” The Sea Rebel “
Guam to Saigon:
Ghosts of War (Part 3)
“Peace is better than war”. These were the words spoken by World War II veteran Gregory Melikian while doing a presentation during my cruise on the Pacific Princess. “Peace is better than War”, is a simple statement, but one that is not always carried out. Gregory should know, it was he who sent the telex announcing the unconditional surrender of the German land, sea and air forces during World War II. Like my dad, he was drafted by the United States Army but while my dad was sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese he was sent to Europe to fight the Germans. Gregory has donated his copy of the telex to Arizona State University for display. I had the pleasure of talking about my dad with Mr. Melikian before he left the ship.
Another friend of mine, who I met on the ship, is Joan Brown from England. Joan had sailed over 600 days with Princess before this cruise began. She had worked for British Intelligence during World War II. For many years she was not allowed to talk about what she did during the war. Her main job was catching German spies. Once when I was having lunch at a table with a couple from Florida who I had just met I asked Joan to join us. The conversation turned to her experiences during the war and about the bombing of London. Then the woman from Florida, quite a bit younger than Joan, mentioned that she remembered the bombing of Berlin as a child. She had been born in Germany. It was an awkward moment – you could see the pain in her eyes. The Ghosts of War are more vivid in some people’s memories.
At Hiroshima, Japan I went and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I felt that it was something that I had to do. The war in Europe had ended for people like Gregory and Joan with the surrender of Germany but in the Pacific the war dragged on for my father. Then on August 6, 1945 the United States, under the orders of Harry S Truman, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. A few days later a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki and Japan finally surrendered. My feelings about the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum are mixed. While clearly dedicated to the elimination of all nuclear weapons, it seems less dedicated to peace in general. My dad always felt that Truman had done the right thing because it ended the war and saved many more lives in the long run, both Japanese and American. On that point there is really no debate.
I once asked my dad if he hated the Japanese because of everything he had been through during the war. He looked at me straight in the eyes and said – No. He told me that he always knew that governments make war and that the people fighting you on the other side are not all that different from you. They have families and hopes and dreams not unlike yourself and that most of them are simply fighting for their country like you are. No, he didn’t hate the Japanese.
As my tour guide, Martha, talked about how her late father had been in the Japanese Army during World War II and how he had been one of the earliest people sent into Hiroshima after the bombing I couldn’t help but reflect on Gregory’s words “Peace is better than war”.
My ship then sailed to Inchon, in South Korea.