Silent Voices of World War II

This is a transcript of a presentation at the Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: World War II to the Cold War, June 4-6, 2019, held in Fredericksburg, TX. Watch a non-audio described version of the presentation on YouTube.

Silent Voices of World War II: When the Land of Enchantment Met the Land of the Rising Sun

Presenter: Nancy Bartlit


When the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Nancy Bartlit was in kindergarten in New Jersey. She remembers having to ration food and shoes and hiding under the bed when hearing sirens wail and search lights flashed across the sky looking for German aircraft. She did not know then that when America declared war on the Axis Powers, faraway New Mexico was one of the least populated states. After many families moves and travel since, she learned how that remoteness determined the role of New Mexico in the War in the Pacific.

Participants in this important conference will present the state-of-the-science needed to preserve the physical legacies and memories of World War II and the Cold War. Bartlit will describe her research, beyond books and films, traveling to World War II sites and interviewing persons who experienced the War abroad or at home. Much of her knowledge derives from monuments and memorials already preserving their history, as well as from photographs, artifacts, and stories—as a detective’s search or chance encounter provides.

When collecting material to learn New Mexico’s contributions during the War for her book Silent Voices of World War II, Bartlit interviewed World War II Bataan Death Marchers and Navajo Code Talkers, Manhattan Project scientists, and a Santa Fe Internment Camp internee resettled in California. The following stories demonstrate how language and customs spur misunderstandings.

In the Pacific Theater, the New Mexico National Guardsmen were among the first US troops to fight the Japanese, protecting Clark Air Base north of Manila hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. They resisted for four months before being surrendered for lack of backup. These US Army gunners endured a week-long march without food and water, only to suffer maltreatment for 3-1/2-years in POW camps.

Navajo men, even boys, from western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, volunteered as US Marines, but specialized as radiomen. They created a code used to communicate between ships, beaches, and frontlines. The enemy could not decipher the messages translated within minutes without mistakes. The ingenious code aided the plan of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to secure the Pacific islands from Guadalcanal through the Mariana Islands to Okinawa–ever closer to Japan.

Thousands of immigrants, later America-born, men of Japanese descent principally living along the Western Coast and leaders in their communities, were classified as “Dangerous Enemy Aliens.” From 1942-1946, they were detained or interned in a former CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp within Santa Fe city limits.

On a plateau 38 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the Los Alamos Ranch School for young boys from the East was transformed into a scientific laboratory to house civilian scientists and technologists assisted by US Army and US Navy personnel. Their assignment was to research and develop atomic bombs—the biggest secret in World War II. After 28 months the Los Alamos effort was tested at a site near Alamogordo in southern New Mexico.

Hearing the many ironies among these intertwining stories may change a listener’s perspective of wartime.
White woman with short wavy salt and pepper hair, wearing a multicolored shawl and a necklace with many small stone birds.
Nancy Bartlit


Nancy Bartlit: Good morning. I want to thank Mary and Debbie for inviting me. It's been a long wish of mine to come back to this museum. Don and I were here maybe 30-some years ago, before the museum was opened, and he enjoyed pecan pie, and we wanted to come back. And we did enjoy the Johnson Ranch, and visited LBJ's place where he grew up. It's wonderful to be back, and it is at our expense, somewhat, but it also is ... It wouldn't have happened without this invitation, and I am so pleased to be here, and so pleased to meet you all and learn from you as we go on.

My specialty is a personal history ... Could you put my slide on, please? Thank you ... which I carry in my head. The stories I tell are the history of living people who have shared their harrowing incidents of war. I have written down their history for when their ability to tell their stories end, and so the legacy can continue.

Participants in this important conference will present the state of the science technology needed to preserve the physical legacies and memories of World War II and the Cold War. Today, I will describe my research, beyond books and films, through my travels to World War II sites in the United States and in the Pacific.

Much of my knowledge derives from the artifacts, monuments, memorials already preserving that history, and photographs, artifacts, and stories told me from people with whom I have formed lasting friendships. It's like a detective search, and it's so much fun running into people who want to tell and share their stories with me. I am deeply indebted to the people who've had the foresight to build those museums, and to have those memories put there so I can learn more easily.

I'm kind of a crazy addict of traveling to the sites where history took place. After graduation from Smith, I journeyed across the US continent by Pullman railroad coach from Philadelphia, and then from San Francisco across the Pacific Ocean, and a freighter to Japan. My assignment was to teach young women the English language in a private school for women in Sendai. Yes, Sendai, the place where the tsunami devastated so much not long ago.

During the two years of my teaching, my communication with America was by mail. The cost of a telephone call was out of sight, and so I did not speak to anyone in America for two years. It gave me a sympathy with the prisoners of war that I'm going to describe to you later, although I wasn't afraid of being shot every day.

Although enjoying this adventure, I learned to accept separation and homesickness. I enjoyed my students and I made new friends, and I traveled among the four Japanese islands with other teachers. Every Thursday evening, my Japanese language teacher would take me to a movie, usually showing samurai or World War II themes, with no English subtitles. Afterwards, we would go out for sushi, just like you would get a hamburger after a movie in Philadelphia.

Professor [Tasakafua 00:04:18], who was the head of the metallurgy department at the university in Sendai, and a descendant of a samurai family, and the third Japanese to go to graduate school at MIT, would teach me about Japanese customs. In return, I would edit his scientific papers from Japanese English to English so they could be published in English-language journals. I helped Professor Otis Cary in Kyoto during my summer break. Professor Cary from Amherst and Doshisha University helped the American military to translate the leaflets scattered in Japan prior to the dropping of the second atomic bomb.

I returned home by stopping in Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe before flying back to my home, Philadelphia, and to John Bartlit, who became my husband. He keeps saying that the best thing he ever did was to send me to Japan. I didn't want to wait around as his secretary in Philadelphia for two years while he finished his PhD. I said, "I'm going around the world while you're working at Yale." That's one of the reasons I went around the world.

Later, I joined the military tours to the Philippines and to the Mariana Islands, and returned to Japan very many times to visit 14 war or peace museums with another history scholar from Idaho. On our visit, when we were on the bus, the Pearl Harbor movie was being advertised. This is my picture taken of an advertisement in a bus as we were visiting.

When the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, I was in the kindergarten in New Jersey. I remember my parents having to ration food and shoes. My mother said I hid under the bed when I heard the sirens wail, and I saw the searchlights going in the sky looking for German aircraft. How could I know then that when America declared war on the Axis powers far away, New Mexico was one of the least populated states? Ad much later I learned how its remoteness, with the mix of the ethnic cultures, determined the role that New Mexico would play in the Pacific.

Jump ahead four decades. My master's thesis analyzed the visitor comments in the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, which is affiliated with the laboratory. I studied during the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Professor Ev Rogers of the University of New Mexico, my thesis adviser, invited me to learn New Mexico's role in World War II and to write a book about it.

For more than two years, we traveled around the state when Professor Rogers could get away from teaching. We even interviewed Navajos over Christmas break. I couldn't believe they would come to our interviews. We interviewed US Army survivors of the Bataan Death March, US Marine radio men, later known as Navajo code talkers, scientists who worked with the physicists on the Manhattan Project, and a Santa Fean internment camp internee who lived in California, and we flew out to California to interview him. Following the stories demonstrate how language and customs spur misunderstandings. Our findings taught us how intertwined with the four stories of New Mexico's helped to shorten the war in the Pacific.

Later, I added a fifth topic, because I'd learned from my talks that so many Americans were totally unaware of the response of the Japanese leaders after the two atomic bombs were dropped. Westerners don't get into the mindset of the Japanese. They think one atomic bomb was enough to stop the war. So they needed to learn, why did it take nine days for Japan to surrender? Why did the Supreme War Council and the Cabinet have to agree unanimously before the Emperor could announce the decision of the surrender? Who was in charge of the decision? Did they know that the Japanese Army coup which captured the Imperial Palace and killed the commander of the palace guards and tried to stop the Emperor's surrender message from being broadcast to six million fighting Japanese through Asia?

Let's begin with the New Mexico National Guard. I start each chapter, if you will, today with the shoulder badges of the various groups that I'm going to talk about, those four men. I'm sorry, I do have something to show the arrows, but I'm a little bit behind the screen, so I apologize that I can't point things out directly to you. But the men, because of the policy of Churchill and FDR to put resources into the European fight, the men who were in Asia at the time of the Pearl Harbor incident starting the war felt abandoned. They really weren't abandoned by the New Mexicans back home.

