Somewhere in a marsh in Oregon, I shot this photo of a “flower”. I don’t know for sure what kind of plant this is/was, but because it was purple, I liked it! My first reaction was that it might be related to the Canadian thistle that I grew to despise when I was a kid in Iowa, but then I am pretty sure this plant wasn’t related at all. But in Iowa, those Canadian thistles were everywhere…and when they grew in a field of crops, they – and other unwanted weeds – needed to be removed from the field or they’d tend to take over.
So, since that was before the time of selective poisons that would just target certain types of plants while leaving others “unharmed”, every Iowa farm kid knew what it meant to “walk beans” or “walk corn”.
Usually in the early morning, a group of folk (mostly kids who wanted work and needed money) would line up at one end of a field with a how or machete in hand. You started walking down between two rows of soybeans or corn and when you encountered a weed, you’ll cut it down with the machete or hoe. It was hot, dirty work. You’d walk from one end of the field to the other, then position yourself between two more rows and walk back the other way until the entire field had been “walked”.
By mid-day it would be very hot and humid. You’d sweat profusely. And the dust from black Iowan soil that had settled on the leaves of the plants clung to your arms and your soaked-through shirt. Not a pretty sight.
Looking back on it now, it has a certain nostalgic charm to it, but at the time we hated it.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, the second atom bomb ever used in history was dropped on Japan by the United States, at Nagasaki, resulting finally in Japan’s unconditional surrender.
The devastation wrought at Hiroshima a few days earlier was not sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender. The United States had already planned to drop their second atom bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” on August 11 in the event of such recalcitrance, but bad weather expected for that day pushed the date up to August 9th. So at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its usual commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 1,650 feet above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).
General Leslie R. Groves, the man responsible for organizing the Manhattan Project, which solved the problem of producing and delivering the nuclear explosion, estimated that another atom bomb would be ready to use against Japan by August 17 or 18—but it was not necessary. Even though the War Council still remained divided (“It is far too early to say that the war is lost,” opined the Minister of War), Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared that “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, there are more than 73,000 Americans still unaccounted for.