Tag Archives: Hiroshima

September 3, 1945 (a Monday)

In the early hours on this date, Wilfred Graham Burchett entered Hiroshima alone, less than a month after the atomic bombing of the city. He was the first Western journalist — and almost certainly the first Westerner other than prisoners of war — to reach Hiroshima after the bomb and was the only person to get an uncensored story out of Japan. The story which he typed out on his battered Baby Hermes typewriter, sitting among the ruins, remains one of the most important Western eyewitness accounts, and the first attempt to come to terms with the full human and moral consequences of the United States’ initiation of nuclear war. It was published in the London Daily Express on September 5 and appears below in its entirety:

30th Day in Hiroshima: Those who escaped begin to die, victims of
THE ATOMIC PLAGUE
I write this as a Warning to the World
DOCTORS FALL AS THEY WORK
Poison gas fear: All wear masks

In Hiroshima, 30 days after the 1st atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly — people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.

Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller has passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.

In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show.

When you arrive in Hiroshima you can look around for twenty-five and perhaps thirty square miles and you can see hardly a building. It gives you an empty feeling in the stomach to see such man-made destruction.

I picked my way to a shack used as a temporary police headquarters in the middle of the vanished city. Looking south from there I could see about three miles of reddish rubble. That is all the atomic bomb left of dozens of blocks of city streets, of buildings, homes, factories and human beings.

STILL THEY FAIL

There is just nothing standing except about twenty factory chimneys — chimneys with no factories. A group of half a dozen gutted buildings. And then again, nothing.

The police chief of Hiroshima welcomed me eagerly as the first Allied correspondent to reach the city. With the local manager of Domei, the leading Japanese news agency, he drove me through, or perhaps I should say over, the city. And he took me to hospitals where the victims of the bomb are still being treated.

In these hospitals I found people who, when the bomb fell suffered absolutely no injuries, but now are dying from the uncanny after-effects. For no apparent reason their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out. Bluish spots appeared on their bodies. And then bleeding began from the ears, nose, and mouth. At first, the doctors told me, they thought these were the symptoms of general debility. They gave their patients Vitamin A injections. The results were horrible. The flesh started rotting away from the hole caused by the injection of the needle. And in every case the victim died. That is one of the after-effects of the first atomic bomb man ever dropped and I do not want to see any more examples of it.

THE SULPHUR SMELL

My nose detected a peculiar odor unlike anything I have ever smelled before. It is something like sulphur, but not quite. I could smell it when I passed a fire that was still smoldering, or at a spot where they were still recovering bodies from the wreckage. But I could also smell it where everything was still deserted.

They believe it is given off by the poisonous gas still issuing from the earth soaked with radioactivity by the split uranium atom.

And so the people of Hiroshima today are walking through the forlorn desolation of their once proud city with gauze masks over their mouths and noses. It probably does not help them physically.

But it helps them mentally.

From the moment that this devastation was loosed upon Hiroshima, the people who survived have hated the white man. It is a hate, the intensity of which is almost as frightening as the bomb itself.

‘ALL CLEAR’ WENT

The counted dead number 53,000. Another 30,000 are missing, which means certainly dead. In the day I have stayed in Hiroshima — and this is nearly a month after the bombing — 100 people have died from its effects.

They were some of the 13,000 seriously injured by the explosion. They have been dying at the rate of 100 a day. And they will probably all die. Another 40,000 were slightly injured.

These casualties might not have been as high except for a tragic mistake. The authorities thought this was just another Super-Fort raid. The plane flew over the target and dropped the parachute which carried the bomb to its explosion point.

The American plane passed out of sight. The all-clear was sounded and the people of Hiroshima came out from their shelters. Almost a minute later the bomb reached the 2,000 foot altitude at which it was timed to explode — at the moment when nearly everyone in Hiroshima was in the streets.

Hundreds and hundreds of the dead were so badly burned by the terrific heat generated by the bomb that it was not even possible to tell whether they were men or women, old or young.

Of thousands of others, nearer the center of the explosion, there was no trace. The theory in Hiroshima is that the atomic heat was so great that they burned instantly to ashes — except that there were no ashes.

If you could see what is left of Hiroshima, you would think that London had not been touched by bombs.

HEAP OF RUBBLE

The Imperial Palace [Hiroshima Castle], once an imposing building, is a heap of rubble three feet high, and there is one piece of the wall. Roof, floors and everything else is dust.

Hiroshima has one intact building — the Bank of Japan. This in a city which at the start of the war had a population of 310,000.

Almost every Japanese scientist has visited Hiroshima in the past three weeks to try to find a way of relieving the people’s suffering. Now they themselves have become sufferers.

For the first fortnight after the bomb dropped they found they could not stay long in the fallen city. They had dizzy spells and headaches. Then minor insect bites developed into great swellings which would not heal. Their health steadily deteriorated.

Then they found another extraordinary effect of the new terror from the skies.

Many people had suffered only a slight cut from a falling splinter of brick or steel. They should have recovered quickly. But they did not.

They developed an acute sickness. Their gums began to bleed and then they vomited blood. And finally they died.

All these phenomena, they told me, were due to the radioactivity released by the atomic bomb’s explosion of the uranium atom.

WATER POISONED

They found that the water had been poisoned by chemical reaction. Even today every drop of water consumed in Hiroshima comes from other cities. The people of Hiroshima are still afraid.

The scientists told me they have noted a great difference between the effect of the bombs in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki.

Hiroshima is in perfectly flat delta country. Nagasaki is hilly. When the bomb dropped on Hiroshima the weather was bad, and a big rain-storm developed soon afterwards.

And so they believe that the uranium radiation was driven into the earth and that, because so many are still falling sick and dying, it is still the cause of this man-made plague.

At Nagasaki on the other hand the weather was perfect, and scientists believe that this allowed the radioactivity to dissipate into the atmosphere more rapidly. In addition, the force of the bomb explosion was, to a large extent, expended in the sea, where only fish were killed.

To support this theory, the scientists point to the fact that, in Nagasaki, death came swiftly and suddenly, and that there have been no after-effects such as those that Hiroshima is still suffering.

Burchett’s firsthand account was censored throughout the United States but had been wired around the world. On the morning of September 7th at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, senior U.S. officials called a press conference to refute his story, which Burchett attended. Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, deputy head of the super-secret Manhattan Project, explained that the atomic bomb had been exploded at a sufficient height over Hiroshima to avoid any risk of “residual radiation.” Burchett’s first question to the briefing officer was, “Have you been to Hiroshima?”

“No,” he replied, but then added, “Those I had seen in the hospital were victims of blast and burn, normal after any big explosion. Apparently the Japanese doctors were incompetent to handle them or lacked the right medication.” He discounted allegations that those who had not been in the city at the time of the blast were later affected.