And so on the trip that I went to the Philippines with military tours in Alexandria, Virginia, I followed the Mariveles, which is down in the tip, across from Corregidor, and you see up the black line that goes back up to San Fernando, and then up to Camp O'Donnell and Camp Cabanatuan. They had been defending Clark Field.

These are the 1,819 members of the New Mexico National Guard, and there were a few Texans, I'd point out. This picture was taken by the father of two of the men in the picture, who did not make it back. It took me five years to get this picture. I'd seen it in a magazine, and I kept trying and trying, and I finally got it from the National Park Service and Carlsbad Caverns.

The New Mexico National Guardsmen were among the first US troops to fight the Japanese protecting the base north of Manila, hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. Their equipment was from World War I, leftover supplies which were limited, so practice using ammunition was restricted. They were opening up the ammunition as the Japanese Zeroes were attacking the 37 planes lined up in a row. The pilots had been flying around. They heard about Pearl Harbor. They were looking for the Japanese, but the Japanese were stopped in Formosa because of the weather, and so just as the pilots came back to refuel and have lunch, the Japanese attacked and destroyed almost all the planes.

The Americans resisted for four months on the Philippines, and we only lost 20 men in the fighting. When a quarter of a million Japanese troops finally descended on Luzon, which was at the bottom of Mount Samat, Major General Edward P. King realized that to continue fighting would be suicidal for the men who were starving and ill. The Western way is to surrender if you're going to lose a third or a half of your troops. Opposite, what the Japanese is, is to surrender for the Emperor and give your life.

I took this picture of a painting in the San Fernando museum. I thought it was very representative of the Japanese cruelty of the men who were on the march. Actually, the ill treatment was an order, not just because of having too many men to guard. Every opportunity they had to kill the men on the walk, they took. Or they ran over them if they stumbled. So the men would take care of each other and help them to survive by just standing up.

The citizens of Las Cruces, New Mexico have a beautiful site of the memory of the military of New Mexico from their county. One of them is this beautiful oversized statue, which is illuminated at night, and in the concrete pathway up to it are actually the foot ... When the cement was poured, they used the actual boots of men who had walked on the site.

I love this picture. The man in the hat is a Santa Fean who died when he was in his late 80s or early 90s, but he told us it was a very clean camp. There were no insects, because the insects were protein to go with their watered rice.

Whoops. There. This map represents the sites where the men who were captured were taken to Japan, and succeeded in getting to the camps. Others were not lucky. 11,000 of our troops were killed by our own pilots because the Japanese did not put Red Cross markers on the boats that they used to move them.

There are a number of statues of General MacArthur on the island of Corregidor and the Philippines. I took this picture when we visited Corregidor. You can see to the left of the General's elbow is the slope of the Bataan Peninsula. That is where the march began. It was uphill, and it was ... We visited in February, and it was very, very hot and sticky. They took us to an elementary school where the Boy Scouts of the Philippines had paid for these statues of General King surrendering to the Japanese.

One of the veterans with us is from Pennsylvania. He had been in three Japanese camps, two of them the most brutal. He was on Corregidor, so he wasn't on the march, but he said something very interesting. He said, "I was in camp for three years, and I'm 80-some years old. I did not let those three years destroy the rest of my life."

Battery Hearn, if any of you have been in Corregidor, this is the largest gun that you can find, and it's still there. Some of you are going to talk about preserving military hardware. I don't know if this gives you any help, to see that.

They took us up to the Clark Base. I call it Clark Air Base. I may be incorrect, but I call it Clark Air Base because it was an airfield. We could not get on it, but they took us to a place where the kamikaze pilots first organized. I can't tell you how ... It's still, all these years later, it's very dark to me.

Tom Foy. Getting ahead of myself. A Bataan Death March survivor, Tom Foy, was in a camp not too far from Hiroshima. He told us that every day machine guns were pointed at the prisoners. He learned from the guards that when America landed troops on any part of the mainland, all the Allied prisoners would be exterminated without a trace. Indeed, this comment was substantiated by other researchers, and in my book.

Tom Foy, who was from Silver City, was elected to the House of Representatives, and served for 25 years. He happened to be on the latrine when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When he observed the flash of light from the atomic weapon, he believed that the Americans were invading Japan and that he was going to be killed that day. But he came home, and I helped him celebrate his 90th birthday in Silver City.

