Seventy Years Ago This Week: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

'Melting Hand'  by Akiko Takakura, Hiroshima survivor

‘Melting Hand’ by Akiko Takakura, Hiroshima survivor

“A uranium gun-type atomic bomb (Little Boy) was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) on the city of Nagasaki on August 9. Little Boy exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima 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 bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.”

After the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the U.S. government restricted the circulation of images of the bomb’s deadly effect. President Truman dispatched some 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers, to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The goal of the Survey’s Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first “Ground Zero.” The haunting, once-classified images of absence and annihilation formed the basis for civil defense architecture in the United States. This exhibition includes approximately 60 contact prints drawn from a unique archive of more than 700 photographs in the collection of the International Center of Photography.

A recent Pew poll found that 56% of USians believe that dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima was A Good Decision, although approval numbers have declined over the years as America’s Greatest Generation dies off.  Robert Jacobs of the Hiroshima Peace Institute explains that US schools are still teaching that the nuclear attacks…won WW II,  never mind that Hirohito tried to surrender just before the Enola Gay took off with Little Boy aboard, or that it started a nuclear arms race, or that the non-proliferation treaty means no other countries can have them now, because: terrorism.

Jan Oberg explains it:

“However, it is built into the Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, that those who don’t have nuclear weapons shall abstain from acquiring them as a quid pro quo for the nuclear-haves to disarm theirs completely.

That is, the whole world shall become a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ).

Those who have nuclear weapons provoke others to get them too. Possession leads to proliferation.

The recent negotiations with Iran is a good example of this bizarre world view: the five nuclear terrorist states, sitting on enough nukes to blow up the world several times over and who have systematically violated international law in general and the NPT in particular, tell Iran – which abides by the NPT and doesn’t want nuclear weapons – that it must never obtain nuclear weapons. Simultaneously, they turn a blind eye to nuclear terrorist state, Israel’s 50+ years old nuclear arsenals.”

In much the same object lesson vein, campaign Obama, who had promised a nuclear-free world, announced a one trillion dollar nuclear arsenal upgrade plan.  Why? His shiny new foreign policy was pivoting toward Asia, and this was by way of a warning. quotes the original 2014 NY Times approval piece:

“The Times writes: “With Russia on the warpath, China pressing its own territorial claims and Pakistan expanding its arsenal, the overall chances for Mr. Obama’s legacy of disarmament look increasingly dim, analysts say.”

The newspaper quotes Harvard Professor Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief nuclear weapons advisor and a stand-in for the administration itself: “The most fundamental game changer is Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That has made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally politically impossible,” he told the Times .

While the Times article is couched in the language of defense, in relation to both Russia and China the US has played the role of aggressor. The US and its allies in Europe organized a right-wing coup in Ukraine that has been followed by a campaign of sanctions and war threats against Russia. And the Obama administration has been carrying out a “pivot to Asia,” asserting its control over the Asia-Pacific while encouraging the remilitarization of Japan.”

Doves fly over the Peace Memorial Park with the Atomic Bomb Dome in the background, at a ceremony in Hiroshima, western Japan, August 6, 2015, on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. Japan on Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on Hiroshima, where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, killing about 140,000 by the end of the year in a city of 350,000 residents. It was the world's first nuclear attack. The Atomic Bomb Dome, or Genbaku Dome, was the only structure left standing in this district of the city and has been preserved as a peace memorial.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai  - RTX1N895

(Doves fly over the Peace Memorial Park with the Atomic Bomb Dome in the background, at a ceremony in Hiroshima, western Japan, August 6, 2015, on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. © Toru Hanai / Reuters)

Yes, Caroline Kennedy was in attendance.  Nukes bring peace.  And security.

The first victims of the A-bomb were American; The deadly legacy of nuclear tests in New Mexico continues to impact communities around the White Sands site’ (a very hard read)

20 responses to “Seventy Years Ago This Week: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  1. Oh my, fancy this: ‘With war one always loses:’ Pope Francis calls for nuclear weapons ban
    “The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 year ago is ‘a permanent warning to humanity’ to to reject war and ban weapons of mass destruction, Pope Francis said.

