Veteran’s Story | Witnessing the devastation in Hiroshima after the bomb that ended WWII via Mansfield News Journal

Veteran: Harold Baughman, age 93

Branch: United States Army

Service period: Jan. 2, 1945, to Nov. 26, 1946

“They were getting ready for the invasion of Japan; they loaded us up on LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) and we were heading north. Then (President) Harry Truman dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and they (Japan) quit.”

A then 21-year-old Harold Baughman and the rest of the Allied forces scheduled to invade Japan had narrowly avoided what would have been one of the deadliest invasions in the history of warfare. United States War Department studies in 1945 estimated the number of Allied casualties would be between 1.7 to four million, with a forecast of anywhere between 400,000 to 800,000 combat deaths.


While in the Philippine Islands, the young soldier took on a new military specialty. “I got there and they said, ‘We’ve got enough infantry. You’re going to be an artilleryman.’ I didn’t know anything about artillery but they trained us on those big 105 (millimeter) guns. When we fired those, the (carriage) wheels would jump right up off the ground.”

Training then took an ominous turn. “We did a lot of hand-to-hand combat training and bayonet training. They knew if we went into Japan we’d be fighting everyone, including women and children. They all would have fought us because we’d be in their home country.”

The two atomic weapons used at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, however, brought the Japanese empire to its knees and the invasion was averted. “We sailed ‘Big Mo’ (the battleship U.S.S. Missouri) right into Tokyo Bay and they signed the surrender documents on her decks.”

Baughman remained in Japan as part of the occupation army and was transferred to the 3147th Signal Brigade maintenance company. “I strung a lot of (telephone) wire high up on those poles. They were big poles, I’ll tell you.” He was also witness to devastation caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. “Me and some other guys took a truck and drove through parts of the city. It was terrible. There would be walls up to about 3 feet high and then it looked like someone had just chopped them off. There were big marbles of melted glass in the streets. The people had it rough, too. I saw children eating out of garbage cans. It was tragic.”

Read more at Veteran’s Story | Witnessing the devastation in Hiroshima after the bomb that ended WWII

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