Thursday, August 6, 2015

AUGUST 6 = The Bombing of Hiroshima - 71 Years Ago

"The revelation of the secrets of nature, long mercifully with-held from man, should arouse the most solemn reflections in their minds and consciences of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among nations, and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, they may become a perennial fountain of  world prosperity."

These were the reflections of Sir Winston Churchill on being told about the Atomic Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima in Japan, on today's date, August 5, 1945 - 71 years ago.

A uranium gun-type atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, exploding 2,000 feet above the city in a blast equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT, destroying five square miles of the city. Within the first two to four months of the bombing, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima. About half of these fatalities occurred on the first day. In the months that followed, a large number of people died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and this was compounded by illness and malnutrition. Although Hiroshima did in fact have a large military garrison, most of those killed were civilians.

The Meaning of the Atomic Bomb...

Those are the basic facts.  What can one say about this event? I admit that I have a very personal bias in this: my father was a Marine serving in the South Pacific.  He would have been but one of the thousands of U.S. military personnel who would have invaded the home islands of Japan. This was indisputably what would have had to happen; the Japanese had no intention of surrendering.  My father and many others might well have been killed and neither myself, nor any member of my family would ever have existed.  If one mourns the loss of civilian life and the destruction that occurred in Hiroshima - as I do - then imagine something very much like that occurring over the whole of Japan, and you have the likely result if the bombs - the one dropped on Nagasaki came three days later - had not been dropped.  So I for one am completely supportive of  President Truman's decision to go ahead with it.  But that does not beget any gladness on my part about the hideous deaths that occurred, nor of the nuclear age that opened on this day when we took this step. War is a tragedy, and this day was perhaps the most tragic of all. This debate will continue - and I urge you, my readers to take part in it by writing in your reaction to my words.

What I shall do now is let a few of the participants speak....

Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Pilot of the "Enola Gay" the plane that dropped the bomb:

"...we made our turn, and as we leveled out our turn the flash occurred.  The man in the tail gunner's position said, 'I can see it coming,' meaning the shock wave. It was a real wallop -- a real bang. It made a lot of noise, and it really shook the airplane....  There was the mushroom cloud growing up, and we watched it blossom... the thing reminded me more of a boiling pot of tar than any other description I can give it.  It was black and boiling underneath with a steam haze on top of it. And of course we had seen the city when we went in, and there was nothing to see when we came back.  It was covered by this boiling, black looking mess."

A Japanese Journalist:

"Suddenly a glaring whitish-pink light appeared in the sky, accompanied by an unnatural tremor that was followed almost immediately by a wave of suffocating heat and a wind that swept away everything in its path. Within a few seconds the thousands of 
people in the streets and the gardens in the center of the town were scorched by a wave of searing heat. Many were killed instantly, others lay writhing on the ground, screaming in agony from the intolerable pain of their burns. Everything standing upright in the way of the blast was annihilated.... Trams were picked up and tossed aside as though they had neither weight nor solidity. Trains were flung off the rails as though they were toys. Horses, dogs, and cattle suffered the same fate as human beings. Every living thing was petrified in an 
attitude of suffering....   Up to about three miles from the center of the explosion, lightly built houses were flattened as though they had been built of cardboard. Those who were inside were either killed or wounded. Those who managed to extricate themselves by some miracle found themselves surrounded by a ring of fire."

United States President Harry Truman:

"The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be  dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost.

"Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.

"We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us."

- From Truman's Public Statement of August 9, 1945

Hiroshi Sawachika, Japanese Army Doctor:

"When I felt someone touch my leg, it was a pregnant woman. She said that she was about to die in a few hours. She said, 'I know that I am going to die. But I can feel that my baby is moving inside. It wants to get out of the room. I don't mind if I had died. But if the baby is delivered now, it does not have to die with me. Please help my baby live.' There were no obstetricians there. There was no delivery room. There was no time to take care of her baby. All I could do was to tell 
her that I would come back later when everything was ready for her and her baby. Thus I cheered her up and she looks so happy. But I have to return to the treatment work. There were so many patients. I felt as if I was fighting against the limited time.  Later, I went to the place where I had found her before, she was still there lying in the same place. I patted her on the shoulder, but she said nothing. The person lying next to her said that a short while ago, she had become silent. I still recalled this incident partly because I was not able to fulfill the last wish of this dying young woman. I also remember her because I had a chance to talk with her however short it was."

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first, and so far the only time such weapons have been used other than testing.  Whatever one's view on this event, I think that we can ALL agree in hoping devoutly, that Hiroshima and Nagasaki will remain the only time such weapons have ever been used.

Sources =

"How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History" by Erik Durschmied, MJF Books,
New York, 2012

"The American Heritage Picture History of World War II" by C.L. Sulzberger, American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc. , 1966

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