…and tell me if anyone could do so and still think love between two people of the same sex isn’t the same as “normal” love, or that it shouldn’t be recognised just as much through marriage as love of any other sort.
The letter, republished by the excellent Letters of Note blog, was written from one World War Two GI to another, his lover, on their anniversary:
This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel — perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran — a misunderstanding — an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.
Drinks at “Coq d’or” — dinner at the “Auberge” — a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured — muscatel, scotch, wine — someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible — a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player — competition — miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms — the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea — pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.
The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.
We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better — you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.
Goodnight, sleep well my love.
Today is the 65th anniversary of the first use in war of the atomic bomb, which destroyed Hiroshima. 145,000 people died. On the 9th of August another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and on the 15th Japan surrendered, ending the Second World War.
There are, of course, major memorial ceremonies taking place for those who were killed in the bombing. It’s right that that happens, and no-one would deny the pain and suffering that occurred as a result of the bombing.
But for all that, after 65 years for the world to reflect on the dropping of the atomic bomb, I cannot think anything other than it was the right thing to do.
While we remember today the people who died, we should also remember all the people who were saved as a result of the dropping of those two atomic bombs.
The war was brought to an almost immediate end, whereas it would otherwise have ground on for months or more. A war of attrition and island-hopping, ending with an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands and lasting into 1946 or even 1947 would have claimed the lives of untold servicemen and civilians on both sides.
Millions were freed from slavery – not just the 100,000+ Allied POWs who even with the early end of the war suffered an estimated 25% fatality rate, but the 4 million+ Javanese, the 10 million+ Chinese and the 5 million+ Koreans forced into slave labour by the Japanese military, and many more.
The novelist JG Ballard, whose childhood experiences in Japanese internment camps were immortalised in Empire of the Sun, was a teenager caught in a mad world of death marches, torture, murder and starvation on the Chinese mainland when the bombs were dropped. As he wrote later:
“the atom bombs…almost certainly saved the lives of myself and my fellow internees in Shanghai.”
So while we remember today those who died in the flash and poisonous aftermath of those bombs, let us also remember all those who were saved and freed as a result. The decisions taken 65 years ago were horrific, but they were also the right thing to do.