There he is in 1999 at the microphone with his buddy, Manuel Armijo. Manuel Armijo started in 1946 a ceremony that is held every year in Santa Fe. There is one also held in Albuquerque that is not on the 9th, but on the Saturday either before or after the 9th. The men who lost their lives protecting the Philippines and keeping Australia from Japanese invasion are honored by the governor or other elected officials. They take the American flag down, and they raise the white surrender flag, and it flaps in the breeze as the ceremony continues. It isn't very long, and the National Guard plays, and sometimes there's a bagpipe.

We do have a museum, which has been enlarged from just the collections of the Bataan Death March, but it's of other military artifacts and stories in Santa Fe. Come visit us.

Oops. There we go. Okay, chapter number two, or three, depending on my introduction. The Navajo code talkers. The Navajos who were code talkers said, "We're Marines first, then we are Americans, and then we are Navajo."

In my travels to Honolulu, I went to the Pacific Aviation Museum and was thrilled to find this map. It's painted on the floor of the museum. That's another way to preserve the history. There are airplanes hanging from the ceiling, and so there's space. I use this picture all the time in my talks. But it goes from Guam, Tinian, Saipan, and then up to Iwo Jima, where I visited, and all the way up to the Japanese mainland.

Now, this slide is going to be on for a little bit, because I have a lot to say. I'm showing mainly pictures of men sitting in a row because these pictures were taken by professional photographers, and it's very hard to get individual pictures because the people were not allowed, especially in the internment camps, to have cameras, or radios. Then of course, these are young men who were just beginning a new adventure.

They came from western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. They volunteered as US Marines, and were trained as radio men. They created the coded language used to communicate between ships, beaches, and front lines. The enemy could not decipher the messages, which were translated within minutes without mistakes. The ingenious code aided the plan of Chester W. Nimitz to secure the Pacific islands, called island hopping, from Guadalcanal to the Mariana Islands to Okinawa.

Ironically, Navajo children had been sent off to school to reduce their contact with their parents and their culture during the school year. Depending on which school they attended, they were punished for speaking their native tongue, Dine. Punishments varied, from their mouths being washed out with brown soap to one extreme experience of being chained to pipes in the basement of the school with only bread and water for several days.

But their military training in their boarding schools, as well as their upbringing on the reservation, would assist the demands on them as US Marines. While tending sheep on the reservation, they would learn to jump across the arroyos, zigzag around those juniper bushes, roll in the snow, and bathe in ice water. In the extreme heat of the sweat lodge, elders would teach meaning of life, tribal history, and how to live in harmony with nature. One code talker reminisced that his grandmother used to give him one bullet to go out and shoot a prairie dog for dinner.

Here's how the code within a code worked and came about. A World War I veteran living in Los Angeles after Pearl Harbor happened contacted the US Marine commander to suggest that Navajos could be useful as communicators with a coded form of their very difficult language. Although he was not a Navajo, he had grown up on the reservation, as his father owned a trading post. He was a World War I vet.

A test of four Navajo volunteers convinced the commanders at the US Marine base that they would be useful, and they ordered 200. But Washington said, "You can do 30." So while the New Mexico soldiers were experiencing their fate in the Philippines, Navajo recruits who could translate quickly between Dine and English were training in the Field Signal Battalion Training Center at Camp Pendleton. They learned morse code, semaphore flags, and blinker signals, and how to operate field radios. Afterwards, they were sent to Camp Elliott before being shipped out to the Pacific.

After completing basic training, the new Marines were told of their mission and given a few weeks to develop code. The first training platoon, as you see here, was the first all-Navajo platoon in the history of the corps. Locked in a barrack and given minimal instructions, they had to create 26 Dine words for the letters of the alphabet, and a lexicon of Dine words for untranslatable English words.

It made sense to them to memorize familiar words for military terms. They decided to name ships after fish, planes after birds, and land objects after animals. So egg, [Dine 00:26:17], became the Dine word for bomb. Iron fish, [Dine 00:26:21], became the Dine word for submarine. Chicken hawk, [Dine 00:26:26], became the Dine word for dive bomber. Potato, [Dine 00:26:31], became the Dine word for hand grenades.

