"Atomic veteran" recalls stint in Japan before Obama's visit

Published: May. 27, 2016 at 2:40 AM EDT|Updated: May. 27, 2016 at 1:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Larry Pressley knows first-hand the devastation the atomic bomb created.

In 1945, he was a 17-year-old Marine who fought his way across the Pacific Ocean and ended up part of the occupation force in Nagasaki, the second of two Japanese cities hit by American atom bombs.

"I've seen a lot of places that have been bombed, shelled," Pressley said, "but there was nothing like this. It was just a waste."

With President Obama visiting the city of Hiroshima and remembering the atomic bombing there, Pressley says also remember what the bombing was supposed to prevent: a massive U.S. ground invasion of Japan where he and his Second Marines division were supposed to be on the front line.

"We would've been blown out of the water," Pressley said. "The first five waves would have been totally eliminated."

And besides countless American deaths, the World War II veteran said such an invasion, along with massive conventional bombing, would have been even deadlier to the Japanese than the atomic bombs were.

"It would've been a slaughter and this is something that Truman made quite a decision there, to drop those two bombs," Pressley said. "And I certainly applaud him for having the guts to make it."

Today, Pressley is an "atomic veteran," on the lookout for health effects of his own exposure to radiation. He says the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are stark, but they are lessons for leaders of the future.

"We don't want to have any of them in there," Pressley said. "I don't want to see any destruction like that. That's different warfare."

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