Preparations for a Solemn Remembrance

Friday’s Wall Street Journal marked the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend with a large photo under the above title. The picture is placed prominently on the front page above the fold. It’s an image of a lone U.S. Army soldier in fatigues placing small American flags at the graves of soldiers who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There are 79 uniformly aligned, white headstones surrounding the soldier in the photograph, but what you don’t see is that the remains of more than 400,000 individuals are buried at Arlington.

Arlington Cemetary - Memorial Day

Photo: NBC News

Arlington also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days per year by volunteer members of 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, in full dress uniform carrying M-14 rifles. The Tomb has been in place since 1932, built from seven pieces of Colorado marble weighing 79 tons.

The tomb has the following words inscribed upon it:

“Here rests in honored glory An American Soldier Known but to God.”

The 24-hour vigil honoring America’s unknown fighting men and women is provided by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, traditionally known as “The Old Guard,” which is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving our nation since 1784.

The Origins of Memorial Day

The State of Virginia, home to Arlington National Cemetery, gives the origination and brief history of the holiday honoring America’s slain war veterans as follows: “Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established “Decoration Day” as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

“The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

“It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.”

Why Did the U.S. Use the Atomic Bomb against Japan?

As horrific as the images are from the aftermath of Hiroshima, the decision to use two nuclear weapons, a decision that was made in 1945 by then President Harry Truman, succeeded in causing Japan to surrender, where a fire-bombing campaign of the city of Tokyo had not.

But the bomb dropped on Hiroshima did not result in its surrender. A second bomb dropped on the city of Nagasaki three days later did cause Japan to surrender, putting an end to the hostilities that had been initiated by Japan itself four years earlier when it initiated a surprise air attack against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941.

Estimates of the Hiroshima death toll have ranged from 60,000 to 200,000 in the decades after the bomb was dropped. The remaining alternative solution to bring about the surrender of Japan and end the war was a full on invasion of Japan, which some analysts estimate would have cost more than one million lives on both sides.

President Obama’s Remarks at Hiroshima May 27, 2016

Earlier today, President Obama visited the Hiroshima memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, the first visit there by a sitting U.S. president.

His remarks this morning referenced the U.S.’s decision to use an atomic bomb against Japan in early August 1945.

“…since that fateful day…the United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

“…among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

“We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly materials from fanatics.

“… We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.”

Memorial Day is a day to remember the past and honor the soldiers, known and unknown, who died with honor defending freedom under the American flag.

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