I am standing on the 44th floor of the Tokyo Temporary Metropolitan Building in Tokyo, a beautiful city filled with friendly, well-dressed people.
It’s almost time for Edrie Royals, our tour group and me to board our magic carpet and fly away from the Orient, to our southland homes back in the states.
I look down at a direction map and spot Mt. Fugi. We had been there a few days before, and could only glimpse part of the top and the bottom; clouds obscured most of the mountain. Now I move closer to the large windows of one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. This panoramic view means a lot to me personally and puts me in mind of the one other time husband Willard and I had been to Japan, back in 1970. Our plane had landed a short time before and we were riding a bus, going to our hotel. We were on a bridge somewhere over Yokohama Harbor, when microphone in hand, a young tour guide scolded Americans for dropping the atomic bomb.
With his words, tears streamed down my husband’s face. I wanted to stand up, snatch the microphone, and say, “I wish they had dropped it before May 24, 1945. This man who sits beside me, his brother Bobby Boggan’s plane was shot down on that date. Right here, where we’re riding. He helped save the world.”
But of course I didn’t. Sometimes I feel like we’re in a far country from those times and I am well aware that there are differing thoughts and feelings about the atomic bomb. It was a personal feeling within me at that time and even down to this day. Please forgive me if I offend anyone, I try not to stir the pot. For one thing, I don’t seem to have answers for so much of what seems to trouble and perplex each and all of us in so many ways.
But now, 72 years later, I still salute those young men. Sadly memories of World War II and those selfless heroes are fading. They came of age right ahead of me and I do agree with what Tom Brokaw said, they were “The Greatest Generation.” They expected to do what they could to get rid of the bad guys, then go home, and get on with their lives. Bobby and so many others didn’t have that chance.
I wish you could have made it home, Bobby Boggan. You never saw your newborn daughter and I never had the honor of meeting you.
But of course, riding on a bus back then in 1970 in Japan, I didn’t stand up and speak out to a tour guide. War is hell, and it’s hard to determine so much of what is right and wrong.
Now, years later, on this April day, standing on an observation deck in Tokyo, I look around. Not at the scurrying chopped people and cars below, but across an expanse of Yokohama Harbor, on toward Mt. Fuji. Beyond at the land where I have been told some of the Kamikaze factories were.
Today, Mt. Fuji is socked in with clouds, which is not unusual. But, hanging in my living room back home I have a rare photo, a clear shot of Mt. Fuji.
This was taken by Bobby Boggan with his Brownie camera from the cockpit on his B-29, on a flight shortly before his plane was shot down.
Bobby had already written home, “I don’t think I’ll make it back.” He was on his seventh mission, a low-level bombing of the kamikaze factories. That night a strike force of 520 planes dropped 3,646 tons of incendiary targeting the kamikaze factories. The weather was poor, the target area almost entirely obscured by low clouds, probing searchlights, blinding smoke and heavy flak. Night fighters dove in from every quarter, frequently hidden from the B-29 gunners by the glare of searchlights. Thousands of guns blasted the sky. The raiders lost 17 planes that night. Bobby’s plane was hit.
The B-29 was too badly damaged to continue on, its crew was ordered to bail out. The plane which had been hit over water, just made it across to the land.
The crewmen were able to parachute out, they saw the plane crash and burn, then they were captured. But the bombardier, navigator, pilot, and co-pilot, Bobby Boggan had to crawl through a metal tube to reach the bomb bay doors before they could parachute to safety. They didn’t make it. The four of them went down with their plane on May 24, 1945.
‘We live in fame, go down in flame.’
“We owe you and others our freedom, Bobby Boggan,” I said out loud, in a broken, humble voice. “How much is taken for granted.”
This is a goodbye. No Bible in my pocket, no glass of wine or sake’ with me, but I tap my heart. With tears streaming I raised my hand and gave a silent thanks that I was close as I would ever be to the spot between Yokohama Harbor and Mt. Fuji, where Lt. Robert Thomas Boggan, was shot down.
I clasp my hands in prayer.