Letter: Two US soldiers prompt reflections on war

Two US soldiers prompt reflections on war

To the editor:

I was born in Tokyo, Japan, and when the Pacific War ended, I was just one-year-old. Many areas of Tokyo had been destroyed by the bombing raids during the war. So people struggled to recover their lives even several years after the war ended.

There were black markets everywhere. One day in 1949 my mother took me to a much larger market by riding a train. Having gotten on the train, we still could sit together, but when the train stopped at the next station, most passengers were standing, and one of them standing right in front of me was an American soldier.

He kept looking at me and put his hand into the pocket of his uniform and then put his hand close to my face. I was scared and looked at his hand. It held a piece of chewing gum which he tried to give to me. I checked my mother. She tried to ignore the scene. I took the gum and looked at his face. He smiled and I still remember his blue eyes.

The train arrived at the last station. Everybody got off the train and he disappeared into the crowd.

Eighteen years later, before graduating from university, I went to a fancy discotheque that had just opened in Tokyo. As I sat at the bar looking down at the band and the people dancing, I noticed a sad white guy drinking scotch, also watching the many happy couples dancing below. I spoke to him and learned that he was my age and an American soldier coming to Tokyo from Vietnam for a couple weeks of R and R after which he would have to go back to Vietnam.

I was shocked. I thought it must be torture for him. A military plane brought so many soldiers to Japan for their rest after battles, but after seeing happy people of their same generation in a peaceful society, they had to go back to the battlefield. I shook his hand and he hugged me tightly.

So many American soldiers died, so many Japanese soldiers died, and many Vietnamese died in these wars decades ago, but are we still enemies now?

We human beings should have learned, given our long history, the true meaning of country, society, race. Wars must not be powerful politicians' games. As the human race moves forward into the future, our real battle, which involves all countries, is how to protect our planet Earth because we have become our own invader.

Ken Otsuka, Great Barrington


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