"With Those Words My Life Was Forever Changed,"
W.W.II. Reminiscence of a U.S. Army Colonel (Retired)
December 10, 1994
Interviewer: Jonathan Held
Ralph Giddings, the son of a Fort Collins farmer, was
a design engineer in St. Paul, Minnesota, in l941. On
that December 7th Sunday, he went to church and then
picked up his fiancee to discuss plans for their wedding.
Concerts of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra were
broadcast on Sunday afternoon, and Ralph turned the radio
on early, but hearing something about the Japanese and
Pearl Harbor, thought it was a regular news broadcast and
switched the radio off. "So I had 30 minutes more of
peace." When he turned the radio back on, instead of
beautiful music, he and his fiancee learned the orchestra
broadcast would be interrupted "to bring you any
further news of the Japanese attack at Pearl
Harbor." "With those words my life was forever
The company Giddings worked for made
revolving cranes for ship yards and tried to get Ralph a
military deferral, but it was denied. Giddings held a
commission as a Lieutenant. Having graduated from
Colorado State College of A&M Arts and its ROTC
program. In January of 1942, he was called to active duty
and found himself back in his home town teaching in the
ROTC program. In the spring of 1943, the ROTC program was
suspended for the duration and became ASTP (Army
Specialized Training Program) and later STAR (Selection,
Testing, and Reassignment.) Giddings was a company
commander and continued to teach classes to occupy the
men's time through their usually week-long programs in
which promising draftees were tested to be reassigned for
special training. The draftees arrived at the old
Colorado & Southern Depot on LaPorte street and were
marched to campus where the men were assigned to one of
two companies. Company "A" was housed in the
old gymnasium on College Avenue, which was stacked with
double deck bunks. Company "B," which Giddings
commanded, was housed in Johnson Hall. When the ASTP
program here was terminated, Giddings was sent to Ft.
Sill, Oklahoma, and eventually to the Pacific Theater of
What were Giddings recollections of V-E Day?
"None. I was busy fighting the Japs on
"What are your recollections of the atom bomb and
"Many and vivid. I was in a station hospital on
Saipan recovering from wounds I had received on Okinawa
when I heard the report on Armed Forces Radio of the
dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. . . Much has
been written, in the wisdom of hindsight, mostly by
liberal intellectuals who were not there, about
Hiroshima." Here Giddings sited his own considerable
"Let me, therefore, record what my feelings, and
what the feelings of the others in that hospital ward
were, that day. We were all scheduled to return to our
units as soon as we could be sufficiently patched up. . .
we would be sent back to our units as soon as possible.
Everyone knew that the next invasion would be the
Japanese home islands, and we knew that most of us would
not survive that battle. We had all seen friends and
comrades killed and worse. There are worse things than
dying. Our lives had been spared from a clear and present
danger. The feeling of relief that went through me, and
the other officers in that ward that day, is
indescribable. It was a feeling of such infinite relief
that it is hard to imagine today, even for me.
It has been argued that Japan was already beat, and
that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were
unnecessary. But those who argue that were not there.
They are not willing to understand the Jap ethos. . .
Militarily, Japan actually lost the war at the Battle of
Midway in June of 1942, but it took three more years of
war and hundreds of thousands of deaths, both American
and Japanese, to convince them. Surrender was impossible
in the Samurai tradition in which (they) were imbued. . .
prisoners treated in American hospitals would rip their
bandages off, because it was a disgrace to be treated
kindly by an enemy. . . . we killed more Japs on Okinawa
than we did at Hiroshima, not to mention the American
lives lost there. And that loss would have been dwarfed
by the losses, both American and Japanese, that would
have resulted from an attack on the Japanese home
islands. I do not believe that I would be alive today had
the atomic bomb not been used."