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 changed."
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 operations.
What were Giddings recollections of V-E Day?
"None. I was busy fighting the Japs on Okinawa."
"What are your recollections of the atom bomb and VJ Day?"
"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 academic credentials.
"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."
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region