The following is the contents of the letter from my grandfather that I found with the journals. Identifying information has been removed or altered. Moving forward, I will post entries individually or in groups of two or three. Text in italics are my additions.
If you are reading this, I have moved on to the next world. I am afraid that I must place a burden upon your shoulders. It is a burden I have born for half a century in silence. And now I must ask you to do what I could never do. Make sure my story is told.
Shame has forced me into silence. I have truly loved your grandmother, but I could never bring myself to tell her the things you are about to learn. It started because I wasn’t really ready to talk about it yet. And by the time I felt ready, I thought it was too late. It still might be, but there is nothing I can do about it now.
I am forced to omit a large section of the letter because of identification issues. And the gist of what it says was already covered. It detailed his early life, love of Mei, and participation in the bombing. Once I get the “important” part taken care of, I may go back and try to sift through the parts I’m leaving out.
When I got my discharge, I was given the letter she left with my parents about returning to her homeland. I was sickened with grief. My first instinct was to get on a plane and fly to Hiroshima to try to find Mei. But I simply couldn’t. Even if she were still alive, how could I look her and her family in the eye? How could I tell her that I watched the bomb hit? That I had taken part in the killing of so many. Did I push the button? No. But that doesn’t pardon me for my participation. “Just following orders” didn’t work at Nuremberg, why should it apply to me?
Instead, I packed up my meager belongings and moved as far away from home as I could get. To a place where I could start over from scratch. No family, no childhood friends or neighbors. Nobody that would be able to put two and two together. As you know, I eventually ended up in Seattle, where I began to rebuild my life.
Things were pretty rough for the first few years. I alternated between suicidal depression and impotent rage. I drank a lot. I smoked a lot of weed. That may come as a bit of a shock, but it is the truth. Your father’s generation likes to think they discovered something new in the 60s. Far from it. But I digress.
I finally worked up the courage to try to find Mei. That is where things took a tricky turn. The Japanese government is notoriously tight lipped. Add on to that the fact that so many bodies were just completely destroyed to the point of making identification impossible. All of this means, I wasn’t able to simply scroll through a memorial list of victims and see if Mei or her family were listed.
I was really left with only one option. I had to face the reality of the worst moment of my life. I couldn’t sit at home and wonder. I had to know for sure. I had to get on a plane and go back there. What follows is an accounting of my travels and experiences. Do with them as you will.
To be continued…..