Two small Japanese vases on display as part of the Oak Crest Step Back in Time show last weekend probably didn’t attract much attention among the other Japanese memorabilia owned by resident Don Mosher.
But his story about them brings home the horror of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, that instantly killed 80,000 people plus thousands more later from the effects of the intense heat and radiation.
Don, now 102, was part of the first U.S. Occupation Forces to land in Japan at the end of the war. He was in the Army Quartermaster Corps that landed at Kure, but then moved to Kobe for the rest of the 11 months he was there.
He had become acquainted with two missionaries from Germany who had been in Japan at the outbreak of the war and were stranded there.
One had been at home on the outskirts of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped and was blown out of his house through a window but not seriously injured. The other man was out of town at the time.
They told Don their story and he asked how to reach the edge of the city. He was told to take a civilian bus that ran close to the city on its route around the area.
One Sunday, Don and three other soldiers decided to try and reach the city. They boarded an old bus that was fueled by wood chips. It was full of Japanese men and women going to other locations. He said the engine was so small they had to get out and walk up hills, even pushing it on one occasion.
When they were dropped off, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bomb, with near total destruction as far as one could see into the center of Hiroshima. He had an Argus C-3 camera and took photos, but only one image survived and of very poor quality.
While walking, Don lifted up a metal plate and found two small porcelain vases with dirt embedded in them. He said most everything else in the area had melted from the heat or was destroyed by the blast.
At the time, U.S. troops were not aware of the dangers of radiation and this was only four months after the detonation. But he said he was lucky and got back home, had two healthy daughters and has lived to be 102.
I chose not to ask him how this venture near Ground Zero affected him or how he felt about war in general.
President Harry Truman had approved the use of atomic bombs after being convinced there would be thousands more
U.S. military casualties in addition to the 111,000 troops already killed in the Pacific Theater in order to win the war. The destruction of major metropolitan areas was intended to convince the Japanese to surrender quickly.
They did on Sept. 2, 1945.
So 74 years later these two small vases are a reminder of the terrible losses, and one wonders about the fate of the unknown family that possessed them.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. Past columns can be found on his website at www.dekalbcountylife.com.