I was comforting a friend the other day. Our conversation got me thinking of my father. Dad was born in 1925, and joined the Navy before he even turned 18. To join, he had to track down a wayward parent to sign his enlistment papers. His father being well hidden in the Idaho woods, he found his mother under the glowering, rain-soaked pines of Northern Oregon. His enlistment would take him to the Pacific Theater, where he would sail on fast, fragile PT boats and spend his time ashore climbing coconut palms.

Shig Murao should be a national hero. He sold Ginsberg’s “Howl” to an undercover cop and was arrested for obscenity. He was born in Seattle in 1926. He had a twin sister. Both were sent to Idaho during the war to hide their tan faces under blue pine. They huddled there all throughout the long winter of the early 1940s, released only by the radiant nuclear sun.

My father hated the internment. He said it was the greatest stain on our nations honor since the Confederacy. He defended the bombs, since they saved lives. Both of his comrades, stuck in torturous Japanese POW camps, but also the lives of GIs and Japanese soldiers and civilians. Downfall and Coronet would have seen millions slaughtered. Young men, ink still wet on their enlistment papers, blown up by grenades delivered by uncomprehending school children. Or young Japanese women shot down by scarred Marines because they couldn’t take the risk of what they hid beneath their kimonos. Two bright flashes and a few hundred thousand. That my father understood with his heavy, serious brow. But not the internment.

Shig was saved by a flash of judicial sanity. Nine minds, not justices but literary critics testified in his defense. Society was redeemed for angel headed hipsters and honest store clerks. After his time locked in Magic Valley, to again walk free down Broadway to the Embarcadero must have felt like victory over an implacable enemy.

After the war, my father worked with men who had been POWs. They’d known the death marches and the certainty that they would be executed. And yet one morning they awoke to empty guard towers and open gates. That bright, nuclear morning after the surrender.

I wonder what conversations my father and Shig could have had. A tepid Cold Warrior, who built a career out of mines and missile silos, and a radicalized book store clerk. I imagine them drinking coffee in the Sunset, looking out over the Pacific, quietly toasting Shig’s freedom as the nuclear sun sinks into the ocean.