An American Life
Chapter 5. Invention, 1946 to 1958
INVENTION, 1946 TO 1958
There is no happy ending for returning veterans Fred Derry, Al Stephenson, and Homer Parrish. Captain Derry loses his marriage. Al can’t understand why his bank does not want to approve a loan without collateral. Homer loses his hands on an aircraft carrier. No one who ever sat in a darkened movie theater watching Homer picking out notes on a piano with his prosthetic hooks in The Best Years of Our Lives can believe that there ever was, or could ever be, the sense of an ending.1
As Henry Chauncey was resigning from Harvard, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin were meeting in the Soviet city of Yalta. Photos of the three leaders sitting on a sofa that looked as if it had once belonged to the Romanovs show stern-faced men who had secrets. Churchill had come to realize that he was losing control of his home government. Stalin now had control of Eastern Europe and was preparing to organize that part of the world as a communist state. And Roosevelt, sandwiched in the middle, had begun a project in the isolated town of Los Alamos on a gadget so devastating that the scientists who created it had begun voicing ethical concerns on its use.2 Yalta was the raw material for nightmares.
On May 8, 1945, the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Germany; on August 6 and 9, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and on...
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