"I don’t know if General MacArthur would have said anything like this if he were sitting here now, but I tell you we would have lost that war if we had had to go to Japan," said Winston Kilgo, an Air Force staff sergeant in World War II.
Warren Jones, who served in Europe as a staff sergeant, knew what was coming after Germany surrendered.
"When VE day (victory in Europe day) came, we were already training to go to the Pacific," he said.
The war in the Pacific began in 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base unknown to many local vets. The final hours of the war began playing out after the United States used a weapon no one had ever heard of — the atomic bomb.
“I was asleep and a fellow came to my tent and said, ‘Cadenhead, get up, get up, and come to the radio tent.’ I said, ‘For what?’ And then he told me that we have a bomb that’s as strong as a trainload of TNT," said Alton Cadenhead, a Marine corporal in the war. "I thought he was drunk. He said no and I went to the radio tent and all I heard was a-squawking and a-squeaking, and our company commander came to the tent door and said, ‘Boys, it may be over.’ ”
The news sent shockwaves through the soldiers, who didn’t exactly know what to think.
"We have just learned a new word and that word is atomic bomb," Cadenhead recalls. "We have dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, and it has destroyed an entire city."
At first, a lot of soldiers had no clue what to think or even be able to comprehend exactly what had happened.
"An 18-year-old kid didn’t know what an atomic bomb was," said Bob Bennett. "A lot of people didn’t."
The news spread rapidly and was met with much celebration from soldiers who were still preparing to invade Japan.
"The war might still be going on if it hadn’t been for the atomic bomb," Bill Fricks said. "It saved hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives. Not only for our side but also for the Japanese, and it stopped the war."
The news spread rapidly and throughout the Pacific, the United States and Europe soldiers training for the possible invasion rejoiced that the war might be over.
"We were getting ready to go to Japan and when we found out they dropped that bomb on Japan. Everybody in the base was jumping up and down and hollering," said Willie Turner, who was an Army cook during the war.
Bill Fricks was en route from Iwo Jima to Okinawa when the boat he was on got the news.
"We were on a small landing craft when we heard about the bomb," he said. "We didn’t have any champagne on the boat, but the captain put a big galvanized tub on the top deck and got some grapefruit juice and gave everybody a dipper."
And for at least one local veteran, the enormity of the news finally hit home.
Cadenhead said, "We had a series of coconut logs on the ground that we sat on for briefings and things. I just sat down on one of those logs and started crying. A fellow came up to me and asked me why I was crying and I said, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ ”