We owe them our lives
“Lots of boys not grown up yet will owe their life to it.”
These words were spoken to a reporter by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer when discussing the atomic bomb that he and his staff developed at the end of World War II. George Spear was a firm believer in this statement.
During the summer of 2000 local hero, General Paul Tibbetts, the pilot of the Enola Gay which delivered the first atomic bomb ever detonated in wartime, visited Quincy. I felt it was important to take my sons, Will and Nick, to meet him and get copies of his book. I explained to them that their grandfather credits General Tibbetts and Dr. Oppenheimer’s scientists with our branch of the Spear family being alive today. George was in the Army on the West Coast at the end of World War II, scheduled to be part of the first wave of reinforcements following the invasion of the Japanese homeland. Estimated casualties in a study prepared for the War Department ranged from 1.4 to 4 million American casualties, 4-800,000 American fatalities, and 5-10 million Japanese deaths.
The horror of the atomic bomb bothered Oppenheimer, and he became active after the war in circles to limit any future use of this type of weapon. But the horror of an invasion of Japan would have been worse many times over. General Tibbetts was an outspoken believer and proponent of the bomb’s value in bringing the war to a quicker and less deadly conclusion.
Did Oppenheimer and Tibbets give my branch of the Spear family an opportunity to survive and grow? Would dad have been one of the numerous American casualties? No one knows for sure, but on this, the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Oppenheimer, I applaud the decision to use the bomb to shorten the war. I thank people like Oppenheimer, Tibbetts, President Truman, and anyone else involved for making a tough decision. Military service is a tough thing for all who serve, and we should be so grateful for all men and women in the armed forces. Who knows which branch of your family tree our military might be saving at any given moment in time.
Rest In Peace, Dr Oppenheimer.
And thank you.