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Thank a WWII veteran

One wonders how many Americans know the significance of last Wednesday. It is the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan, or V-J Day — and the end of the most horrific conflict the world has ever seen.

Though Japan’s surrender was announced on Aug. 14, 1945, the official observance in this country was set at Sept. 2. It was that day that Japanese and Allied dignitaries signed documents that officially ended the hostilities.

For many years, V-J Day has been an occasion for soul-searching among many Americans. Some contend the United States never should have used atomic bombs on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Few veterans of World War II seem to agree with that. They understand that had the bombs not been dropped, there was a very high probability they might have to invade Japan.

U.S. military planners had studied how that might occur. They estimated it would cost the lives of as many as 800,000 Americans. The lowest estimate as 400,000.

In addition, it was known that Japanese officials had prepared their population for fierce resistance to an invasion. It was estimated that had Allied forces landed in Japan, between five million and ten million Japanese would have perished.

But the debate will go on, perhaps for hundreds of years.

In contrast, our opportunities to thank the brave men and women who fought in World War II are limited.

More than 16 million of them were in the military during the war. Now, it is estimated fewer than 300,000 of them remain among us. Read the obituary pages of this newspaper for a few weeks. Chances are you will note the passing of more World War II veterans.

They are in their 90s or even older now — and many of them alone in that no one around them recognizes the terrible sacrifices they made and the horrors they witnessed and often endured.

It behooves all of us to express our heartfelt gratitude to them once again. Thanks to them, after all, we can debate the decisions made in 1945.

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