By William S. Emes, Jr.
Special to the Herald
As we know, on Aug. 6, 1945 at 8:15 – 43 seconds a.m. local time, an atomic bomb was detonated in the atmosphere as a weapon. Hiroshima, a city in the Imperial Nation of Japan, was destroyed at the command of an American president. In truth, I myself would have given that order. I also am certain that Lieutenant Col. Joseph Bruggman would have given that order in a different manner. He would have had the great fear that mankind would not comprehend that any light man might create shows nothing. At that moment, he would have had the courage to hope that we would find a better path to travel in order to create a better world.
Like many soldiers, Joe knew war for what it was. On June 19, 1944, a single Japanese airman piloted his plane through the best antiaircraft defense that the United States Navy could muster. His nation’s bomb directly hit the USS South Dakota. If the pilot had had a larger bomb, he would have sunk the flagship of our largest class of battleships. The pilot flew away to fight another day. Joe’s brother, Alfred, and 22 other sailors were killed. Twenty-four more sailors were injured. Joe’s mother was notified by telephone. Joe and his squadron fought on in North Africa. Many of our airmen died in training over our country before they reached the battlefield. Many of the airmen had less time in our warplanes than today’s high school students have in a car before they receive their driver’s license. Joe once made certain that one of his pilots was awarded a medal for successfully landing a crippled B26 bomber. When Joe died, he had a pair of binoculars in a worn out leather case beside him. I’m given to wondering if every safe landing his squadron made might have had something to do with Joe standing by. He was an intelligence officer and it was his duty to determine which bombing technique was most effective. I’m sure that Joe personally felt that bombing had nothing to do with a true victory.
Joe punctuated his comments about war by remarking that General Robert E. Lee somehow felt it was reasonable to apologize for the slaughter that he has caused at Gettysburg. He was dismayed that we don’t understand that we have never created the world we want and that we are always at war. He was given to saying that, “We are still throwing rocks at each other.”
Lt. Col. Joseph Bruggman was awarded his doctorate in music by our Supreme Commander (Ret.) Dwight Eisenhower at Columbia University. Dr. Bruggman went on to become a college instructor and a deacon in his life. Our armies will not lead us to a true peace simply because we have the most powerful bomb or clever technology. The most powerful light man can kindle does not provide the comfort and warmth we desire.
Bruggman was a resident of Benicia at Benicia Angel’s Home for the last several years of his life. He was born on Aug. 27, 1917 and left us July 27.
Joe always saw life as it was and had the courage to hope that we could create a better world. I believe that he always saw himself as a soldier whose weapons were integrity and hope. I want to be that sort of soldier.
William S. Emes, Jr. is a Benicia resident.