    “Seventy years ago, on the sixth and the ninth of August 1945, the terrible atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place. Even after so many years, this tragic event still arouses horror and revulsion,” he told the faithful in his weekly Angelus address at St. Peter’s Square.

    The pope said that the attacks are a symbol of the “enormous power of humanity” when people misuse scientific and technical progress.
    “[This event] serves as a lasting warning to humanity so that it rejects forever war and bans nuclear weapons and all arms of mass destruction,” the pope said.
    “May one cry rise up from every land, ‘No’ to war and violence and ‘Yes’ to dialogue and to peace. With war one always loses. The only way to win a war is never to wage it,” was his conclusion.”

    and from Japan:

    “But the most emphatic call for action on nonproliferation came from Hiroshima’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, who made a direct appeal to Barack Obama to make good on a promise to rid the world of nuclear weapons during a 2009 speech in Prague.

    The world “bristles” with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons that represent the “absolute inhumanity and the absolute evil”, Matsui said.

    “President Obama and other policymakers, please come to the A-bombed cities, hear the survivors with your own ears, and encounter the reality of the atomic bombings. You will be impelled to start discussing a legal framework, including a nuclear weapons convention.”

    Matsui had an equally stark message for Abe, whose ongoing campaign to reinterpret Japan’s postwar “pacifist” constitution to allow troops to fight alongside allies overseas made for an uneasy political backdrop to Thursday’s ceremony.

    On Wednesday, the defence minister, Gen Nakatani, conceded the new security laws could – in theory – allow Japan to transport nuclear weapons to its allies, although he immediately dismissed the idea as “unlikely”.”

  2. Better to be dead than red. The end.

    • that was fine, comrade x; thank you. we watched ‘older than america‘ this week, the story of the barbarous treatment of native kids at a catholic boarding school (rather generic, but filmed in fond du lac). there were times i wanted to turn away from the visuals, but i’ll not name them in case anyone wants to watch it.

      amerikka’s original sins of indigenous genocide, sociocide, slavery, all still going on in slightly different forms. and peltier’s still in prison, even though they *know* he’s innocent by now. someone has to pay.

      were we surprised to learn that when the EPA goofed up while trying to contain water in a silverton gold mine and realeased a million gallons plus into the river system, they forgot to let the induns downstream know? ooopsie; sorry. this Post piece doesn’t mention that, they’re content to misdirect our attention to the Grand Canyon.

      can’t say i like robertson’s root indun music much, but it did suit the sobriety of the video.

      and wot, ho, speaking of lessons unlearned in spades. the folks at los alamos are about to complete a new and improved nuke, three times more powerful than little boy, with electronic guidance systems and everything.

  3. “A recent Pew poll found that 56% of USians believe that dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima was A Good Decision…”

    Do they truly believe this or can they not bear to believe otherwise? I do sometimes wonder when I hear people trot out this outdated and particularly sickening piece of propaganda.

    On the victims of nulear testing: The government didn’t care then, they don’t care now, and they never will care unless we, our children, or our grandchildren can find a way to bring about some very radical changes.

    Thanks, wendy, for acknowledging this tragic anniversary.

    • one of the other major calumnies was that much of the uranium was mined by first americans in the four corners. iirc, none of the miners were given protective clothing, masks, etc., and most mines had zero ventilation. cancer rates, of course, were epic, although some of the families were finally given some monetary remuneration, as if…

      the tailings were stored insanely inadequately as well, and there were many ponds whose dikes broke, and flooded high levels of radioactive and other contaminants into rivers. the rio puerco disaster i remember well. but again: just induns, in the main, so…

      ‘do they believe it or can’t bear not to’ is a good question, jane24. but an AJE post by the editor titled ‘Hiroshima: The great taboo’ contains some explanations. the comment section is appalling, in the main, and demonstrates pretty damned clearly how ‘lesser evilism’ tropes are so bloody effective. “Just look at the math!!!” stuff.

      As with nearly every other effort to remember what happened on Aug. 6, 1945, there was a corresponding effort to forget. The U.S. military refused to allow the footage to be released for decades, a story told by journalist Greg Mitchell in his book “Atomic Cover-Up.” Officials hoped that Americans’ collective memory of the bombings would end, Mitchell explains, with the image of the mushroom cloud — a demonstration of U.S. might, free of any reckoning with the devastation wrought by that explosion.

