1862 Versus 1945 – War Is War

1862 Versus 1945 – War Is War

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1862 versus 1945 – War is War
In reading both Whitman's "Civil War Diary" and Hachiya's "Hiroshima Diary" the suffering of humanity and the aftermath of war remain the same: the people suffer, the lands are destroyed and life is never the same.
Through daily entries in "Civil War Diary," Whitman virtually pens his thoughts as they occur, writing his vivid and heart wrenching observations. In "Hiroshima Diary," Hachiya's memories are similar to those of Whitman in the manner that they have affected his life and that of his fellow country-men. Despite over 80 years between the time of these writings, and the vast cultural differences between the two authors and their countries, the shock, the fear, and the sadness depicted were a direct parallel.
In "Hiroshima Diary" by Michihiko Hachiya, the author describes the wartime use of a "500 ton bomb" and later, upon learning that it was no such thing, refers to the atomic bomb as the "new weapon" used to destroy the city of Hiroshima. The Doctor's memoirs begin two days after the atom bomb was dropped – this because of his having been injured as a result of the event.
At the actual time of the dropping of the A-bomb, Doctor Hachiya was at home resting after a rough night at the nearby hospital where he held the position of Director and Attending Physician. The affects of the bomb sent the Doctor to his knees; then, upon looking out the window, he was taken aback by a strong light that quickly turned into an eerie, dark haze. This aftermath, as seen in his garden quickly spread to the interior of his home which was also severely damaged by the quaking of the earth. Within moments the doctor became a victim of this tragic event, quite the opposite of his normal role as a healer. He goes from the calming medical doctor to a patient bleeding and in panic over what might have happened to his beloved wife. Within moments of his fearful calling out, Doctor Hachiya locates his wife whose only ability is to gesture to him. Together they seek a way out of the shaking house before it collapses. Once into the street Doctor Hachiya becomes overwhelmed by weakness and is unable to continue on; he tells his wife to go on and try to get help.

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While the naked Doctor covered with blood and fallout debris, rests on the roadside, he watches people much like himself, as they aimlessly wander about in a state of shock. They too are without clothing or with mere tattered rags left on their bloody staggering bodies. There is but one question on every, staring face - what happened ?
As soon as his physical strength permitted, which was some two days later, we see Michihiko Hachiya go from the civilian victim back to his professional-self, the doctor. Doctor Hachiya returns to his hospital, immediately undertaking care of those in need of medical attention. In the diary entries that follow, Doctor Hachiya enters into, and records, various dialogues with his patients as to their memories as well as his own. Only through speaking with as many people as possible could he learn what each believed had happened; the newspapers and news media were not in existence due to the bombing. The only one thing that all seemed to agree was that a new weapon had been used to cause this devastation and destruction.
Doctor Hachiya's horrific memories come alive as he recalls walking through streets of rubble, tripping and falling along the way. He reflects upon having nearly tripped over a young officer's head, and relived the moment when he and his wife stood on the street in shock as they saw houses swaying and collapsing one by one. Still, it was the "unknown weapon" that left his city in ruins, his countrymen homeless and in despair. In the days that followed, symptoms of the injured and ailing were those of unknown diseases. It was clear to the medical staff that the new disease pattern and the symptoms seemed were clearly caused by the "new weapon".
In "Civil War Diary," Walt Whitman describes his experiences at a field hospital in Washington DC, while volunteering to care for the sick and wounded. Mr. Whitman, through various titled diary entries, writes about how he dealt with the injured soldiers from both the North and the South. He includes his personal reactions to the injuries seen, to his ability or inability to help the wounded, and often times expresses his frustration at seeing the perils of war.
In a diary entry entitled "Down At The Front," Mr. Whitman relates the horrors of having seen body parts lying on the ground, dead bodies of Rebel soldiers his age and younger. This segment is a parallel to the horror seen by Doctor Hachiya when looking down upon the young soldiers head.
Apart from the battleground and back in the hospital, Mr. Whitman visits the dying, offering to write letters to their families. He comforts those in need and talks wit those who are able to communicate. His objective, like that of Doctor Hachiya, is to do anything humanly possible to comfort those so grossly affected by the war.
In an entry entitled "Fifty Hours Left Wounded On The Field" Walt Whitman tells of a chance encounter with a Southerner who had been waiting among the crowded cots for some fifty hours without medical attention, except that offered by a secessionist man of middle age who administered first aid. The Rebel soldier had been passed over by his own troops who cared not what happed to him; they cared but for themselves. Had it not been for the secessionist and the medical attention received following the soon-called truce, the soldier would not have survived. Had it not been for Whitman's kindness and caring, the man would have continued in his solitude and fear.
In another touching entry, entitled "Two Brothers, One South, One North," Walt Whitman relates what the Civil War was really about. He tells of caring for a dying southern soldier and how, in fact, it mattered not whether the man was from the North or South. The man was a human being in need of medical care which was precisely what Walt Whitman had volunteered to provide. Once again, we see a parallel to Doctor Hachiya who provided medical care to anyone in need.
The events of a chance meeting take on a strange turn when, in another ward, Walt Whitman meets the Rebel soldier's brother who is also wounded and dying; the brother is a Yankee soldier. The quote that most summarizes this event is "Both fought on their respective sides, both badly wounded, and both brought together here after a separation of four years. Each dies for his cause." This meeting of "sides" is a prime example of how war has historically impacted upon families.
The fifth entry "The Real War Will Never Get In The Books" talks about the war being indescribable by words yet how a diary could capture much of the true story. War, as seen through the eyes of a soldier is not usually a welcomed topic of conversation. The depths of the tragic events of war go to the very core of one's being with the sadness remaining throughout life.
In comparing Whitman's "Civil War Diary" and Hachiya's "Hiroshima Diary" both depict the horrific aftermath of war and its everlasting negative effects on those who endured the sufferings. Be the diary one that is penned daily or one that is written on a delayed basis, the sadness is real and relived within each entry. The reality of war is seen through the eyes of the individual writer and from that person's prospective. Regardless, war remains war, best described by one word: horrific.
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