Burchett asked, “Why were fish still dying a month after the blast?”

Giving a pained expression, the spokesman replied, “I’m afraid you’ve fallen victim to Japanese propaganda.”

Burchett later recounted that he was then “whisked to a U.S. Army hospital where doctors told me my low white-corpuscle count was caused by antibiotics I had been given for a knee infection.” Years later he found out this condition was related to radiation sickness.

Shortly before he died of cancer in 1983, Burchett’s book entitled Shadows of Hiroshima was published.

References:

Advertisements

August 9, 1945 (a Thursday)

Nagasaki and Pearl Harbor: The Same or Different?

The city of Nagasaki is shown as a teeming urban area, above, then as a flattened, desolate wasteland following the detonation of an atomic bomb, below. Circles indicate the thousands of feet from ground zero. (AP Photo)

The city of Nagasaki is shown as a teeming urban area, above, then as a flattened, desolate wasteland following the detonation of an atomic bomb, below. Circles indicate the thousands of feet from ground zero. (AP Photo)

On this date during World War II, a second atomic bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” was dropped by the United States on Japan, this one on the city of Nagasaki. The Americans had originally intended to drop it on August 11 in the event that Japan did not agree to “unconditional surrender” after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, but bad weather expected for that day pushed the date up to August 9. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 AM from an altitude of 1,650 feet (500 m) above the city.

Interestingly, on 10 August 1945, the day after the bombing of Nagasaki, Yamahata Yōsuke began to photograph the devastation, still working as a military photographer. He walked through the darkened ruins and the dead corpses for hours. By late afternoon, he had taken his final photographs near a first aid station north of the city. In a single day, he had completed the only extensive photographic record of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Unfortunately, the U.S. occupation forces imposed strict censorship on Japan, prohibiting anything “that might, directly or by inference, disturb public tranquility” and used it to prohibit all pictures of the bombed cities. What pictures were released by the U.S. government to the American people were after corpses had been removed and streets had been cleared following the attacks.

President Truman delivered a radio address to the American people at 10:00 PM Washington time on 9 August 1945. Strangely enough, although by this time the atomic bomb had already been dropped on Nagasaki, he did not mention it but did refer to the earlier Hiroshima bombing:

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… 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, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare.

Survivors of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 10 August 1945. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966).

Survivors of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 10 August 1945. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966).

Two things are noteworthy. First, Hiroshima did contain a military base, used as a staging area for Southeast Asia, where perhaps 25,000 troops might be quartered. But the bomb had been aimed not at the “military base” but at the very center of a city of 350,000, with the vast majority women, children, and elderly males. In fact, more than 95% of the victims were noncombatants.

A U.S. survey of the damage at Hiroshima, not released to the press, found that residential areas bore the brunt of the bomb, with less than 10 percent of the city’s manufacturing, transportation, and storage facilities damaged. The two most important reasons Hiroshima had been selected for nuclear attack were: the hills surrounding the city on three sides would have a “focusing effect” (as the Target Committee put it on May 10-11), increasing the bomb’s destructive force; and Hiroshima (like Nagasaki) had not been subjected to conventional bombing by the United States (because it was not a key military target), making it an undamaged city ideal for testing the effects of a new weapon.

Aerial photograph, looking east, with Hickam Army Air Field in center and Honolulu beyond, 13 October 1941. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard is in the left-center, and Ford Island is at the far left.

Aerial photograph, looking east, with Hickam Army Air Field in center and Honolulu beyond, 13 October 1941.
The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard is in the left-center, and Ford Island is at the far left.

On the other hand, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was a U.S. Naval Base. During the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941, roughly 2,335 American military personnel (Army, Navy, and Marines) died and 1,143 were wounded. Nearly half of the servicemen that were killed were on board one battleship, the U.S.S. Arizona, when it exploded. In addition, 68 American civilians were killed and 35 were wounded during the attack. It seems likely that most, if not all, of the casualties in civilian areas were inflicted by “friendly fire,” American anti-aircraft shells falling back to earth and exploding after missing attacking planes.

At Pearl Harbor, twelve ships were sunk or beached and nine were damaged. Of ships sunk or beached, all, except the U.S.S. Arizona, the U.S.S. Utah, and the U.S.S. Oklahoma, were salvaged and later saw action. Of the American aircraft in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged. Almost none was actually ready to take off to defend the base. According to Edward R.L. Doty, Hawaiian director of civilian defense, it was business-as-usual the next day in Honolulu, the city nearest Pearl Harbor.

At Urakami Station in Nagasaki, 10 August 1945. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966)

At Urakami Station in Nagasaki, 10 August 1945. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966)


Secondly, the United States had itself already abandoned obeying international law of warfare, even before Hiroshima. By 1945, the bombing of civilians was already an established practice. In fact, the earlier U.S. firebombing campaign of Japan, which began in 1944, killed an estimated 315,922 Japanese, a greater number than the estimated deaths attributed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The firebombing of Tokyo alone resulted in roughly 100,000 Japanese killed.

Thus, it was hypocritical for Truman to use Japanese violation of international law to justify deploying atomic bombs. According to American historian Gabriel Kolko in The Politics of War (1990):

The basic moral decision that the Americans had to make during [World War II] was whether or not they would violate international law by indiscriminately attacking and destroying civilians, and they resolved that dilemma within the context of conventional weapons. Neither fanfare nor hesitation accompanied their choice, and in fact the atomic bomb used against Hiroshima was less lethal than massive fire bombing.

Leo Szilard, one of the low-level scientists who worked in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, voiced the same sentiments in an interview published in U.S. News & World Report in 1960:

…in 1939 President Roosevelt warned the belligerents against using bombs against the inhabited cities, and this I thought was perfectly fitting and natural. Then, during the war, without any explanation, we began to use incendiary bombs against the cities of Japan. This was disturbing to me and it was disturbing many of my friends.

Burnt body of an unidentified boy in Nagasaki on 10 August 1945. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966).

Burnt body of an unidentified boy in Nagasaki on 10 August 1945. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966).

Ever since the event, a controversy has raged about whether the decision to use the atomic bomb was justified or not, and what the real goals of its use were. According to Alex Wellerstein, an historian of science at the American Institute of Physics, “This was why, in 1947, Secretary of War Henry Stimson put his name on an article in Harpers that February 1947 titled ‘The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb‘ — it was meant to be the ‘official’ response to the on-going debates and speculation.”

According to J. Samuel Walker, the official or “traditional” argument, goes like this:

  • Truman made a decision to use the bomb on the basis of ending the war quickly;
  • As far as the U.S. was concerned, Japan would not surrender on acceptable terms without either the bomb or invasion;
  • Of those two options, the bomb was the option that would cost the least number of American and Japanese lives;
  • As the Japanese Emperor acknowledged in his surrender statement, the bomb did in fact end the war promptly.

The traditional argument has been opposed by the “revisionist” argument, which originated at about the same time:

  • Japan was already defeated at the time the decision to use the bomb was made, and U.S. intelligence already knew this;
  • Japan had been suing for peace and was ready to surrender without an invasion;
  • The real reason the bomb was used was so to demonstrate its power to the Soviet Union, in an attempt to exert more influence on them in the postwar;
  • The Japanese Emperor’s surrender statement invoked the bomb only as a politically-acceptable “excuse” for his people, when actually he surrendered primarily because of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.

Boy carrying his injured brother a day after the Nagasaki bombing. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966).

Boy carrying his injured brother a day after the Nagasaki bombing. Photograph by Yamahata Yousuke (1917-1966).

It is clear that there were multiple reasons for using the atomic bomb, but military necessity was not one of them. In official internal military interviews, diaries, and other private as well as public materials, literally every top U.S. military leader involved subsequently said the atomic bomb was not necessary. It is not likely that they had “revised” their views in response to negative public opinion following the Japanese surrender, because the U.S. public overwhelmingly supported the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A Gallup poll taken from the 10th to the 15th of August 1945 found that 85 percent of Americans supported the bombings, 10 percent were opposed to them, and 5 percent had no opinion. As reports came in about the magnitude of the destruction on Japan, the support began to fall but even in August 2009, a poll by Quinnipiac University found that 61 percent of Americans supported the bombing, with 22 percent opposed and 16 percent undecided.

At the same time, there were also strategies that may have proved equally effective in prompting a Japanese surrender without using atomic bombs.

Walter Trohan, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune with impeccable credentials for integrity and accuracy, published an article on 19 August 1945 in that newspaper and in the Washington Times-Herald in which he revealed the following:

Release of all censorship restrictions in the United States makes it possible to report that the first Japanese peace bid was relayed to the White House seven months ago.

Two days before the late President Roosevelt left the last week in January for the Yalta conference with Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin he received a Japanese offer identical with the terms subsequently concluded by his successor, Harry S. Truman.

The Jap offer, based on five separate overtures, was relayed to the White House by Gen. MacArthur in a 40-page communication. The American commander, who had just returned triumphantly to Bataan, urged negotiations on the basis of the Jap overtures.

The offer, as relayed by MacArthur, contemplated abject surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. The suggestion was advanced from the Japanese quarters making the offer that the Emperor become a puppet in the hands of American forces.

Two of the five Jap overtures were made through American channels and three through British channels. All came from responsible Japanese, acting for Emperor Hirohito.

President Roosevelt dismissed the general’s communication, which was studded with solemn references to the deity, after a casual reading with the remark, “MacArthur is our greatest general and our poorest politician.”

(…)

Officials said it was felt by Mr. Roosevelt that the Japs were not ripe for peace, except for a small group, who were powerless to cope with the war lords [the Japanese high-command], and that peace could not come until the Japs had suffered more.

The Jap overtures were made on acknowledgment that defeat was inevitable and Japan had to choose the best way out of an unhappy dilemma — domination of Asia by Russia or by the United States. The unofficial Jap peace brokers said the latter would be preferable by far.

(…)

In July the Tribune reported that a set of terms were being drafted for President Truman to take to Potsdam…

These terms, which were embodied in the Potsdam declaration did not mention the disposition of the Emperor. Otherwise they were almost identical with the proposals contained in the MacArthur memorandum.

The Trohan story was ignored by other news media and almost immediately dropped off the public radar. Historian Harry Elmer Barnes, in his essay “Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe,” published on 10 May 1958 in the National Review, corroborated Trohan’s account:

The government has never made this sensational episode public, so it may fairly be asked how we know the above statement about MacArthur’s communication to Roosevelt to be a fact. It so happens that MacArthur’s document passed over the desk of a high-ranking military officer in Washington [now known to be Admiral William D. Leahy, FDR’s chief of staff] who was greatly disturbed at what he feared might happen at Yalta. He wished to get MacArthur’s communication on record so it could not be destroyed by Mr. Roosevelt or his associates or hidden away from the public for many years as “top-secret” material. Hence, he called in his friend, Walter Trohan of The Chicago Tribune, and suggested that Trohan make an exact copy of the Japanese overtures. But he first bound Trohan to absolute secrecy and confidence until the end of the war. Trohan kept his promise…

The authenticity of the Trohan article was never challenged by the White House or the State Department, and for very good reason. After Gen. MacArthur returned from Korea in 1951, his neighbor in the Waldorf Towers, former President Hoover, took the Trohan article to Gen. MacArthur and the latter confirmed its accuracy in every detail and without qualification.

By June 1945 there were already divisions within the Japanese Supreme War Council (“the Big Six”) discussing how to end the war with the Americans, with the largest reservation to surrender being the desire to allow the Emperor Hirohito to remain on his throne. On 12 July 1945, Japan sent a message to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary on July 18 to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Allen Dulles, at the time chief of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in Switzerland (and later director of the CIA), said in his book The Secret Surrender (1966) that he had relayed a similar message:

On July 20, 1945, under instructions from Washington, I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary [of War] Stimson on what I had learned from Tokyo – they desired to surrender if they could retain the Emperor and their constitution as a basis for maintaining discipline and order in Japan after the devastating news of surrender became known to the Japanese people.

By just inserting into the Potsdam Declaration the provision that the Japanese could retain their Emperor, which is what eventually happened anyway after the war, the U.S. could have saved both American lives and the lives of those Japanese residing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson noted in his memoirs published in 1948, “history might find that the United States, by its delay in stating its position [in regards to the Emperor], had prolonged the war.”

Most likely, the decisive factor leading the Japanese to surrender was not the dropping of the two bombs but the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Acting in accordance with the Yalta agreements but in violation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, Soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov informed Japanese ambassador Sato at 11:00 PM Moscow time on 8 August 1945 that the Soviet Union had declared war on the Empire of Japan effective the next day. At one minute past midnight Moscow time on 9 August 1945, Soviet forces invaded Japanese-held Manchuria. For the Japanese, these events dashed any hope of ending the war through Soviet mediation.

Inhabited Japanese cities destroyed by U.S. incendiary bombings in the weeks prior to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Inhabited Japanese cities destroyed by U.S. incendiary bombings in the weeks prior to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japan’s Supreme War Council met for the first time since the Hiroshima bombing at 10:30 AM Tokyo time on August 9 to decide what to do about the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. In the middle of the meeting, shortly after 11:00 AM, news arrived that the Nagasaki bomb had exploded. Even after the details of the Nagasaki bomb were made clear, it was largely ignored. Half the members of the council insisted that Japan should continue fighting. The debate was deadlocked between the pacifists and militarists. The meeting broke up without a decision.

The Supreme War Council reconvened at 11:30 PM on the same day, August 9. Again, no consensus emerged. Around 2:00 AM (August 10), one member of the divided council, Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, shocked everyone by asking the Emperor Hirohito what he thought they should do. Asking the Emperor, who was regarded as a god, to speak was unprecedented if not sacrilegious.

As surprising as the move was, Hirohito was prepared. He said the terms of the Potsdam Declaration should be accepted:

I have given serious thought to the situation prevailing at home and abroad, and I have concluded that continuing the war means destruction of the nation and a prolongation of bloodshed and cruelty in the world. The time has come when we must bear the unbearable… I swallow my tears and give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied proclamation.

The nuclear catastrophes were — not the ending of a World War — but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the U.S. military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to “nuke” more cities ever since.
___________________________________________________

This film Hiroshima-Nagasaki: August, 1945 (1970) was created by filmmaker Erik Barnouw in 1968 from Japanese footage that the U.S. Defense Department had suppressed for over 20 years. It was screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, but none of the three main television networks would air the film. The reason why becomes obvious as you view it.
___________________________________________________

The tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not just Japan’s, but it is the world’s. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all nations to prevent another nuclear disaster for the safety and well-being of all humanity.

References:

  • Gar Alperovitz. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (Vintage, 1995).
  • H.H. Arnold. “Third Report of the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces to the Secretary of War,” 12 November 1945 (Baltimore, MD: Schneidereith & Sons), pp. 36-37.
  • Harry Elmer Barnes, “Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe,” National Review (10 May 1958) pp. 441-43.
  • Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, “The myths of Hiroshima“, The Los Angeles Times, (5 August 2005),
  • Allen W. Dulles. The Secret Surrender: The Classic Insider’s Account of the Secret Plot to Surrender Northern Italy During WWII (New York: Harper & Row, 1966) p. 219.
  • George Gallup. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1935-1971. Volume One. (New York: Random House, 1972) p. 521.
  • Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005).
  • Gabriel Kolko. The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943–1945 (New York: Random House, 1968; 1990 ed. with new afterword).
  • Stephen Large. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography (Routledge, 2002) p. 126
  • Doug Long. “Hiroshima: Was It Necessary?” Accessed online on 6 August 2013 at http://www.doug-long.com/hiroshim.htm.
  • Greg Mitchell, “Sixty-Eight Years Ago: Truman Opened the Nuclear Era With a Lie About Hiroshima”, The Nation, (6 August 2013). Accessed online on 12 August 2013 [archived here].
  • Henry Stimson and McGeorge Bundy. On Active Service In Peace and War (New York: Harper, 1948) p. 629.
  • Leo Szilard, “President Truman Did Not Understand“, U.S. News & World Report (15 August 1960) p. 68-71.
  • Walter Trohan, “Bare Peace Bid U.S. Rebuffed 7 Months Ago”, Chicago Tribune (19 August 1945) p. 1.

___________________________________________________

You may copy, reformat, reprint, republish, and redistribute this work in any medium whatsoever, provided that: (1) you only make such copies, etc. available free of charge and, in the case of reprinting, only in quantities of no more than 50 copies; (2) you clearly indicate that any derivatives of this work (including translations) are derived from this source document; and (3) you include the full text of this license in any copies or derivatives of this work. Otherwise, all rights reserved.

How to cite this document (a suggested style):

B. D. Olsen. “Nagasaki and Hiroshima: The Same or Different?” Professor Olsen @ Large. B. D. Olsen, 9 August 2013. Web. [insert date of access]

Please note that the MLA (Modern Language Association) no longer requires the use of URLs in MLA citations.

___________________________________________________

August 6, 1945 (a Monday)

THE ATOMIC BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA: WHY?…

The basic moral decision that the Americans had to make during [World War II] was whether or not they would violate international law by indiscriminately attacking and destroying civilians, and they resolved that dilemma within the context of conventional weapons. Neither fanfare nor hesitation accompanied their choice, and in fact the atomic bomb used against Hiroshima was less lethal than massive fire bombing.

— American historian Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War (1990), pp. 539–40.

…in [July] 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act… the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, p. 380

…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Ike on Ike”, Newsweek, 11 November 1963.

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.

— Admiral William D. Leahy, the Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, I Was There, p. 441.

I think that the Japanese were ready for peace, and they already had approached the Russians and, I think, the Swiss. And that suggestion of [giving] a warning [of the atomic bomb] was a face-saving proposition for them, and one that they could have readily accepted.

(…)

In my opinion, the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb. Thus, it wouldn’t have been necessary for us to disclose our nuclear position and stimulate the Russians to develop the same thing much more rapidly than they would have if we had not dropped the bomb.

— Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bird, “War Was Really Won Before We Used A-Bomb”, U.S. News and World Report, 15 August 1960, pp. 73-75.

The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into war… The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.

— Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, The New York Times, 6 October 1945.

Major General Curtis E. LeMay: The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.
The Press: You mean that, sir? Without the Russians and the atomic bomb?
LeMay: The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.

Press conference on 20 September 1945, reported in The New York Herald Tribune; quoted in Gar Alperovitz, The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 336.

The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment… It was a mistake to ever drop it… [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it… It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before.

— Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander U.S. Third Fleet, public statement in 1946; quoted in Gar Alperovitz, The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 331.

The greatest obstacle to unconditional surrender by the Japanese is their belief that this would entail the destruction or permanent removal of the Emperor and the institution of the Throne. If some indication can now be given the Japanese that they themselves, when once thoroughly defeated and rendered impotent to wage war in future, will be permitted to determine their own future political structure, they will be afforded a method of saving face without which surrender will be highly unlikely.

(…)

Those who hold that the Emperor and the institution of the Throne in Japan are the roots of their aggressive militarism can hardly be familiar with the facts of history…

— Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew in conversation with President Truman on 28 May 1945; quoted in United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States : diplomatic papers, 1945. The British Commonwealth, the Far East, pp. 545-46.

His Majesty the Emperor, mindful of the fact that present war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice upon peoples of all belligerent powers, desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated. But so long as England and United States insist upon unconditional surrender in Great East Asian War, Empire has no alternative but to fight on with all its strength for honour and existence of Motherland. His Majesty is deeply reluctant to have any further blood lost among people on both sides and it is his desire, for welfare of humanity, to restore peace with all possible speed…

It is the Emperor’s private intention to send Prince Konoe to Moscow as a Special Envoy with a letter from him containing the statements given above. Please inform [Soviet Foreign Commissar] Molotov of this and get the Russians’ consent to having the party enter the country.

— Text of message from Japanese Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori to Japan’s Ambassador Sato in Moscow for delivery to the Russians before the Potsdam conference opened, intercepted on 12 July 1945 and decoded by the U.S. Navy; quoted in Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy, p. 124. The intercept was rushed to Potsdam on 13 July 1945 in a locked pouch. The significance of this latest intercept was not lost on the few Americans privileged to read it, among them Navy secretary James V. Forrestal; the pages of his diary relating to it were removed after his death and classified top secret for the next thirty years.

Influential press and radio commentators are increasingly calling for a statement to supplement — or to succeed — the “unconditional surrender” formula; and public opinion polls indicate considerable willingness to accept less than unconditional surrender, since nearly a third of the nation would “try to work out a peace” with Japan on the basis of Japanese renunciation of all conquests… These polls also suggest that a considerable portion of the public would not insist upon the conquest of the Japanese homeland before any effort is made to reach a peace settlement — provided Japanese power is ended in the Pacific islands and in Asia.

— A study by the State Department Office of Public Opinion Studies on “Current Public Attitudes Toward the Unconditional Surrender of Japan” dated 16 July 1945; quoted in Gar Alperovitz, The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb.

Generalissimo Joseph Stalin: Last night the Russian delegation was given a copy of the Anglo-American declaration [the Potsdam Proclamation] to the Japanese people. We think it our duty to keep each other informed. I inform the Allies of the message that I received from the Japanese Emperor through the Japanese ambassador. I sent a copy of my answer to this peace plea which was in the negative. I received another communication informing me more precisely of the desire of the Emperor to send a peace mission headed by Prince Konoye who was stated to have great influence in the Palace. It was indicated that it was the personal desire of the Emperor to avoid further bloodshed [see above]… Our answer of course will be negative.
President Truman: I appreciate very much what the Marshal has said.

Conversation during the Potsdam Conference on 28 July 1945; quoted in United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States: diplomatic papers: the Conference of Berlin (the Potsdam Conference), 1945, p. 467. Truman, to whom all this was known from the codebreakers anyway, immediately changed the subject.

…the Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face “prompt and utter destruction.” MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General’s advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary.

William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, p. 512.

MacArthur’s views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed… When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

Norman Cousins, a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan, The Pathology of Power, pp. 65, 70-71.

I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.

John McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War; quoted in James Reston, Deadline, p. 500.

[A clearer assurance that the Emperor would not be displaced] was omitted from the Potsdam declaration and as you are undoubtedly aware was the only reason why it was not immediately accepted by the Japanese who were beaten and knew it before the first atomic bomb was dropped.

— Rear Admiral L. Lewis Strauss, in a private letter to Navy historian Robert G. Albion; quoted in Gar Alperovitz, The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 393.

If we consider international agreement on total prevention of nuclear warfare as the paramount objective, and believe that it can be achieved, this kind of introduction of atomic weapons [on Japan] to the world may easily destroy all our chances of success. Russia… will be deeply shocked. It will be very difficult to persuade the world that a nation which was capable of secretly preparing and suddenly releasing a weapon, as indiscriminate as the rocket bomb and a thousand times more destructive, is to be trusted in its proclaimed desire of having such weapons abolished by international agreement.

…looking forward to an international agreement on prevention of nuclear warfare – the military advantages and the saving of American lives, achieved by the sudden use of atomic bombs against Japan, may be outweighed by the ensuing loss of confidence and wave of horror and repulsion, sweeping over the rest of the world…

From this point of view a demonstration of the new weapon may best be made before the eyes of representatives of all United Nations, on the desert or a barren island. The best possible atmosphere for the achievement of an international agreement could be achieved if America would be able to say to the world, “You see what weapon we had but did not use. We are ready to renounce its use in the future and to join other nations in working out adequate supervision of the use of this nuclear weapon.”

(…)

We believe that these considerations make the use of nuclear bombs for an early, unannounced attack against Japan inadvisable. If the United States would be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race of armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons. [emphasis in original]

Memorandum on “Political and Social Problems” from Members of the “Metallurgical Laboratory” of the University of Chicago to Sec. of War Henry Stimson [“The Franck Report“], dated 12 June 1945, U.S. National Archives, Washington D.C.: Record Group 77, Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy File, folder #76.

I don’t believe in speculating on the mental feeling and as far as the bomb is concerned I ordered its use for a military reason — for no other cause — and it saved the lives of a great many of our soldiers. That is all I had in mind.

— President Harry S. Truman; excerpt from Transcript of Interview by William Hillman and Morton Roysewith with former President Truman, Post-Presidential File, ca. 1955, Truman Papers, Harry S. Truman Library.

The atomic bomb… is far worse than gas and biological warfare because it affects the civilian population and murders them by the wholesale.

Harry S. Truman to Thomas Murray, 19 January 1953, President’s Secretary’s Files (PSF), Harry S. Truman Library.

Zen stones

Hiroshima Before and After Aerial Photos

Nakajima Honmachi District Before and After

 

On this date during World War II, at 8:15 AM local time an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb, dubbed “Little Boy”, over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure.

On the same day, Truman released a press statement announcing the atomic bombing, in which he described Hiroshima as an “important Japanese Army base”, when in fact it was a city composed almost entirely of civilians. [As J. Samuel Walker has noted, if Hiroshima had been a more important military target, it likely would have suffered conventional bombing before August 6 — the fact that it was still intact was in part a reflection of its lack of military presence.] Moreover, his statement used terms which described the atomic bomb as similar to a high-explosive weapon, making no mention of the fact that it was also a radiation weapon. Its radiological effects made the atomic bomb worse than poison gas whose use was prohibited by international law.

A photo prepared by U.S. Air Intelligence for analytical work on destructiveness of atomic weapons. The total area devastated by the atomic strike on Hiroshima is shown in the darkened area (within the circle) of the photo. The numbered items are various targets with the percentages of total destruction. Notice that all four of the military targets were far from the aiming point for the atomic strike. (Photo from U.S. National Archives, RG 77-AEC).

A photo prepared by U.S. Air Intelligence for analytical work on destructiveness of atomic weapons. The total area devastated by the atomic strike on Hiroshima is shown in the darkened area (within the circle) of the photo. The numbered items are various targets with the percentages of total destruction. Notice that all four of the military targets were far from the aiming point for the atomic strike. (Photo from U.S. National Archives, RG 77-AEC).