No paper notes went out of the barracks at night. Some 211 military code words were invented and memorized. The code grew to 619 words by the end of World War II. The code book was developed only for the purpose of training, but was not taken overseas. Memorization was daunting, but the recruits were used to memorizing songs, prayers, and religious ceremonies as part of their culture. Their accurate memorization was essential while sending the coded messages from the battle line to the beach to the ships, so that the shipboard guns could be accurately aimed to avoid killing American troops.

I have a treat for you. Hasbro's G.I. Joe helps me teach how the code worked between the sender and the translator. Let's listen to the voice of Sam Billison, who translates seven commands for us. And we cross fingers that everything works. Push-

Sam Billison: [Dine 00:27:43] Request tank support. [Dine 00:27:51] Request air support. [Dine 00:27:57] Attacked by machine gun. [Dine 00:28:02] Hill 165 secured. [Dine 00:28:11] Request artillery support. [Dine 00:28:18] Request mortar fire. [Dine 00:28:23] Suribachi secured.

Nancy Bartlit: Now you know why they couldn't translate it.

Here's a treat. I use this to teach the alphabet. This is a mural in Gallup painted on the side of a building on 2nd Street. It's very difficult to take a picture, and so I had a professional photographer allow me to use this. You can see ... I'm going to teach you the symbols, the animals that were used to create the alphabet by splitting the mural in half.

What do you see?

Audience: A horse.

Nancy Bartlit: A horse. The Navajo word, the Dine word for horse is used for the letter H if you have to spell out a word. What else do you see?

Audience: [inaudible 00:29:25]

Nancy Bartlit: Excuse me?

Audience: [inaudible 00:29:28]

Nancy Bartlit: You see a fox. That's the letter F. What else?

Audience: [inaudible 00:29:36]

Nancy Bartlit: Deer, for D. Do you see a rabbit for R? Elk for E, T for turkey. When I teach this, I use an hour and a half, so I'm just giving you the highlights. What do you see there?

Audience: [inaudible 00:30:03]

Nancy Bartlit: A bear for B. Now, I have never found the ant. There's supposed to be an ant for A. Ute is for ... The man on the horse is a Ute. He's holding a quiver, which is a Q. Jackass for J, and on the far left, you'll see a yucca tree, which is for Y. And ice, there's an ice being held behind him. The one non-animal is Z for zinc.

That's why the Japanese could not break the code. The code within the code. Now, for your treat, I will have handouts at the break that will tell you these words, and then later as the war went on, they added two more words so that when you said A over and over and over, you didn't use the repeated word, and they became more sophisticated.

Just real quickly, these are young Navajos. Look how young they are. Some were 15, hadn't finished high school. Look at the equipment. Those radios they carried in front of them, with a loaded rifle. And these are three of the first 29, and the man on the right was the one who was chained to the pipes in the basement for using Dine.

The code and its use was kept secret until 1986, when the Pentagon reversed the decision. Code talkers who went back to school still could not use their language there or describe their experiences on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Rabaul, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, or Okinawa. A Code Talkers Association was begun in 1969, and their uniform for official events were the colors of the New Mexico flag, red and yellow.

Eventually, the senators from New Mexico and Arizona convinced the federal government to bestow a gold Congressional Medal for the first 29, and a silver one that looked just the same to those who followed. This is Sam Billison, who was the voice on the G.I. Joe, getting his silver medal, because he wasn't one of the first. But he was the former president of the Code Talkers Association. And those are relatives. This is what the medal looks like. You can see the men, the radio, like the picture I showed you.

In the battle for Iwo Jima, 800 messages were exchanged during a two-day period, with no mistakes. Major Howard Connor, signal officer of the 5th Marine Division in Iwo, stated, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."

I haven't explored all of the Museum of the Pacific, but I did not see anything about the code talkers yet, so I hope I see that tomorrow or today when we go to the museum, or I have a suggestion for Mr. Cartier.

Between 250 to 400 Navajo code talkers were trained as US corps, and grew from ... because the Marine divisions grew from two at the beginning of the war to six. Now there are very few code talkers left. One of the last ones died two weeks ago. He had had served in the New Mexico legislator as the longest-living senator, and one of his last things that happened to him after many years was getting a million dollars from the legislator and the governor to pledge for a museum for the code talkers to be in Arizona.

