Recently I reviewed a book entitled Retribution, a story about the Allied powers forcing Japan to its knees to bring an end to the Second World War. To me, images and pictures seem to add interest and a bit of reality when inserted in a review. Online I found several pictures, one of which is shown here.
Although this particular photo was probably taken in Iraq, it is haunting because for some reason, it summoned up my own terrible fears of being dead as a young six-year-old boy during those horrific war years even though both conflicts were thousands of miles and oceans away. The picture’s pathos is extremely unnerving because one does not know if the soldier cuddles a live or dead child, or if the soldier is crying.
Although I was only six-years-old, I can remember the dread I had falling asleep at night during World War II after mom or dad turned off my bedroom light. I truly believed that my small neighborhood in Pittsburgh called “Homewood” could be attacked from the air at any time. So Air raid drills that terrified me were a familiar event. During the years 1943-45, Pittsburgh was a major steel producing city—one that would be surely bombed by the Japanese. A darkened city would make it hard for enemy bombers to find targets.
In a way I could understand, my parents had explained that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor which in my young mind was some part of the United States. I remember people singing, “Let’s remember Pearl Harbor,” although my family did not have a 78 rpm copy of it. Little did I know that the harbor sat far out in the Pacific Ocean on the Island of Honolulu, Hawaii. My gut feelings told me that if some part of the United States was attacked, then surely even “Homewood” could be attacked.
I knew that really bad people started the war. I used to lie beside my dad on the living room couch while he leafed through the daily newspaper. I remember seeing a gross picture of a large horizontal grave where bodies laid askew, draped grotesquely atop one another, waiting for a bulldozer to cover them with dirt. When I asked dad about those people, he quickly turned the page telling me, “They’re all dead; they’re going to cover them up.” I asked if their heads would be covered too and he replied, “Yes.”
During daytime, I was brave. My buddies and I talked about what we would do if all of a sudden, a group of attackers came down the street. With cap guns, toy rifles, and even sticks, we pretended to be confronting the enemy, easily out maneuvering and capturing them. At times, when any small plane droned overhead, we would locate it in the sky and because it could be a bomber, we’d pretend to shoot it down.