In all fairness to Truman, the man most likely was uninformed about the true nature of the atomic bomb. There were certainly physicists who understood that the first atomic bombs would produce significant amounts of radiation and were likely to cause both radiation sickness and nuclear fallout effects. But J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, never seemed to be very interested in that and spoke almost exclusively of the bomb in terms of heat and blast effects. Due to the chain of command, because Oppenheimer didn’t know/care about radiation effects, General Leslie Groves didn’t really, either; if Groves didn’t know/care, then the Target Committee under Groves and the Interim Committee under Secretary of War Henry Stimson didn’t know at all; and if Stimson didn’t know, Truman didn’t know. In fact, after months of public denials that radiation sickness had occurred, Groves famously replied to a question from Senator Millikin at a meeting of the Special Senate Committee on Atomic Energy in late November 1945:

Millikin: General, is there any medical antidote to excessive radiation?
Groves: I am not a doctor, but I will answer it anyway. The radioactive casualty can be of several classes. He can have enough so that he will be killed instantly. He can have a smaller amount which will cause him to die rather soon, and as I understand it from the doctors, without undue suffering. In fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die. Then, we get down below that to the man who is injured slightly, and he may take some time to be healed, but he can be healed. [emphasis added]

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Causes and Consequences

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Causes and Consequences

Interestingly, Yoshito Matsushige, a 32 year old cameraman for the Chugoku Shimbun, was at home a little over 1.6-miles (2.7 km) south of the hypocenter when the bomb detonated, but he was not seriously injured in the blast. Heading out to the center of the city, Matsushige took the only photographs taken of Hiroshima on that calamitous day. He had two rolls of film with twenty-four possible exposures in the 10 hours he spent wandering the devastated city. He lined up one gripping shot after another but he could push the shutter only seven times. When he was done he returned to his home and developed the pictures in the most primitive way, since every darkroom in the city, including his own, had been destroyed. Under a star-filled sky, with the landscape around him littered with collapsed homes and the center of Hiroshima still smoldering in the distance, he washed his film in a radiated creek and hung it out to dry on the burned branch of a tree. But only five of the seven came out right. There are victims in these images, many of whom no doubt died later, but not a single corpse. Only Matsushige knows what the seventeen photos he didn’t take would have looked like. He later testified:

Even though I too was a victim of the same bomb, I only had minor injuries from glass fragments, whereas these people were dying. It was such a cruel sight that I couldn’t bring myself to press the shutter. Perhaps I hesitated there for about 20 minutes, but I finally summoned up the courage to take one picture. Then, I moved 4 or 5 meters forward to take the second picture… I walked through the section of town which had been hit hardest. I walked for close to three hours. But I couldn’t take even one picture of that central area. There were other cameramen in the army shipping group and also at the newspaper as well. But the fact that not a single one of them was able to take pictures seems to indicate just how brutal the bombing actually was. I don’t pride myself on it, but it’s a small consolation that I was able to take at least five pictures.

A makeshift hospital in Hiroshima after the atomic strike. (Intl Cmte of the Red Cross / hist-02959-31)

A makeshift hospital in Hiroshima after the atomic strike. (Intl Cmte of the Red Cross / hist-02959-31)

A few weeks later, the American military confiscated all of the post-bomb prints, just as they seized the Japanese newsreel footage, “but they didn’t ask for the negatives,” Matsushige said. LIFE magazine published Matsushige’s photos on 29 September 1952, hailing them as the “First Pictures – Atom Blasts Through Eyes of Victims”, breaking the long media blackout on graphic images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On 9 August 1945, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. On 10 August 1945, the Japanese government sent an official protest over the atomic bombing to the U.S. State Department through the Swiss Legation in Tokyo:

Protest against the Attack of a New-Type Bomb by American Airplane

On the 6th of this month, an airplane of the United States dropped a new-type bomb on the urban district of the city of Hiroshima, and it killed and wounded a large number of the citizens and destroyed the bulk of the city. The city of Hiroshima is an ordinary local city which is not provided with any military defensive preparations or establishments, and the whole city has not a character of a military objective. In the statement on the aerial bombardment in this case, the United States President “Truman” asserts that they will destroy docks, factories and transport facilities.

However, since the bomb in this case, dropped by a parachute, explodes in the air and extends the destructive effect to quite a wide sphere, it is clear to be quite impossible in technique to limit the effect of attack thereby to such specific objectives as mentioned above; and the above efficiency of the bomb in this case is already known to the United States. In the light of the actual state of damage, the damaged district covers a wide area, and those who were in the district were all killed indiscriminately by bomb-shell blast and radiant heat without distinction of combatant or non-combatant or of age or sex. The damaged sphere is general and immense, and judging from the individual state of injury, the bomb in this case should be said to be the most cruel one that ever existed.

It is a fundamental principle of international law in time of war that a belligerent has not an unlimited right in choosing the means of injuring the enemy, and should not use such weapons, projectiles, and other material as cause unnecessary pain; and these are each expressly stipulated in the annex of the Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and articles 22 and 23(e) of the Regulations respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land. Since the beginning of the present World War, the Government of the United States has declared repeatedly that the use of poison or other inhumane methods of warfare has been regarded as illegal by the public opinion in civilized countries, and that the United States would not use these methods of warfare unless the other countries used these first.

However, the bomb in this case, which the United States used this time, exceeds by far the indiscriminate and cruel character of efficiency, the poison and other weapons the use of which has been prohibited hitherto because of such an efficiency. Disregarding a fundamental principle of international law and humanity, the United States has already made indiscriminate aerial bombardments on cities of the Empire in very wide areas, and it has already killed and injured a large number of old people, children, and women and collapsed or burned down shrines, temples, schools, hospital and ordinary private houses.

Also, the United States has used the new bomb in this case which has indiscriminate and cruel character beyond comparison with all weapons and projectile of the past. This is a new offense against the civilization of mankind. The Imperial Government impeaches the Government of the United States in its own name and the name of all mankind and of civilization, and demands strongly that the Government of the United States give up the use of such an inhumane weapon instantly.

Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address at noon on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

The Truman administration made extraordinary and largely successful efforts to manage American public perceptions of the atomic attack. During the American occupation of Japan, MacArthur went to great lengths to prevent journalists visiting ground zero and seeing the effects of the bomb, to prevent photographic images and film of the disaster reaching Americans and Europeans, and to suppress scientific assessments of the radiation damage and its long term effects.

Photos of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Building before (inset) and after the bombing of Hiroshima. The remains were later preserved as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dome.

Photos of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Building before (inset) and after the bombing of Hiroshima. The remains were later preserved as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dome.

After World War II, most of Hiroshima would be rebuilt, though one destroyed section was set aside by the City as a reminder to the world of the horrors of nuclear weapons and as a symbol for global peace. This area contains the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Since it was located only about 160 meters from the hypocenter, all those inside the building died, but parts of the structure survived the blast. To protect the building from the weather, regular reinforcement and repairs with steel beams and resin injection are performed. Also, frequent seismic assessments and soundness surveys for the dome are implemented.

2013 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.

2013 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.

The ruin was named Hiroshima Peace Memorial and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, although China and the United States objected — China because “it was the other Asian countries and peoples who suffered the greatest loss in life and property” and the U.S. because a focus on Japan lacked “historical perspective.” Each August 6, thousands of people gather at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to join in interfaith religious services commemorating the anniversary of the bombing. Speeches by the Japanese Prime Minister, the Mayor of Hiroshima City, and the representatives of local children are given; then, a one-minute silence for the victims is observed at 8:15 AM, the time of the explosion.