Now, the Santa Fe internment camp. We have a number of sessions today or tomorrow on the internment camps in Arkansas and Texas. I am really looking forward to those presentations, because I need to learn more about those places.

Go for broke. The 44th Regimental Combat Team, which was the young men who were drafted who were American citizens who fought in Europe, combined with the Hawaiian battalion, the 100th Battalion from Hawaii, and became the most highly decorated US fighting unit in Europe. Then several thousands of men and women who were from the camp became members of the Military Intelligence Service, and they were sent in the Pacific to help translate, and they fought. This knowledge is not very well known. Most people talk about the rounding up of the people of Japanese descent, but their military service is not necessarily well known.

These are the camps that I visited, the sites that I visited. Those in the red are camps for families, and those in the green are for men who are ... It's more of a internment camp, which is under the control of the US Immigration Service.

I bought this picture from the man on the right-hand side, who was in a Wyoming camp when he was a little boy. He was a professor of art at the University of Kansas. When we worked to get a marker for the Santa Fe internment camp, there was a lot of resistance in Santa Fe because they had lost so many men on the Bataan Death March, and there was confusion as who was in the camp. Was it Japanese POWs, or were they American citizens? There were never any Japanese POWs in the Santa Fe camp.

One of the things that created confusion was the loyalty question that was asked by the government to the Japanese families. Men over 17 years of age, will you fight for the United States? Will you give up your allegiance to the Emperor? This created tremendous havoc in the communities, and some men finally got annoyed with America and their treatment of them as citizens, that they said, "The hell with it, we want to go to Japan." Those men were brought over in the early '45 to the Santa Fe interment camp, and they created great dissension in the camp. They divided up these people in different barracks so they couldn't organize.

I think I'm pushing it too ... There it goes. This is another picture of the two camps. There were 10 camps for families, and then there were four internment camps that were for men who were considered enemy aliens by virtue of their profession or their role in the community.

I'm going to skip ahead. It was very difficult to get photographs. I had to go to Hawaii, to the Japanese Cultural Center, just to get more information, because Hawaiians were sent to the Santa Fe camp. This is overlooking the camp, which is facing the city of Santa Fe. The man on the horse is above, and that's where our marker is, because where the camp is now has been made into homes. It's a residential, private area.

But one of the things I found accidentally, and you historians will appreciate this. Ran into a friend at the swimming pool who said Abner Schreiber, who was our first county attorney, he's the man in the middle with the suit. He's next to the man with the pole. Abner was our first county attorney when Los Alamos became a county.

There were jobs within the camp, and they were filled by internees who had special skills. There weren't enough jobs to go around. The Geneva Convention controlled what happened in the Santa Fe camp, and so it was better run than others. Medical personnel, however, they had dentists and doctors, were hired. Orderlies came from the camp, but the nurses were not Japanese. Then the guards were ... There were a hundred guards who were just normal citizens hired for the camps. They didn't wear guns, they wore sticks. And when the ball is hit over the fence, the guard retrieves it for us.

I found ... This is a double. There it goes. The sumo wrestlers. This was just one of many activities. Hiking, golf, they had golf, were part of the things. And Bill Nishimura, who I'll tell you about, said that he could've gotten a college degree from taking classes from the older men who were academics. He was 22, about 22, when he as in the camp. All these people are from Hawaii, and the man in the middle with the hat is the former principal of a school, and his son to his right was visiting him in the camp.

Or someone came back from the war for a funeral. You can see here the vast number of ... Towards the end of the war, we had 2,100 men at a time. In all, there were 4,555 men who came and went.

Bill Nishimura brought his suitcase when we brought him for the dedication of the camp marker. This suitcase went to four camps. Can you imagine putting all your possessions in one suitcase? I came here for a few days with two suitcases. I don't know how they did it. They left things at home. But Bill is wonderful. He's still alive. He's in his mid-90s. His birthday is in June. Could you step back so the light hits? He gave me [inaudible 00:42:05] his father's laundry bag for me to bring to people like you when I give talks. His father went to [inaudible 00:42:17] His father went to seven camps during the war years. Then he came down. Both Bill and his father were sent to Crystal City in April of 1946, and they didn't leave for another year to go back to California. Please come up and look at the bag. I would ask you to do so. Can you fit all your stuff in that bag, for five, seven trips?

