War and No Peace

Nuclear war.  The words that fill our hearts with dread and send chills down our backs are being spoken far too nonchalantly these days.  By people who should know better but refuse to step down, and by those who understand far too little but refuse to admit it.

I wrote about this several years ago when Lawrence Johnston died.  He was one of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project in White Sands, New Mexico, and helped develop the atomic bomb in 1945.  The bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima and led to the  Japanese surrender. The one that hastened the end of the war in the Pacific, but opened the door to the Atomic Age of catastrophic warfare.

According to his obituary, Dr. Johnston was one of the last survivors of the 49 scientists who had gathered near a squash court at the University of Chicago’s abandoned Stagg Field and witnessed history when Chicago Pile 1, the world’s first nuclear reactor, went critical.

I didn’t know Dr. Johnston. I’d never even heard his name.  But I did know Dr. Roger Voskuyl who had also worked on the Manhattan Project. He was president of Westmont College when I attended there.  When I was first dreaming of one day becoming an honest-to-goodness writer. For my first serious article, I interviewed Dr. Voskuyl about his part in the project.

Not long ago, I read about the pilot of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped that first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The young lieutenant colonel, Paul Tibbets, watched in shock as a horrible boiling mushroom cloud enshrouded the city of Hiroshima. Afterward he wrote these words in his journal: My God, what have we done?

That was what I wanted to know when I interviewed Dr. Voskuyl. The question I posed to him was this:  “If you had known then what that bomb would lead to, would you still have been a part of it?”

When I interviewed that dignified, white-haired man, he took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped at the tears that filled his eyes.

“I did know,” he said.  “We all knew. But what choice did we have?”

I never wrote the article.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

~Song lyrics by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson~


About kaystrom

Kay Marshall Strom, who am I? Well, I’m a traveler, a railer against social injustice, a passionate citizen of the world. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a 21st century abolitionist who speaks out against slavery of all kinds. I am a beach walker and a gardener and the off-key singer of songs. I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Most people, though, know me as a writer and a speaker. So here is a bit more about that part of my life: Of my 43 published books, eight have been book club selections, seventeen have been translated into foreign languages, and two have been optioned for movies. My writing credits include numerous magazine articles, books for children, short stories, television scripts and two prize-winning screenplays. Along with my husband Dan, I also have produced a series of booklets for writers. My writing has appeared in a number of volumes including three versions of the NIV Devotional Bible and the devotional book My Heart, Christ’s Home, Through the Year. I love to write, and I love to share about topics close to my heart. I speak at seminars, retreats, writer’s conferences, and special events throughout the country. And because I do enjoy travel, I even speak on cruise ships! More and more my writing and speaking are drawing me to countries and cultures around the world. Because I don’t see how a writer can really reflect another people and land without spending time there, I’ve been trekking through India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sudan, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, tape recorder and camera in hand, to gather stories from the world-wide family of God and to speak on their behalf. I’ve traveled to the hard places of the world to tell “the rest of the story” of our donor dollars at work. Thanks to my “virtual friendship” with 17th century John Newton, slave ship captain turned preacher, I traveled through Ireland with the preview team of the movie Amazing Grace (John wrote the hymn). I recently spoke in Japan and South Korea, and my husband Dan and I taught writing classes in India. And, oh, how thankful I am for every bit of it! I went to West Africa to work on a non-fiction book, but when I toured an old slave fortress off the coast and saw a tiny set of baby manacles bolted to the wall, I was struck dumb. All I could think was: “How could good, God-fearing people ever get to the place where they think that is okay?” From that horror came a story question, and from that question, my foray into fiction: The Grace in Africa trilogy. My seven trips to India led to the Blessings in India fiction trilogy. Come join me as I travel and rail against injustice. Join me as I walk along the beach, or work in the garden, or warble a tune. Be my friend. Maybe you will choose to also be a 21st century abolitionist.
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