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V-J Day: Why No Articles on the 40th Anniversary?

August 24, 1985

I spent an hour scrutinizing every item in the two principal news section of The Times' Aug. 14 edition that would reassure me that this indeed was V-J Day here in the United States. There were lengthy articles on the antics of Louisiana's governor, an in-depth follow-up on the tragic air crash in Japan and even an account of the liberalized dancing policy at Disneyland.

The day's three editorials dealt with the anniversary of Social Security, Union Carbide's problems in West Virginia, and further advances in women's rights. Worthy subjects all. The Op-Ed page yielded nothing on that day so long ago.

Finally, my search ended. The final paragraph of a story on Page 4 of Part I beneath a caption referring to President Reagan's effort to secure action on his tax reform bill briefly described ceremonies to be held aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise in San Francisco Bay to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

And that was all.

After the reams of copy that only a few days previously had agonizingly, and in many cases accompanied by abject wringing of hands, analyzed Harry Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 40 years ago, why could not there have been space for one story on the anniversary of the final chapter of history's bloodiest war? Have we become ashamed of our triumph, uneasy about calling attention to it? I wonder.

My spirits were not lifted as I watched the highly respected MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour and heard not one sentence calling attention to this day and what it meant to those who love freedom.

I wonder what I could possibly say tonight to those who sleep in poncho shrouds on some forgotten island or lie entombed in the rusting hulk of the Arizona beneath the sparkling waters of Pearl Harbor?

Could I face those with whom I had shared the long convoys, the K and C rations, the wrath of the enemy, the loneliness and separation from what we loved and knew best? How could they be told that 40 years after the victory they had helped win by freely spending the gift of life, their sacrifice had become virtually a non-event in the judgment of some of the nation's most influential media?

Those of us who were spared, who danced wildly and hoisted a few on that August day 40 years ago, rejoicing that we had survived and planning a future we did not know till then that we would have, are dismayed that 40 years have slipped by, that most of our tomorrows have become yesterdays.

Before we all slip away, though, we can be warmed by the remembrance of that glorious summer day a mere blink in history ago when this country died and bathed us in its gratitude--which, to our utter shame, is more than those who answered when their leaders called them to the bloody battlefields of Korea and Vietnam ever received.

I feel better now. I have written these words not in anger but with a sense of melancholia. I concede that we are a different people today with new crises, new demons, new perspectives.

But please pardon me while I lift my glass to the long and the short and the tall. Here's to the Marines and to those from every other branch who served their time in hell. Thanks for letting me be a part of what you did, my brothers, and I really still believe that there are those who remember.


Long Beach

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