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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Atom Bombs, Trout Fishing and Spiritual Cleansing

From the LA Times

To the end of his days, Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. believed that dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a justifiable means of shortening World War II and preserving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American servicemen who military experts said might have died in a final Allied invasion of Japan.

Paul Tibbets, centre

For Tibbets, the pilot whose bombing run unleashed the devastating explosive force and insidious nuclear radiation that leveled two-thirds of the city and killed at least 80,000 people, there was never any need to apologize.

"I never lost a night's sleep over it," Tibbets said of the Aug. 6, 1945, attack.

The Army Air Forces officer died Thursday at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92...

If family legend is to be believed, I once met Paul Tibbets' boss-the man who gave the order to send "Enola Gay" on its horrific mission.

I met the man I knew only as "Mr Carnie?" in the little Southland Town of Winton. It was in 1987, at my grandfather Jim Loudon's after funeral gathering at my aunt and uncle's house.

My grandfather had been a trout fishing guide at Stockton Rush's luxury Takaro Lodge near Te Anau.

In the '70s only ultra-rich could afford to stay at such places. I toured the place once, as a kid, but can only remember the gold plated bathroom taps.

Granddad spent thousands of hours on the Oreti, the Waiau, the Upuk and the Mararoa showing the rich and powerful how to catch big Southland brown trout.

My grandfather guided some very famous people around those rivers, including members of the Rockerfeller clan. He made a lot of friends and recieved many gifts invitations to fish in the US-he didn't go, he was scared of flying.

Takaro Lodge was effectively closed by Bill Rowling's anti foreign investment Labour government in the mid '70s, but several clients continued to came out to fish with granddad for years after.

"Mr Carnie" was granddad's most loyal client and friend and as far as I know, the only one to come his funeral, except for, I think, one of Stockton Rush's dauhters.

It was whispered in the family that "Mr Carnie" had been a top man in the US Air Force in WW2. He had been in charge of 250,000 men. he had given the orders that had sent Paul Tibbets and "Enola Gay" to drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I knew "Mr Carnie" was from Colorado. I knew he was rich and powerful. I had been campaigning against Soviet "gulag" made goods coming into New Zealand at the time. I had been corresponding with the office of Colorado Senator Richardson, who was opposing the entry of Soviet slave labour goods into the US. I thought "Mr Carnie" might know Senator Richardson.

It turns out he did. The two were friends. I tried to talk to "Mr Carnie" about my campaign but he wasn't interested-he seemed distracted. I tried to discuss New Zealand's treacherous anti nuclear stand as well-but to my surprise he wasn't interested in discussing that either. How dumb can you be?

I often wondered how much the decision to kill tens of thousands of Japanese men, women and children weighed on "Mr Carnie's" mind?

"Mr Carnie" was merely a senior figure in the chain of command. His order helped shorten the War and no doubt saved hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Allied lives.

War makes good men do terrible things to prevent even greater horrors.

But no matter how right, such decisions must take a spiritual toll.

I hope those days spent on Southland's beautiful clean rivers with my granddad, were good for "Mr Carnie's" soul.

I really do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Awesome beauty.

Someday I hope to hike the Milford Track.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

The South Island, particularly is awesome. So much packed into the size of a small US state.

Look us up when you come over.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Oliver Woods said...

Hi Trevor,

Just to note: Wallace Rowling (who I am not the greatest fan of either, don't worry) was not Prime Minister beyond 1975. The entire period of the late 1970s was under the Government of the Right Honourable Sir Robert Muldoon.

Kindest regards,
Oliver Woods

12:24 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

You're right of course Oliver-I shoud have said "mid '70s" I'll change it.

6:14 AM  

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