Original location of the Shinran statue that survived the a-bomb blast.

Original location of the Shinran statue that survived the a-bomb blast.

Even after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, no international treaty banning or condemning nuclear warfare has ever been ratified. According to F.W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa, “…despite all the lip service that is given to the ideal of nuclear disarmament, South Africa is the only country that has ever voluntarily dismantled an existing nuclear capability. We did so in 1993 and have learned that true security comes from our ability to solve complex problems peacefully rather than by imagining that we can achieve anything by threatening ultimate destruction.”

Statue of Shinran Shonin between 105th and 106th Streets on Riverside Drive, New York City.

Statue of Shinran Shonin between 105th and 106th Streets on Riverside Drive, New York City.

Unlike most of the buildings in Hiroshima, the bronze figure of Shinran Shonin (1173–1263) — the Japanese Buddhist monk who founded Jodo Shinshu (Shin) Buddhism — miraculously survived the devastation. The 15-foot statue had stood 2.5 kilometers northwest from the hypocenter of the detonation of the atomic bomb. It depicts Shinran Shonin in his missionary travel robe as he appeared most of his life propagating the doctrine he developed to reveal the one unobstructed way through which one can become awakened.

Closeup of the face of the Shinran statue.

Closeup of the face of the Shinran statue.

In 1955, the statue was removed from the Hiroshima park, packed into an enormous wooden crate, and shipped to New York City, where it was presented to the New York Buddhist Church on Riverside Drive near 106th Street in Manhattan as a testament to the devastation of the atomic bomb as well as a symbol for hope and world peace.

On 11 September 1955, just over ten years after the bombing of Hiroshima, D. T. Suzuki — one of the most influential figures in introducing Zen Buddhism to the West — gave an eloquent keynote address at the statue’s unveiling ceremony. In this address, I think Suzuki best answers the question, “Why?”, that I began with:

The present state of things as we are facing everywhere politically, economically, morally, intellectually, and spiritually is no doubt the result of our past thoughts and deeds we have committed as human beings through[out] the whole length of history, through aeons of existence, not only individually but collectively — let me repeat, collectively. As such, we are, every one of us, responsible for the present world situation filled with [its] awesome forebodings. The bombing of Hiroshima was not, after all, the doing of the American armies, but the doing of mankind as a whole, and as such, we, not only the Japanese and Americans but the whole world, are to be held responsible for the wholesale slaughter witnessed ten years ago….

As far as I can see, [we must find] the living Shonin who is surely among us answering to the call of his name; only we have not been able to hear his response, our ears have not yet been fully opened innerly as well as outwardly to [that] still small voice….

We must realize that modern civilization is thoroughly oriented towards dehumanizing humanity in every possible way; that is to say, we are fast turning into robots or statues with no human souls. Our task is to get humanized once more.

The statue stands a few blocks from Columbia University, where much of the atomic bomb program began.

References:

  • Gar Alperovitz. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (Vintage, 1995).
  • Norman Cousins. The Pathology of Power (W. W. Norton, 1987).
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mandate for Change, 1953-1956: The White House Years (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co, Inc, 1963).
  • Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005).
  • Rachel Hiles, “Humanized Once More“, Tricycle, Vol. 20 No. 4 (Summer 2011). Accessed on 12 August 2013.
  • Gabriel Kolko. The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943–1945 (New York, NY: Random House, 1968; 1990 ed. with new afterword).
  • William D. Leahy. I Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman (Whittlesey House, 1950).
  • Doug Long. “Hiroshima: Was It Necessary?” Accessed online on 6 August 2013.
  • Sean L. Malloy, “‘A Very Pleasant Way to Die’: Radiation Effects and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb against Japan”, Diplomatic History Vol. 36 No. 3 (June 2012): 515–545.
  • William Manchester. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964 (Boston/Toronto: Little, Brown & Company, 1978).
  • Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell. Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (Putnam, 1995).
  • James Reston, Deadline: A Memoir (Random House, 1991).
  • Kyoko Selden and Mark Selden, eds. The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1989).
  • Michael B. Stoff, ed. The Manhattan Project: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), pp. 140-147.
  • J. Samuel Walker. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 61-62.

___________________________________________________

You may copy, reformat, reprint, republish, and redistribute this work in any medium whatsoever, provided that: (1) you only make such copies, etc. available free of charge and, in the case of reprinting, only in quantities of no more than 50 copies; (2) you clearly indicate that any derivatives of this work (including translations) are derived from this source document; and (3) you include the full text of this license in any copies or derivatives of this work. Otherwise, all rights reserved.

How to cite this document (a suggested style):

B. D. Olsen. “The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: Why?…” Professor Olsen @ Large. B. D. Olsen, 6 August 2014. Web. [insert date of access]

Please note that the MLA (Modern Language Association) no longer requires the use of URLs in MLA citations.

___________________________________________________

July 9, 1955 (a Saturday)

The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945 rose some 18 kilometers (11 mi) above the bomb’s hypocenter.

On this date, The Russell–Einstein Manifesto was released by Bertrand Russell in London, England, United Kingdom in the midst of the Cold War. It highlighted the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and called for world leaders to seek peaceful resolutions to international conflict.

Eleven eminent intellectuals and scientists signed the statement, including Albert Einstein, who had signed it just days before his death on 18 April 1955, and Linus Pauling, who signed it after its initial release. The Manifesto was one of several efforts by scientists in the 1950s to focus world attention on the critical need for new approaches to international security in the nuclear age. In particular, scientists feared that national leaders and the public little understood the implications of the new and devastating hydrogen bombs.

The first nuclear fission (“atomic”) bomb (or “A-bomb”), which employed plutonium and was code-named “Trinity”, had been detonated as a test by the United States on 16 July 1945 on the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, about 230 miles south of the headquarters of the Manhattan Project (so-called because of where the research began) at Los Alamos, New Mexico. On 6 August 1945, the U.S. had dropped a uranium atomic bomb code-named “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and, three days later, a plutonium atomic bomb code-named “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. These two bombings resulted in casualties — mostly civilians — estimated at 105,000 dead and 94,000 wounded (in spite of the fact that “Little Boy” had actually misfired: only 1.38% of its uranium had fissioned). The first nuclear fusion (thermonuclear or “hydrogen”) bomb (or “H-bomb“), code-named “Mike”, had been detonated as a test at the Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands on 1 November 1952, also by the United States.
_____________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________
As soon as he learned about the bombing in Hiroshima, Joseph Rotblat, the only scientist to leave the Manhattan Project on moral grounds, became gravely concerned about the possibility of a hydrogen bomb. He remarked in an interview in 2003:

I knew a little bit more than other people about what was going on. So I knew that it would begin an arms race and that the hydrogen bomb would come in. And then…for the first time I became worried about the whole future of mankind. Because…once you are going to develop these huge weapons, where are you going to stop? And this was my reaction on the 6th of August [1945].

