Ed Semik, 93, was a soldier in the U.S. Army in 1945 awaiting the imminent invasion of Japan when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, thus diverting his deployment to South Korea. Simek credits the dropping of the atomic bombs forcing Japan to surrender for saving his life and countless other Americans.

Ed Simek was sailing across the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 6, 1945, when he learned the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. 

Historians will continue to debate whether it was a good choice, but, at least for that day, Simek was grateful.

"The atomic bomb saved my life," he said.

The U.S. Army was amassing troops to invade Japan, just as had been done in Europe on D-Day. He was intended for the front lines.

"It wasn't a good feeling," he recalled of riding the ship. "I'm sure I would've been one of the first."

Simek was in Okinawa, awaiting his turn to fight in Japan, when the U.S. dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Japan surrendered.

"What a joyous time it was for us," said Simek, now 93. "We were overwhelmed with happiness."

Instead of marching into Japan, Simek was deployed to South Korea, where he worked as a radio operator for two years. He transmitted messages about refugees traversing the country. Set up atop a hill, he and five other radio operators used a three-quarter ton Dodge pickup to power the equipment. 

In February 1947, he returned to Minnesota and married his sweetheart, Genevieve. 

He translated the skills he learned in the Army into a career in radio and television back home. He attended radio school in Minneapolis with help from the GI bill. Then he moved to Devils Lake to work at KLDR radio. In 1957, he moved to Bismarck to work at Meyer Broadcasting, which became KFYR-TV.

"I'm grateful to the government for giving me the education they promised," Simek said.

After he retired in 1991, he worked with Meals on Wheels for the next 24.5 years, becoming the local organization's longest-serving and oldest driver. 

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It has been hard for Simek to watch the country become involved in more wars shortly after the big victories in Germany and Japan.

"We thought, surely, now we're going to have peace forever. But it wasn't to be. Shortly thereafter, we got into the Korean War and Vietnam," he said. "It tears a veteran's heart apart that we worked so hard to have peace, and now it's all coming apart. And it will never be the same."

Reflecting back on the atomic bomb today, Simek acknowledges the considerable harm done, but contends that it may have been worth it as thousands of Americans and Japanese were saved, he said.

But he's not sure if the atomic bomb would work as well today, given the recent turbulence and smaller factions in conflict with one another.

"Today is even more unsettled than at the time the bomb was developed," Simek said. "A simple mistake by one could be a tragedy for the whole world."

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Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com