Here is my dad in Manila. He is twenty-three years old.
He is a master sergeant. His task is to read photographs
And maps and charts and interviews with local planters
And residents in areas which the armies of the Alliance
Wish to liberate from the armies of the empire of Japan.
He works in the main building of Santa Ana Race Track
And lives in a tent nearby. It is roaring hot. He is lonely.
He was married a year ago; their honeymoon was a day.
He is sure he is going to die in the forthcoming invasion.
His task is to inform invaders about danger both natural,
Like swift tide changes and hidden reefs, and unnatural,
Like mines and ammunition depots and gun placements.
In August an Army Air Corps pilot brings him the films
From reconnaissance flights over Hiroshima. My father
Examines the film closely and tells the pilot it’s an error,
The film is blank, there’s zip where the city is supposed
To be. Yes sir, says the pilot. Maybe you are not hearing
Me here, corporal, says my dad. This is useless; the film
Is empty. That is what we photographed over Hiroshima,
Sir, says the Air Corps man. I am sure we were on target,
Sir. Positive. My dad, disgruntled, pores over the photos
Again, and slowly, he says, years later, I realized he was
Correct, and that the films were accurate, and Hiroshima
Was . . . obliterated. Our dad has always chosen his words
Carefully and he uses the word obliterated when he talks
About that moment in the ancient bloody story of people.
Another man might have made some hay from the detail
That he was the first man in history to see nothing where
Hiroshima used to be, but not our dad. Our dad says that
Was a horrifying tragedy and it saved a million lives. He
Says it was a terrible thing that should never occur again.
He says he sat there and realized that probably the battle
Was over and he could go home and thousands of people
Were roasted and a million more twisted for a generation.
He says no one can count the people saved by the bombs
And no one can justify the horror of them either. He says
Anyone who thinks he has something smart to say here is
A smug fool. He says this sitting at the kitchen table next
To the girl who waited for him to come back even though
They were both sure he would die in the invasion. Two or
Three times a day, if you look carefully, you can see them
Holding hands. It’s like some young part of them can’t get
Over the fact that he made it home. So many others didn’t.

Articles by Brian Doyle

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