Rt10 In Cheshire to be named “Metal of Honor Memorial Highway”

Next month state highway Route 10 in the center of Cheshire, Connecticut will be named The Medal of Honor Memorial Highway. The naming will be observed in a dedication ceremony on Saturday, September 12 at 3 p.m. during the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual Fall Festival at Bartlem Park.

The Cheshire Veterans Council and the Town of Cheshire requested the Connecticut Department of Transportation to approve the name. Rep. Mary Fritz, a member of Cheshire’s delegation to the General Assembly, took legislative action to put the request into effect.

Speaking for the Cheshire Veterans Council, VFW Post 10052 Commander John White said, “Cheshire is probably unique among small towns of America with a population less than 30,000 because we have two residents who were awarded the Medal of Honor. Marine Col. Harvey Barnum received the Medal for combat action in Vietnam and Union Army Sgt. Eri Woodbury received it for combat action during the Civil War. So far as I know, no other small town can claim to have two such Medal holders as residents. These men are genuine military heroes and deserve this public recognition.”

The Medal of Honor is America’s highest military decoration. It is awarded by the President on behalf of Congress to members of the armed services who distinguish themselves through bravery at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in combat against an enemy of the United States.

Cheshire has extensive connections with the Medal of Honor. The highway name will begin at the Medal of Honor Plaza where a monument honors the two recipients. It continues through the center of town where the Cheshire Historical Society displays Sgt. Woodbury’s Medal of Honor, and past Cheshire Academy where his portrait as headmaster hangs. He is buried in the cemetery at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the Academy. Cheshire Public Library nearby has a display case containing an actual Medal of Honor, photos of Col. Barnum as a boy growing up in Cheshire, and his presidential citation for the Medal. The highway name ends at the Cheshire Police Department.

Col. Barnum, who lives in Virginia, will speak at the ceremony. The day before he will talk with students at Cheshire High School, where he is on the Wall of Fame for school graduates.

Among the invited guests are Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Sen. Christopher Murphy, both Cheshire residents. Cheshire’s delegation to the General Assembly and the Cheshire Town Council are also invited.

The Cheshire Veterans Council consists of Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Army Air Force Roundtable, Disabled American Veterans, and American Veterans. Their booth at the Fall Festival will have information about the Medal of Honor and will distribute a commemorative souvenir of the Dedication.

Was Hiroshima Good for the World – Part 2

Russia was also at work on an atomic bomb because the Manhattan Project’s secret had been leaked by Robert Oppenheimer, now known to have been a Communist. I therefore agree with Edward Teller, also a member of the Manhattan Project and the so-called father of the Hydrogen Bomb, who said in his memoir, “We had no choice. In such an arms race, there is no slowing down, let alone turning back.”

I also agree with Gen. Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, who said it was necessary. When I had the privilege of meeting him at an Army Air Force reunion in the mid-‘90s, I asked him about his feelings of conscience over the event. He replied, “I had a duty to perform. I’ve never lost a single night’s sleep over it.” I respect his warrior attitude and I recommend his memoir, The Return of the Enola Gay.

Equally to the point, Gen. Tibbets told me that when he lectured publicly, he was sometimes thanked afterward by people who said the bomb saved their lives. Most of them were American soldiers and sailors fighting in the Pacific, preparing for Operation Olympic, the massive invasion of Japan planned to begin in November 1945 and continue through March 1946, extending the war for probably another year. Based on experience from the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, military planners estimated American casualties at more than 1,000,000 dead and wounded. Japanese casualties were estimated above 2,000,000. Japan, although clearly losing the war, still had tremendous military resources—both men and weapons—in readiness to defend its homeland. The armed civilian populace was in addition to that.

Surprisingly, however, some of the people who thanked Gen. Tibbets were Japanese civilians who lived during the war or were descendants of wartime civilians. The Emperor and warlords had declared a policy of “no surrender, no retreat” for Japan if it was invaded. Everyone—young and old alike—were commanded to fight to the death for their homeland and, given the mindset of strict obedience which had been inculcated in the Japanese, the command of the divine imperial ruler could not have been disobeyed. It was simply unthinkable for them. Many of them did not want to fight to the death, Gen. Tibbetts was told, but they felt they had no choice. The atomic bomb, therefore, actually saved the lives of millions of Japanese.

It is to the enormous credit of America that, for all the nuclear saber-rattling the world has gone through since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we’ve been able to avoid another such event because of America’s military strength. Nuclear weapons have helped to hold things together for America and the world. It’s time for the critics to acknowledge that—even as America continues working toward global nuclear disarmament.

Was Hiroshima Good for the World? – Part 1

Seventy years ago, America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War Two. Ever since there has been passionate debate about whether it was necessary to use nuclear weapons on Japan. Critics of the action say Japan was ready to surrender, even without the bombings, and the U.S. military’s estimate of the casualties—both American and Japanese—resulting from an invasion of Japan set for late 1945 were vastly overstated.

The critics’ case does not persuade me. Here’s why.

I’m a former naval nuclear weapons officer. I’ve stood at Ground Zero in Hiroshima and felt heartsick as I looked at the mementos of nuclear destruction housed in the museum there. My military experience showed me the horror of nuclear weapons, up close and personal. I’ve literally had my finger on the red button which could launch fiery kilotons of death to submarine crews—men whom, if I met them today at a social function, I’d probably like very much, despite differing political beliefs. I long for the day when global politics will safely allow the world to disarm and eradicate all nuclear weapons. Like Gen. Eisenhower, who said “I hate war as only a general can,” I hate nuclear weapons as only a nuclear weapons officer can. Yet as horrible as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, the alternative of not dropping the bombs would have been far worse for American forces—and for the Japanese as well, both military and civilian.

It is well known that Germany was rushing to develop its own atomic bomb. What isn’t widely known is that Japan was doing the same thing. In the last months of the war, two German submarines were captured en route to Japan. One had a cargo of lead, the other had a cargo of deuterium or heavy water. Both are radiation-shielding materials; both were intended to help the Japanese effort to build their own nuclear weapons.

If Germany and Japan had succeeded, history as we know it would be quite different. Most likely, you and I would be speaking German or Japanese. Just imagine a world map in which Germany ruled all of Europe and Japan ruled the Pacific. Do you think their quest for empire would have ended at our shores? I don’t.

(To be concluded)