Ruth Hashimoto was a grande dame of Albuquerque. She was [inaudible 00:42:59]. She knew Japanese and English, and she taught the Army forces, the young men, in language school how to speak Japanese. This picture is from the family. The young, tall man in the back has come back from the occupation, and Reverend Yamada on the far right is Ruth's dad. He was one of the men on the afternoon of Pearl Harbor who was arrested, as he was in charge, the reverend of a service, his church service, and the FBI handcuffed him and took him out and brought him to Santa Fe.

Here's Bill and Joe Ando. Joe Ando was in Crystal City. He became a football hero in the high school, and his principal, who had fought in the Pacific, sent him to Texas A&M, I believe, and he became a Air Force major. But when his father died, he found all these papers and things in the closet. That's very typical.

Manhattan Engineer District. Sometimes it's the Manhattan Engineering District, but I chose to drop the I-N-G. This is the shoulder patch that was given after the end of the war, that shows the Army, and it shows also the atomic impact.

Now, I love this map. This map is on tile, and it's in the mausoleum in Manila the cemetery, honoring, these white crosses, honoring the men who were killed in World War II. But it was put up by women, I understand, financed this, and the rain and the weather will not destroy this map. If any of you are thinking of technology, of preserving the history.

I love this map because you can show the influence of the need for the Tinian Air Base and Guam and Saipan, and why the men that we lost fighting on Iwo Jima gave their lives for a good cause. I think it was 2,000 B-29s were rescued by landing on Iwo Jima, and that would've been 22,000 men in those planes.

If you were coming to Los Alamos because you were asked to come and you didn't know why and you didn't know where, this is what you would've seen coming up the hill, approaching the hill. You had to go through Santa Fe to get working orders. The reason Los Alamos was selected is because J. Robert Oppenheimer knew about the Boys Ranch. He had been sent from New York. He was sickly. He was sent out to the West to heal and get well, and he loved to ride around the area, and so he would ride up to Los Alamos. All the boys in the school had their own horses, and they wore Boy Scout uniforms, shorts, and knee-highs, and they slept outside on the screened-in porches, winter, summer, spring, and fall. Then they went to Ivy League schools when they graduated.

The Gadget is the plutonium bomb that was tested in southern New Mexico. Now, tomorrow morning you're going to hear from two people in the audience here who are going to talk about the Manhattan Project, and I don't want to steal their thunder. And I think Kris Kirby is here from the Manhattan Project National Historic Park. Not yet? I know she's supposed to come. So you'll be able to learn more about the park tomorrow.

But I'm showing that to you because this is my favorite picture. I was in Nagasaki and I got permission to take photos in the museum. I found it very ironic that these young Japanese students were totally oblivious to the impact of what was surrounding them. They were given blue books, if you will, to find different things in the museum. There are always Japanese children in the museums when you go.

It was my great joy last week to be in Dayton, Ohio, to visit Bockscar. I visited Enola Gay in Dulles Museum in Washington, D.C., but it's so surrounded and so crowded that you cannot really understand the immensity of a B-29. But in this museum, which Debbie says maybe some day there'll be a conference there, the plane has its own space, and you see the dimensions of Little Boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima, and Fat Man, that was dropped on Nagasaki, and the belly. We couldn't go look into the belly. Paul Tibbets came to the University of New Mexico to get help from the engineering department on how to modify those B-29s.

This is ... It's a little bit out of order, but this was the antinuclear, on the left, display, and on the right, the men that worked at the lab and the veterans put up a display about why the bomb was necessary. Part of that was because the antinuclear exhibit did not discuss any of the dying or the killing of the military prior to the atomic bomb. They just discussed the impact of the radiation from the atomic bomb, and that is not telling the whole story. That's telling part of the story, and not all of the true story. So the museum director gave space to the veterans to put up this display. The one on the right is still there. The exhibit on the left has been changed. I just ... Maybe we can have some discussion about what to put in the museum.

As a communications scholar, I learned long ago from studies at Yale that when you have both sides of the story, you get conversation, but if you only tell one side of the story, you get anger and frustration. In the comments in the ledger in the museum, maybe some of you might want to comment about that later.