      This American taboo over discussing the U.S. use of a weapon of mass destruction on a civilian population center reached its apotheosis in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum planned to display for the first time the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, in an exhibit that connected it with the devastation wrought by the bomb. Veterans’ groups, backed by conservative politicians, mounted a fierce campaign against the exhibit — in particular the decision to include imagery demonstrating the impact of the bomb on civilians. In a comprehensive account of the controversy, which led to a series of still-debated compromises by the Smithsonian, the historian Michael Hogan writes that the museum’s curators were stunned by the request from some veterans to omit the atom bomb’s impact on Hiroshima from the story of the Enola Gay. One of them told a reporter for Knight-Ridder: “They want to stop the story when the bomb leaves the bomb bay.”

      the numbers of allied lives that would be saved can rise to the point of absurdity, of course, but that generation seemed to be totally convinced that the one million number was just so.

      musing about this caused me to remember that i’d posted a diary on the anniversary of the heinous fire-bombing of dresden. (kurt vonnegut’s ‘slaughterhouse five’ left an indelible impression on me. he was in an underground prison in germany at the time, iirc) i can’t say how many of those good folks attacked me as a ‘holocaust denier’. whooosh.

      a few people turned vonngegut’s billy pilgrim dream/vision into videos. ‘war in reverse’.

      • How can they bear to believe in American righteousness? Because of their faith in their collective morality. If you were to ask, how would one justify preserving one’s social organization against another social organization by mass murder of intervening lives, the depravity of one’s own social organization comes into sight. Proles cannot question why they must mass murder to stall competing societies.

        Yes, “‘lesser evilism’ tropes are so bloody effective”; the “lesser evil” sophist/priests even seem credible. It’s a ideological narcotic for a burdened master-race.

        The Amurikkkun game theorists projected their own demons:

        Jerome Wisener, who was the president of MIT, the guy who actually hired Noam Chomsky, […] he was Kennedy’s science advisor […], said, “when all things were added up, at the end of the day, and they went back and looked at all the things that they thought the Russians were doing, the Soviets were doing in the 50’s and the 60’s [(] he coined the term “mirror imaging’ [)], the US was basically mirror-imaging it’s own demons. The US would [“]measure[“] what the Soviets [US-SU, mirror imaging, HA HA HA] were doing based on what American defense planners would do if they were in their circumstances.

        So, their lesser evil fooled them and they became the greater evil. The aka mainyu, aka being the Avestan language word for “evil”, or the evil spirit” or “evil mind” or “evil thought,” sanctioned their own murderousness.

        • ah, i’d mispoken, comrade. i’d meant ‘neccessary evilism’ rather, as in the rare comments like this: “Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a “necessary evil”, it begins to look more and more necessary and less and less evil. -Sydney J. Harris, journalist (1917-1986)”

          but even the 44 minutes i was able to listen to (while taking care of a few chores) seemed spot on, although they were only dealing with particular time frame; earlier than that, i’m fuzzy about soviet history.

          the cold war extended far beyond its past-due date, and the arm race that was credited it as ‘winning’ was total bullshit (‘none so blind as those whose profits and ideologies refuse to see’). i get on zbig’s twitter now and again because: crimea and the donbass. poland, eh?

          but oh, my, he loves him some fascist carl bildt.

  4. The Brz: “If the West loses Ukraine, the fallback position is Poland.” The “accidental” Hegemonster is the world policeman to Ahriman’s recruits.

  5. No, this one.

    Can’t do img tag?

    • please feel free to translate; the entry has me cross-eyed. dualistic spirit: bountiful/destructive. and the significance of your new Om symbol?

      what’s img tag?

    • I must say I didn’t expect to see a Zoroastrian reference on this blog. Dualism. One absolutely good god, one absolutely evil, and everybody must choose which one they serve. A simplistic theology, echoed Dubya’s “You’re either with us or against us” and similar nonsense frequently spouted by our ruling classes.

      I prefer the Norse pantheon to that. And none of THEM, not even Loki or the giants, ever came up with any weapon quite as cruel as The Bomb.

