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Friday, August 7, 2009

August 6 Remembered

There is earth-shattering (literally) significance to today's date, August 6.

In 1945, a 4-engine B-29 bomber of the US Army Air Corps took off from Tinian Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, on a mission to end the war with Japan.

The plane was shiny aluminum. It didn't need any paint to camoflague it on the ground, because neither the Imperial Japanese Navy nor the Japanese air command had any ability remaining to bomb the island of Tinian. The paint the plane did wear was just enough for the national insignia, and for the name of the pilot's mother on the sides of the nose, forward and below the cockpit. Most planes had "nose art," sometimes racy, sometimes cartoonesque, sometimes elaborate. But this one had only two words: Enola Gay.

It was the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, on this very day, 64 years ago.

Today, while I was looking for a particular CD, I ran across one I had never heard, and didn't know I had. It is Rosalie Sorrels' "Strangers in Another Country," her tribute to her great friend, the late Utah Phillips. It's filled with songs written by him, with a bit of her touching storytelling about him, in her raspy speaking voice. And there, among all the songs, is one called "Enola Gay."

Of course I played it. And I played the Small Potatoes song, written by Rich Prezioso, "1000 Candles, 1000 Cranes." It's on that group's "Waltz of the Wallflowers" album. It, too, is a song about that day in 1945, and of a reconciliation, years later. It was a "Listener Favorite" track on "Tied to the Tracks" a few years ago. I still cannot play it without getting choked-up.

I guess I don't get why so many radio stations can play "Alice's Restaurant" every year on Thanksgiving, yet I know of none who played these two songs today. Not that I am demeaning the iconic antiwar song that famously has the Thanksgiving connection. I've certainly played it on the radio on Thanksgiving weekend. Sure, it all commemorates things that were before my time, but so was much else I want to understand. And if my radio show were on today, August 6, I would have played those two songs, and likely taken listener requests and suggestions for others that would have fit with them.

In so many ways, we have it so easy. (The hell of Iraq and Afghanistan and their transcendent lack of goals and trail of broken people notwithstanding.) The least we can do is remember in a meaningful way that allows us to have a broader perspective and some sense of what has gone before to bring us to where we are, and to show us a better way.

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