Flying over to Tinian, the airfield on Tinian. Let's see, I'm skipping my notes so I make my time. You can see the impact of the Seabees building that airfield. That is from the coral on the island. I brought back sand from Iwo Jima and sand from Tinian. I usually give this out as a prize when I'm speaking, but I'd like to donate it to the museum or whoever would like to have it. I'll pass it around. It's the white coral. You can see the impact, that the jungle has not taken over these runways yet.

Yesterday I had my picture taken with Admiral Nimitz at the museum. In Los Alamos, you'll see all kinds of people standing next to Oppie and Groves. It took myself and others seven years to start the idea of having Oppie And Groves stand together like they were at ground zero in Alamogordo at the test site, and get approvals from the Art and Public Places board, the county council, finding the right sculptor, and paying for it and getting it dedicated. We had 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the dedication. But Dick Groves, who is the grandson of General Groves, who came over from Hong Kong, stood next to his grandfather, and I just noticed last night, he's holding the hand of his grandfather when we took that picture. So come get your picture taken with our beautiful statues. Even brides will bring their wedding parties up and have their pictures taken with the statues.

Now, I just have a few minutes left, and I wanted to spend more time on the surrender, as I brought up questions in the beginning. But there isn't time. But I don't want to miss this opportunity to encourage you, and maybe you as professionals know the story of what happened in Japan. It wasn't a done deal. The atomic bombs were just other cities that had been destroyed by our B-29s. They were expendable. It wasn't extraordinary like it was to the Westerners that this one city was destroyed by one bomb. There were 750 Superfortresses bombing four other cities on the same day, and the Japanese were still shooting back, and that wasn't why the war ended.

But you have to learn about the Japanese mind and why it happened, and so I recommend that you read the book Japan's Longest Day if you haven't, or check out the DVD. It's a two and a half hour black and white film, but you have to watch it two or three times. It's very, very intense, but it talks about how the coup, the army coup, was really because they thought the Emperor was tricked by the leaders when the surrender ... because of the samurai, the culture of dying to the death, which these young men were taught from early ages. The Japanese. And yes, this is based on Japanese historians interviewing leaders in the war situation, not long after the war.

I might say that film, Japan's Longest Day, was reissued in beautiful color, called The Emperor in August, in 2015, because the producer believed that the Japanese were not understanding the history accurately.

Oh, oh, I'm just ready to stop. When Carol and I were in the Hiroshima Museum, we saw the taiko drum. This drum is to honor ... I don't know whether honor or apologize is the right word, to the Koreans for the Japanese control of the Koreans who had to fight in their armies.

This is my last slide, Mary. Yes, this is really important for the Cold War people. The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a shrine that is for the souls of two and a half million Japanese warriors. There is a five or six floor exhibit of the history of the Japanese military, and you can watch pictures of the Japanese shooting down our planes, or bombing our ships, and their side of the story. But if the Prime Minister of Japan goes to the shrine on the 15th of August, any 15th of August, Asia shudders, because Asia teaches their young of what the Japanese cruelty was during World War II. It has impacted international relations and economics.

So I give this piece of advice, and I will end with a quote from Admiral Nimitz, who thought highly of World War I naval hero Admiral Togo. He says, "To all those patriotic Japanese who helped to restore the famous ship Mikasa, the flagship of Admiral Togo, your greatest naval officer, with best wishes from a great admirer and disciple." So he set the tone. America and Japan after the war, the economies were half of the economies and wealth of the world, and now it's a different story.

I have really enjoyed presenting and putting together this talk. I hope it's opened your eyes to some things. I hope that with the new state of science to preserve the history that you will teach me ... I'm sort of maybe in the past. Maybe some of these things, like bronze statues, are still important. But I really look forward to hearing your stories, and I wish this conference a high success. Thank you very much.

Speaker Bio

Nancy Bartlit, WWII historian, author, lecturer, and publisher, earned a BA in History from Smith College and a MA in International Communications from the University of New Mexico after she completed university studies on Japanese industry, technology, and language, including visits to Japanese research labs. She taught English in Sendai, Japan, thirteen years after WWII ended. In 2005, she co-authored Silent Voices of World War II. A past chair of the Los Alamos governing body and former president of the local Historical Society, Bartlit promoted a national park on the Manhattan Project, working with the Atomic Heritage Foundation and elected officials

Last updated: June 2, 2021