April 10, 1941
The sakura had reached its peak bloom. A gentle breeze was blowing away the petals. All good things had to come to an end. Shiori was weeping softly, leaning on Hiro’s shoulders. They had been married only for a few months, and now it was time for him to leave, to serve the country.
“Don’t go!” she wanted to plead. She had been dreading this day all along.
From tomorrow, she would be all alone, sharing the memories of her past few months with him, waiting and praying for his safe return, just like the millions of wives around the world on whom the pangs of war had been imposed.
She would wait here, right under this sakura facing the Hiroshima castle by the Otagawa river. She would look up in the sky every time she heard a plane, wondering if her Hiro was in it. Gently wiping the tears in her eyes and brushing the cherry petals in her hair, Hiro kissed her. For a long time, neither of them spoke a word as they were locked in embrace.
In war, men became heroes, and mortals became legends. Heroes of one nation became villains of another. Hiro Namamura hailed from a family of warriors, and even as a child, knew that it was his destiny to serve the Imperial land. As the Sino-Japan war broke out, he had trained to become an Air force pilot and had become the best in his division. Imperial Japan was now expanding and was waging battles in different lands in the Pacific. It was now time to put his training to use for the glory of his nation.
The noise of the Isuzu engine interrupted their thoughts. The driver saluted him as Hiro got in, gently letting go of a pleading Shiori’s hand.
“I will return soon, Shiori, I promise,” he said, in a half-confident tone. She let her tears out uncontrollably as the vehicle sped past her, leaving only dust behind.
“How many days, weeks, months or years would it be before I see him again?” she thought."Oh, when will this terrible war end? How many more lives have to be lost before man's greed for power end? How many more wives and mothers will have to shed tears before the leaders' thirst for success is quenched?"
Washington D.C, United States
April 10, 1941
The cherry trees on the tidal basin were a gift from the Japanese to mark the growing friendship between the two nations a few decades ago. “How times have changed”, thought Jack Thornton sardonically as he walked past the cherry trees in full bloom overlooking the Washington Monument. With Imperial Japan siding with the Nazis in its quest for dominance in the Pacific, he thought that a threat to the Pacific coast of the United States was imminent, despite assurances by both governments to the contrary.
While Jack Thornton became one of the youngest doctorates with a PhD in Nuclear Physics from Columbia University, his brother Paul went on to serve in the U.S Navy and was stationed at the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
With speculations adrift that the United States would join the war any time, Jack too had enlisted his services and had joined his brother in the Navy, but much to his disappointment, he had been asked to report back to Washington instead.
“Please have a seat, Dr Thornton,” the secretary said, gesturing him to a room as he stepped inside the non-descript building a couple of blocks from Independence Avenue. “Dr Szilard will be with you in a moment.”
Dr Leo Szilard? He wondered. What was his research advisor from Columbia doing here?
The door soon opened and three men stepped in. He recognized his mentor Dr Leo Szilard, while another man with an English accent introduced himself as Dr Fleming. At the far right was a third person in a military uniform.
“Hello Jack! I understand you were at Pearl Harbor,” Dr Szilard smiled at him.
“Yes sir, I wanted to serve the country, but I was informed that they didn’t need my services.” Jack replied.
“Oh, Uncle Sam certainly needs your services son, but just not at the naval base,” the man in the military uniform said. Jack looked at him quizzically as the professors smiled and eyed him keenly.
“So Jack, Dr Szilard speaks very highly of you and of your paper about controlled nuclear chain reactions,” Dr Fleming spoke. “Tell me, do you think it is possible to build a device that would initiate such a mass nuclear chain reaction?”