My grandmother celebrates her 98th birthday today. So a bunch of us gathered yesterday at the assisted living care facility where she lives. After taking her out to lunch, we had a little party with cake and ice cream. I think she really enjoyed it, even though all the attention and all the movement probably wore her out. She was also quick to remind us that Sunday (the 11th) was her birthday, not Saturday.
I’ve mentioned it before, but grandma has lived through a mammoth amount of change. Yesterday she looked in wonder at a smartphone. She probably began her life in a home without any phone at all, and lived most of it with a corded phone hooked to the wall. And that’s just one thing…there are countless other examples.
Grandma is finally beginning to forget things. I’m not complaining, because it’s taken her nearly a century of living to reach that point. But I’m really grateful for our ability to write stuff down. As we age, our brains lose their capacity to process and remember information. So fifty years from now, if I’m still around and these pages still exist, I might not remember going to visit grandma on her 98th birthday, but at least I’ll be able to read about such an event…if I can still see.
Today we remember the one-year anniversary of the terrible earthquake-driven tsunami that ravaged parts of Japan. In the days of instant video and those smartphones that grandma just discovered, the events of that day are compressed to a series of ones and zeroes and stored on a hard drive, just waiting for a mouse click or finger tap to be brought back to the surface of YouTube as a sobering reminder.
Had smartphones and YouTube been around in Japan on March 11, 1945, they would have recorded the earth shaking. They would have brought images of fire and destruction to your video screen. Terror and death might have been your vista. But it wasn’t an earthquake and it wasn’t a tsunami.
Grandma’s 31st birthday was the day the U.S. Air Force paid a visit to Nagoya, Japan. It was not the first time. Indeed, bombs had fallen on the city several times, beginning in December of the following year. There was a Mitsubishi factory located there that supplied the dwindling Japanese war effort, and it was the first target. But this was the first time Nagoya had been hit using new tactics.
Taking a page from the European theater, General Curtis LeMay had recently decided to mass large groups of bombers as a single force when attacking Japan. Previous attempts using small packages was proving ineffective. The first real test, a couple of days before against Tokyo, had been (from the perspective of the U.S. military) a resounding success.
So while Tokyo was still smouldering, LeMay’s massed Superfortresses hit Nagoya. And while the damage may not have been as bad as the Tokyo raid (sixteen square miles turned to dust and nearly 200,000 killed and wounded), it was extensive.
With this result, General LeMay and the U.S. Air Force believed they had found a weapon that would finally end the war against Japan.
Recommended Reading: Superfortress: The B-29 and American Air Power