Aug 7, 2013

U.S. Drops Atom Bomb on Hiroshima, August 7, 1945: The Choice between Hell and Reason

How unfortunate for the citizens of Hiroshima, Japan to know that their city is famous throughout the world only as the first city to be bombed with a nuclear bomb. The bombardier of the Enola Gay dropped “Little Boy” on the unarmed city 62 years ago today, killing 70,000 civilians instantly. Not distinguishing among elderly, babies, women, or other innocent non-military.

But that wasn't the end of it. 70,000 may have perished as a direct result, but 60,000 more died shortly thereafter from related injuries and illnesses. And as many as 200,000 total died within five years, from the bombing or the after-affects.

Nagasaki became the only other city to be the victim of an atomic bomb a few days later, where Japanese report 75,000 more were killed instantly.

One week after the first bombing, Japan surrendered, perhaps explaining the propaganda found in every American child's history textbook that the "atomic bombing was justified as a stimulus to end the war" If you could stand in the middle of Hiroshima and feel the hatred directed at you because you are an American, if you could tour the Peace Museum in Nagasaki and see the photos and study the mementos, if you could immerse yourself in the humanity behind the bombings, as I have done—you might not think so.

The bombs targeted civilians. How many tens of thousands of those slaughtered were infants, for instance? It's true that the citizens were warned before the bombs dropped. Leaflets saying the bombing would take place were scattered throughout the towns days before (I saw samples of those leaflets at the Nagasaki museum). But could the entire population leave? Perhaps like the Hurricane Katrina disaster, those who had resources could get out of town—if they realized the leaflets were not just a scare tactic, that is.

Many scholars are convinced Japan was on the verge of surrendering at that late point in WWII, where whole towns were on starvation rations. My Japanese Mama-san remembers living on rice and pickles in Tokyo for years. And certainly other Asian countries starved in subjugation to feed the Japanese. Kamikaze bombings were the last bastion of a war strategy devised by a desperate military that had plenty of airplanes but not enough fuel to keep them aloft.

To add to the madness, the developers of the new nuclear technology must have had an intense desire to test the mettle of their new war toys, and seen an opportunity to do so, despite pleas by such eminent voices as Albert Einstein, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D. Eisenhower not to.

In 2007, Hiroshima's mayor said—because Mayors can speak these truths when higher-up politicos can't—“The Japanese Government, which has the duty to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons through international law, should protect its pacifist constitution, which it should be proud of, and clearly say 'No' to antiquated and wrong US policies,” The antiquated and wrong U.S. policies Tadatoshi Akiba referred to are the ones that somehow allow the nuclear arms proliferation that has made America the proud owner of undoubtedly the largest stockpile of bomb-ready fissile material and nuclear bombs in the world. Congratulations to us, huh?

If you have the opportunity to visit Japan, please make plans to tour the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum or the Hiroshima Peace memorial Museum (Nagasaki being much the friendlier of the two cities). I can attest that it is a life-changing experience. And my father was a bombardier in WWII.

On August 8, 1945, Albert Camus said it best, “Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests [...] This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason.”

1 comment:

Taff Simon said...

The inhabitants of Nanking were innocents as well. You feel bad as an American? At least you are not being raped and then stuck with a bayonet - or being forced to become a "Comfort Woman" as were the inhabitants of Manchuria, China and every other spot the Japanese Imperial forces made themselves at home in.

Without the bombs, the invasion of mainland Japan was scheduled for November 1st: Operation Olympic. The IJA were training teenage school girls to take on the marines as they came ashore with sharpened bamboo spears - the marines presumably would just take them in hand, give them a spanking, tell not to be so silly and send them home?

There were certainly politicos who saw the writing on the wall but they were not in a position to insist on surrender. Instead of beating yourself up, why not get mad at people like Tojo?