Nagasaki: 75 Years Ago

My father, when 20 years old, served in the Navy during World War II. Like many of that generation, he rarely spoke about the war and his experiences at the Pacific front. I learned only after his death that he participated  in the assaults on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

In High School, we were reading the new play, In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. I mentioned to my father we had a heated discussion at school about the use of atomic bombs on civilian Japanese populations. To my great surprise, he told me that his ship (LST 481) had been sent to Nagasaki a few weeks after the bombing.

I asked for more details and he grudgingly spoke about seeing no trees or buildings standing, nothing but a gray ash covering everything; a ghostly silence lacking even the usual mewing of gulls; and an overpowering smell of death. On entering the harbor, he said, their ship had to turn off their cool water intake due to it being clogged by bodies. At this point, tears ran down his face and he got up and went outside. I had never before seen my father cry.

August 9, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. To commemorate that event, Special Collections preserves a broadside poem by poet laureate, William Stafford, titled, A Memorial, from his book, Every War Has Two Losers. The poem was printed as a broadside in the winter of 2004 from handset Perpetua type on dampened black Stonehenge paper. The enso, the Zen circle of enlightenment, is by brush lettering artist Marilyn Reaves, and was printed from a polymer plate. The broadside was printed by fine press printer, Sandy Tilcock, using a Vandercook press.

Written by David de Lorenzo, Director, SCUA

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