Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945

For reasons that I don't quite understand, this year I am coming across a lot of references to Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945, the first use of the atomic bomb. Because of my early awareness of this event, being the moldy old peace-nik that I am, I have watched this day pass unnoticed for decades. In the past, it has not been on the radar of any but the most obscure edges of society, but I am starting this post a week in advance. There are so many articles available that I have decided to compile a primer rather than try to come up with anything original. I doubt that anything I have to say will add to what is already being published, so here is my list.

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From a column in The Independent, David McNeill, 31 July, quoting a survivor...

"I lost all my hair. My face was so awful I hid for a long time. If I had been alone I probably would have killed myself but my mother was there every day taking care of me, even though she was sick herself. I stayed alive for her." Her mother died in 1979. When they cremated her body they found shards of glass in the ashes, so deeply had they been embedded from the force of the bomb.
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3 Quarks has a first-person account of a visit to Trinity Site in New Mexico where the first prototype was finally tested.
...What were people's reactions like when they heard the news, I ask.
“Most people felt ‘gee, that's great, they used the bomb and a few days later the Japanese surrendered,'” he says. “Everyone had been worried considerably that we were going to have to invade Japanese islands and millions of our guys would probably get killed, and millions of Japanese.”
But did people know that the bomb was dropped on civilian centers? How did they feel about that?
Benjamin shrugs. “Everybody was elated as far as I could tell,” he says. I take a moment to let this sink in, and then I decide to drop it. We move on and he begins to describe in detail for me the specifics of the blast.
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It was that radiation that made this weapon different from any used before. Many pregnant women exposed to the Bomb later miscarried, or gave birth to severely handicapped children. For the first time in history, a generation was harmed by a weapon used before it was even born.
For years after the Bomb was dropped, the people of Hiroshima developed illnesses from radiation exposure. One of them was Sadako Sasaki, an infant on August 6, 1945 who grew up normally but eventually developed radiation-related leukemia.
The Children's Monument in Peace Park is dedicated to all young people caught in the Hiroshima bomb. It was erected in 1958 when school children throughout Japan were inspired to raise funds to create a memorial to Sadako, who died in 1955, aged 12.
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I began this post last week because I was seeing more references to Hiroshima this year than in years past. I don't know what is different about this year. Perhaps the war in Iraq is part of it. Or what seems to be a outbreak of terrorism in the world -- most recently in Israel itself, perennial target that it is -- by a crazed Jew who was instantly called "terrorist" (using that word) and lynched on the spot. The Anchoress pointed to a source this morning that suggests that Iraq may be approaching a tipping point, whatever that means. I hope it means that the US is finally going to leave that civil war and allow the adversaries to work out their own salvation without adding to their fear and trembling.
As the week wore on I decided to quit looking for references to blog. I noticed that for every reference to Hiroshima intended to prompt reflection and reassessment, there was a quick and sometimes sarcastic rejoinder by someone who seemed fearful that looking too closely at that chapter of our history we might risk becoming wimpy or overly touchy-feely. We can't have that, you know, when we are trying to "win" a war. Two talk-radio hosts I heard were already getting defensive. So were a couple of published sources. So all I can do on this sad day of remembrance is send up a prayer that in time, maybe even within my lifetime but not likely, rational people everywhere can tackle and control, once and for all, the challenge of nuclear weapons.
Because there are mad people in the world there will continue to be nuclear weapons, just as there are torture, terrorism, plans for "dirty bombs," nerve gas and biological weapons. But civilized man's best defense against those evils lies not in a race to out-perform each of them in their own genre, but to marginalize their use by making them so reprehensible to most people that they can no longer be effective.
I am reminded of another of Dan Schorr's comments a couple of weeks ago when the IRA announced (again) that they were abandoning terrorism as a tactic. This was soon after the London tubes affair. He said that the leaders of the IRA may have looked around and decided that current events were "giving terrorism a bad name."
As we remember Hiroshima on this day I would like to see nuclear weapons given a bad name.


Anonymous said...

John, your quick to defend Imperial Japan during WWII, yet you never mention the atrocities that they commited in China and the Phillipines or the execution of American prisoners of war. I know that your liberal, but please try to be a little bit more compassionate of your fellow Americans and do study up on your world history.

Hoots said...

As I said...
I noticed that for every reference to Hiroshima intended to prompt reflection and reassessment, there was a quick and sometimes sarcastic rejoinder by someone who seemed fearful that looking too closely at that chapter of our history we might risk becoming wimpy or overly touchy-feely.
I rest my case.

vietnamcatfish said...

I may as well enter the fray. The importance of Hiroshima Day is being bandied about, imho, because it's more U.S. bashing. I often read back in the day that the Japanese would never have surrendered, so it took dropping the bomb to stop the war. Recently, I read where Harry Truman and his think-tank of advisors knew the Japenese were planning to surrender 4 days before the bomb was dropped. But went ahead with their plans anyway. Crazy world, eh? As Rodney King once espoused: "Why can't we all just get along?" Ain't gonna happen. We can't even get along with our family and friends, much less the World. In my new environs I am privy to viewing multi-culturalism every day. This explosion [ pun unintended ] is a recent phenomena, eh? Last 10-15 years. Future shock is here! And growing! Gimme shelter, v.c.