Remembering absent friends and more…

30 seconds over Tokyo

It’s been a tough morning.

Up early as usual. Because of my wife’s work routine, we’re usually up before 5AM. Habit runs right through the weekend.

I figured to watch the start of the German Gran Prix. Had it set to record so I could check back through the race after it was over. But, I started to look around to see what else was on TV this early. I certainly wasn’t going to watch the news. Guaranteed it would be them dangerous furriners killing each other in Ukraine; brave little Israel killing Arabs in self-defense at a rate of 200 to 1; crowds of white Americans demonstrating our freedom by massing to keep children fleeing North towards our border from crossing into the Land of Liberty.

I don’t recall the channel; but, there was 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO…the story of the shock raid by a few American bombers that took off from an aircraft carrier in 1942 to bring the war started by Japan – home to the Japanese nation. You can read about the raid any number of places. The movie is pretty accurate.

It became harder to watch than I thought. I saw the movie when it came out in the autumn of 1944 at our neighborhood movie theater. My sister and me, mom and dad. Four of my uncles were still overseas in the war. One of my older cousins was missing in the Pacific.

I didn’t remember General Doolittle’s speech to the pilots and crew before they lifted their B-25 Mitchell bombers off the flight deck of the Hornet. So, it took me by surprise when he finished by explaining to the airmen this would be the first time American pilots bombed a city. Yes, these were military targets; but, innocent civilians were inevitably going to be killed and injured. Anyone who didn’t want to take part in what some would feel was murder of the innocents could step aside and no one would think the worse of them.

And I had to cry.

First and foremost, all the emotions of those days of war flooded back into my heart and mind. People I loved, people I didn’t even know. Tens of thousands dying horrible deaths around the globe from England to Asia and the Pacific. Then, I couldn’t help but reflect on what our nation has become; how hardened and distorted our culture has become – we now only describe the murder of innocent civilians as “collateral damage”. We can send in pilotless drones to fire missiles at our enemy du jour and maybe only kill a few members of their families. Guilty of being kin to evil men. What have we become?

I couldn’t finish watching the movie. I got as far as the Ruptured Duck, one of the B-25s crash-landing in the ocean just off the coast of China – as did all the planes after the mission. Running out of fuel near China or the Soviet Union. Crashing into the sea or just inland. Most of those who flew the attack survived the mission.

In what was called one of the worst war crimes of the century, Japan executed 250,000 Chinese civilians along the coast because some had aided our airmen to survival and eventual safety.

9 thoughts on “Remembering absent friends and more…

  1. Shock & Awe says:

    “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” was released on November 15th, 1944 – four months after strategic and urban area bombing raids on Japan with long range superfortress B-29s began. On the night of March 9th, 1945, the first firebombing attack was carried out against Tokyo (Operation Meetinghouse) and proved to be the single deadliest air raid of World War II; greater than Dresden, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki as single events [much less the bombings of Guernica, Chongqing, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Coventry and Hamburg] The raid caused a massive firestorm that destroyed 16 square miles or roughly seven percent of the city’s urban area, in which an estimated 1.5 million people lived. The Tokyo police force and fire department estimated that 83,793 people were killed during this air raid, another 40,918 were injured and just over a million lost their homes; postwar estimates of deaths in this attack have ranged from 80,000 to 100,000.

    “After World War II, the massive destruction of non-military targets inflicted during the war prompted the victorious Allies to address the issue when the Nuremberg Charter was enacted, establishing the procedures and laws by which the Nuremberg Trials were to be conducted. Article 6(b) of the Charter thus condemned the “wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity” and classified it as a violation of the laws or customs of war, therefore, making it a war crime. This provision was similarly made at the Tokyo Trials to try Japanese military and civilian leaders for illegal conducts committed during the Pacific War with the enactment of the Tokyo Charter. However, due to the absence of positive or specific customary international humanitarian law prohibiting illegal conducts of aerial warfare in World War II, the indiscriminate bombing of enemy cities was excluded from the category of war crimes at the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials, therefore, no Axis officers and leaders were prosecuted for authorizing this practice. Furthermore, the United Nations War Crimes Commission received no notice of records of trial concerning the illegal conduct of air warfare. Chris Jochnick and Roger Normand in their article “The Legitimation of Violence 1: A Critical History of the Laws of War” (1994) explain that: “By leaving out morale bombing and other attacks on civilians unchallenged, the Tribunal conferred legal legitimacy on such practices.”

  2. Б-25 Митчелл says:

    Sunday, March 29, 2015: NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Lt. Col. Robert Hite, one of the famed World War II “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders,” has died. He was 95. Hite was among 80 men aboard 16 B-52 bombers whose mission was to strike Japan in April 1942. While the attack inflicted only scattered damage, it was credited with boosting American morale while shaking Japan’s confidence and prompting strategy shifts less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
    Robert L. Hite, 0-417960, Lieutenant Colonel. Co-Pilot Crew 16. Born 1920, graduated from High School in 1937; Completed three years of college and enlisted as an Aviation Cadet on September 9, 1940 at Lubbock, Texas. Commissioned as Second Lieutenant and rated as pilot on May 29, 1941. Was captured after Tokyo Raid and imprisoned by the Japanese for 3½ years, during which time his weight dropped to 80 lbs. Liberated by American troops on August 20, 1945, he remained on active duty until September 30, 1947. Returned to active duty during Korean War on March 9, 1951 and served overseas before relief from active duty again in November, 1955. Decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, and Chinese Breast Order of Pao Ting.
    See for a photograph of Lt. Hite with the rest of his crew (Plane #40-2268, target Nagoya) before the raid and also one of his being led by his captors from a Japanese transport plane after he and the other seven American flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo.

  3. Elsewhere says:

    “Just over four miles beneath the waves of the Philippine Sea, the mottled remains of an American destroyer sit upright on the bottom of the sea.
    Entombed in darkness where no light can reach her, the vessel bearing the number “557” is more than just the deepest shipwreck ever found- she is an unlikely starring character in the story of one of the most dramatic and heroic naval “last stands” of the Second World War.”
    See also

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