PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus


Aug. 15, 1945: Remembering Hiroshima by peaceprobe
August 6, 2006, 11:57 am
Filed under: Militarism

It is cool and cloudy over this part of Canada today.  Today is a civic holiday and people have gone off to cottages and lakes.  The timber trucks that usually lumber past our house are silent.  Some cottagers will remember this day 62 years ago when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

I was five years old when the bomb was dropped.  I have no memory of news of the bomb but I do remember August 15, 1945, nine days later when the Japanese surrendered and World War II came to an end.   The news came to our farmhouse in Northeastern Ohio in mid afternoon perhaps by telephone or radio.  None of my six siblings were at home.  As soon as my mother heard of the war’s end she told me to go to the barn and tell Dad because he would be very happy.

I ran to the barn full of energy and some joy because I thought I was the bearer of good news.  I found Dad and said, “Mom said I should tell you that it has been announced that the war is over.”  I remember the joy that came over my Father’s face and his first words.  “Oh, I am so glad.”  In the distance we could hear explosions and Dad said, “I think that is the sound of celebrations.”  I asked him what a celebration was.  He said, “People are happy that the war is over.”  I asked him who won the war.  Dad said. “I think nobody won the war.”  Now I was confused.  The noise of explosions or fire crackers continued in the distance.

This was my first peace message.  I remember being so proud that I had the opportunity to deliver it because I knew it was important.  I was glad that the message I carried made my Father happy.  That evening as we gathered for supper the prayer of blessing for the food included words of thanks for the end to war.  The news brought relief to the world.  It also touched our family and many of our neighbors in specific ways.  It meant the end of a very difficult era in which my Father gave leadership and encouragement to those in our church who had refused to enter military service.  This did not always bring respect from some of our towns people who saw the war as a just struggle against enemies and tyranny.

A year later, as a first grader at the Aurora Elementary school the effects of that pacifist position came home to me in the school bathroom.  Two very big high school boys cornered me into a toilet stall and began yelling at me that I was a yellow belly, a term I didn’t understand although I did check my belly to see if it was a different color from other people’s bellies.  They yelled and swore at me that my people did not go to war and shouted other insults.  The power differential between us was overwhelming and I responded with impeccable silence in what must have been my first public expression of passive resistance.  My silence made them even angrier and the toilet stall seemed to get smaller and smaller.  There was no escape.  Finally they left with the warning that I would be beat up.  I stayed in the toilet stall until I could stop crying uncontrollably whereupon I crept very quietly back to my class room and didn’t tell anyone about the incident until I got home that night.

In school I eventually learned that it was necessary to drop the atomic bomb in order to save lives.  I will never forget Aug

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