo. There were no US soldiers providing security other than the Japanese.
I agree with his logic. . . . and I don’t agree often with MacArthur. IMO, he was just as responsible for the fall of the Philippines as Admiral Kimmel was for the Pearl Harbor disaster. MacArthur had 10 hours warning after Pearl Harbor and they were squandered.
FWIW, Admiral Nimitz was offered the Pearl Harbor command by FDR before Admiral Kimmel. Nimitz refused the posting because he felt that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and whoever was in command would be thrown under the bus. He was right.
Without knowing the story, MacArthur’s order should have been legitimate as he wanted to demonstrate complete victory such that the U.S. was not worried about resistance anymore. His future acts in Japan bear this out. He treated Japan as defeated and then worked to reform the society. Something he did a pretty good job of.
Best keep that role model for dying to yourself. Not sure the misses would approve.
But Nelson led a full life and probably would be pleased with his own demise. I always thought I wanted to be shot by a jealous husband when I was 90. Now that I’m 76 I may need to rethink that.
Speaking of ways to go . . .
I want to die in my sleep like Grandpa. Not yelling and screaming like everyone in his car.
What I remember hearing about one of the Rockerfeller’s death after the funeral was: How much money did he leave behind? Answer: ALL of it!
I think MacArthur perfectly understood the psychology of the moment. He needed the Japanese to know the complete nature of their defeat and the utter uselessness of any resistance on their part. He and his staff being unarmed showed more power and control, not less. MacArthur had his faults but he was the perfect personality to become the benevolent dictator of a defeated Japan and to shape it into the nation it became.
IN my opinion two excellent books to read or listen to:
What if JFK had not been taken from America and the world in a domestic Coup D’état on Nov22,1963:
Detente with the Soviet Union, no Vietnam, no nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, a dismantling of the corporate military intelligence complex that leads America and the world into war forever and wherever.
COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 10, 1963
“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
If you want a great way to keep the laughs going grab a copy of the lawdog files,
. his tales of cop work in lttle texas towns is great! just got one for my son a cop in snow country. If I go while im reading this the mortician will never get the smile off.
Having read all your books ,and taken L F I back in the last century , I figured you might relate .
The truth regarding Rockefeller’s death is shocking. What a revelation to learn that the rich and powerful might not be truth tellers!
I also remember Buchwald. I was a voracious reader. I have said that once I learned to read, I didn’t actually need to attend school for an education. I say it mostly in jest of course, since I did need school to learn other things, such as how to play music and sports, etc.
I also did a study of the dropping of the two bombs on Japan, and Truman was almost pushed into a decision that possibly did not have to be made. And let’s not forget that in actual number of people killed, the firebombing of Toyko killed more than were killed in Nagasaki, some 100,000 to 80,000 est. while Hiroshima was an est. 140,000.
So even though the nuclear bombs were certainly horrific, in what the effects were, they were even more significant for what they stood for.
As for a favorite Democrat president, that is a tough call. I could say different men, for different areas. I liked JFK for his optimism and love of freedom and patriotism. Jimmy Carter was perhaps the most moral man who ever was president, but sadly was also one of the most ineffective.
In the spring of 1931 a veteran, Walter H Waters led a group of 300 veterans to DC to try to persuade Congress to authorize immediate payment of the bonus money desperately needed during the depression. The ‘Bonus Marchers’ swelled to over 20, 000. They were completely unarmed. They were camped in the town of Anacostia, across the river from DC.
On July 28, 1932, advancing toward the marchers, who were in DC to further make their case for payment, were soldiers in gas masks (the marchers had previously been tear gassed) rifles at port arms, bayonets fixed, cavalry with sabers drawn followed by a number of Whippet tanks. The soldiers were prepared to drive them out of DC. Lead by senior officer General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff (U. S. Armed Forces), were lesser officers Maj. George S. Patton and Maj. Dwight Eisenhower. Their camp was burned to the ground and the scattered soldiers cut down as they tried to escape.