      • After Thiazi’s death, the giant’s daughter, Skadi, arrives in Asgard demanding restitution for the slaying of her father. One of her demands is that the gods make her laugh, something which only Loki is able to do. To accomplish this, he ties one end of a rope to the beard of a goat and the other end to his testicles. Both he and the goat squawk and squeal as one pulls one way and the other pulls the other way.

        Norse pantheon! Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  6. For an excellent contemporary account of the effects of the atomic bombings, I recommend “Hiroshima,” by John Hersey. It originally appeared as an entire issue of “The New Yorker” magazine in 1946. Hersey was a correspondent who went to Hiroshima, and he told stories of six, I think it was six, survivors.

    In my ever so humble opinion that little book changed the world by bringing the horrors of nuclear weapons and their radioactive aftermath home to millions. My parents had a copy of the book version. I read it when I was maybe nine or ten years old. It’s a short book, but that made it even more powerful.

    • well look who the north wind blew in! howdy, barbarian. are we so old that 1946 is ‘contemporary’ now? yes, wiki says six, and the opening line was:

      “At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.”

      and yes, he was there for three weeks doing interviews; the stories are always of key importance. (studs terkel, for instance)

      how odd that i cannae remember ‘hiroshima’, but was blown away by ‘the child buyer’ and ‘2 far 2 walk’ in high school. i’d guess it’s online given that it’s short; so much is now, blessedly.

      it’s not altogether a popular reminder, but oppy had later (and during) lamented and quoted the Hindu scripture from the Bhagavad-Gita:

      “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”


  7. Interesting. Oppenheimer was not describing their ghoulish apotheosis. The Gita quote:

    Lord Krsna said: I am terrible time the destroyer of all beings in all worlds, engaged to destroy all beings in this world; of those heroic soldiers presently situated in the opposing army, even without you none will be spared.

    I.e., Time would have killed those japs anyway. Krishna’s “brighter than a thousand suns” revelation was the image metaphor but that underlying argument of Krishna, “do not falter in the slaughter of your beloved relatives, for they are doomed anyway” is the message.

    Supposedly, Oppy chose the name “Trinity”, referring to this Donne poem:

    Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
    As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
    That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
    Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
    I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
    Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
    Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
    But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
    Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
    But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
    Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
    Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
    Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

    But the Hindu Trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer was probably an inspiration as well. Ultimately, the bomb/Shiva did ravish him. By his fascination with Physics and Metaphysics he neglected the demons around him, demons who were glad to perform “lesser evil”.

    • fascinating. the wiki on oppy choosing ‘trinity’ as a code name, answering groves who’d asked him ‘why?’ by letter:

      ” I did suggest it, but not on that ground… Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation:

      As West and East
      In all flatt Maps—and I am one—are one,
      So death doth touch the Resurrection.[a][19]

      That still does not make a Trinity, but in another, better known devotional poem Donne opens,

      Batter my heart, three person’d God.[b][20][21]”

      the real news put up a re-run of gar alperovitz speaking about the utter bullshit of the ‘necessity’ of the bombs to ‘end the war with japan’. he lost me a few times in the transcript about what the Offishul Documents say, what was removed, etc., in terms of promises not to kill hirohito). but i had no idea that truman didn’t have the support of any of the military generals, *and* that after japan had publicly surrendered, truman ordered an additional 1400 bombing sorties on japan.

      about their ‘object lesson’ for the soviets, he calls it ‘diplomacy’, but i guess we’re getting used to that sort of ‘diplomacy’.

      oh, and i’d forgotten to mention that Zbig had tweeted that John Kerry is the best SoS ever!™

      isn’t Kali supposed to be both creator and destroyer, and had danced on the body of her hubbie shiva?

      “By his fascination with Physics and Metaphysics he neglected the demons around him, demons who were glad to perform “lesser evil”.

      oh, my, yes, or at least their cries of “necessary evil”.

  8. Thanks, wendy, for the AJE link. Those “taboos” are oft in evidence.

    • welcome, jane 24. i apologize for saying ‘lesser evilism’ rather than ‘necessary evilism’ overly represented in the comments under the AJE piece.

      gar’s trnn interview made much of how totally ‘unnecessary’ the A-bombings were, an what truman did to further crush those lousy japs. good god all-friday, as they say around these parts..

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