On 18 August 1945, the Glasgow Forward published the first known recorded comment by philosopher Bertrand Russell on atomic weapons, which he began composing the day Nagasaki was bombed. It contained threads that would later appear in the Manifesto:

The prospect for the human race is sombre beyond all precedent. Mankind are faced with a clear-cut alternative: either we shall all perish, or we shall have to acquire some slight degree of common sense. A great deal of new political thinking will be necessary if utter disaster is to be averted.

‘Mike’, detonated on 1 November 1952.

Interestingly, the physicist Max Born wrote to Einstein about engaging fellow scientists to draw greater attention to the dangers of the nuclear age and to encourage governments to take action in a letter dated 28 November 1954:

I read in the paper recently that you are supposed to have said: “If I were to be born a second time, I would become not a physicist, but an artisan.” These words were a great comfort to me, for similar thoughts are going around in my mind as well, in view of the evil which our once so beautiful science has brought upon the world….I am thinking of using my present popularity [as a Nobel laureate]…to try and arouse the consciences of our colleagues over the production of ever more horrible bombs.

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto was released during a press conference at Caxton Hall, London. Rotblat, who chaired the meeting, described it as follows:

…It was thought that only a few of the Press would turn up and a small room was booked in Caxton Hall for the Press Conference. But it soon became clear that interest was increasing and the next larger room was booked. In the end the largest room was taken and on the day of the Conference this was packed to capacity with representatives of the press, radio and television from all over the world. After reading the Manifesto, Russell answered a barrage of questions from members of the press, some of whom were initially openly hostile to the ideas contained in the Manifesto. Gradually, however, they became convinced by the forcefulness of his arguments, as was evident in the excellent reporting in the Press, which in many cases gave front page coverage.

Russell began the conference by stating:

I am bringing the warning pronounced by the signatories to the notice of all the powerful Governments of the world in the earnest hope that they may agree to allow their citizens to survive.

The Manifesto called for a conference where scientists would assess the dangers posed to the survival of humanity by weapons of mass destruction (then only considered to be nuclear weapons). Emphasis was placed on the meeting being politically neutral. It extended the question of nuclear weapons to all people and governments. One particular phrase is quoted often, including by Rotblat upon receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995:

We appeal, as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. [emphasis added]

The heart of The Russell-Einstein Manifesto was the following short resolution, to which its signatories invited “this Congress, and through it the scientists of the world and the general public, to subscribe”:

In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.

The Manifesto was signed by Max Born (Professor of Theoretical Physics at Göttingen, Nobel Prize in Physics), Percy W. Bridgman (Professor of Physics, Harvard University, Foreign Member of the Royal Society, Nobel Prize in Physics), Albert Einstein, Leopold Infeld (Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Warsaw, Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences), Frédéric Joliot-Curie (Professor of Physics at the College de France, Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Herman J. Muller (Professor of Zoology, University of Indiana, Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine), Linus Pauling (who added his name after the initial release, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Cecil F. Powell (Professor of Physics, Bristol University, Nobel Prize in Physics), Joseph Rotblat (Professor of Physics, University of London, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College), Bertrand Russell, and Hideki Yukawa (Professor of Theoretical Physics, Kyoto University, Nobel Prize in Physics).

It was at the time a significant accomplishment to have signatures from men from such a wide range of countries and political perspectives. However, the lack of Russian signatures was notable. Rotblat reflected that Russell’s earlier strong anti-Communist stand was “to some extent…one of the reasons why no Russians signed the Manifesto….They still didn’t quite trust him.”

As Joseph Rotblat has recently commented, The Russell-Einstein Manifesto is still relevant today:

…In other words, is the Russell-Einstein Manifesto still relevant today? My answer to this question is an emphatic “Yes”: the Manifesto is highly relevant in 2005.

(…)

The most important outcome of the realization of the danger of a nuclear catastrophe was the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970. It has, by now, an almost universal acceptance, with 188 signatories, 98% of the UN membership.

(…)

The single most important event in the post-war era was the appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev as Russia’s leader. Realizing the awesome consequences of a continuing nuclear arms race, he took a momentous decision: to bring the arms race to a halt.

(…)

To some extent, these attempts to rid the world of nuclear weapons were an outcome of the Manifesto which so vividly described the consequences of a nuclear confrontation.

(…)

The worst setback came in 2000, with the election of George W. Bush as President of the USA. In statements on nuclear policy, soon after the election, he not only made it clear that he wants to keep nuclear arsenals ad infinitum, but he elevated nuclear weapons to the status of weapons of first use, to be an essential element of the US general armed forces. Moreover, in accordance with these policies, the possession of nuclear arsenals by other states would be allowed, provided they are friends of the USA; those not friendly to the USA would be prevented, by force if necessary, from acquiring such weapons.

Thus, 50 years after the Manifesto that warned us about the dire consequences of a nuclear war, the world is still in danger of a nuclear holocaust; the nuclear states still refuse to honour their obligations under the NPT; there are still huge nuclear arsenals held by the former two super powers; the USA still seeks to develop new nuclear warheads; more nations are likely to acquire nuclear arsenals on the excuse that they are needed for their security. A new nuclear arms race has become a real possibility. On top of all this, there is the real danger of terrorist groups acquiring nuclear weapons.

As of 7 May 2012, the Federation of American Scientists estimates that the world’s combined stockpile of nuclear warheads remains at a very high level: more than 19,000, with around 4,400 of them kept in “operational” status, ready for potential use.

References:

  • Sandra Ionno Butcher. The Origins of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto – Issue 1 of Pugwash History Series (Washington, DC: Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, 2005). Accessed 13 July 2012 at http://www.pugwash.org/publication/phs/history9.pdf.

January 24, 1961 (a Tuesday)

One of the Mk 39 nuclear weapons at Goldsboro, largely intact, with its parachute still attached.

One of the Mk 39 nuclear weapons at Goldsboro, largely intact, with its parachute still attached.

On this date shortly after midnight, a B-52 plane broke up in midair, accidentally dropping two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro, North Carolina, according to a 1969 U.S. government report on the incident. The document says one of the bombs should have detonated — parachutes were deployed and triggers were armed — but one low-voltage switch failed to activate as it should have, preventing what would have been devastating and widespread damage. The report was only recently declassified by the U.S. and published by The Guardian on 20 September 2013.

The bomb carried a 4-megaton payload, equivalent to 4 million tons of TNT explosive and 260 times more powerful than the one that devastated Hiroshima in 1945. Fallout from the explosion could have spread to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and even New York City, affecting millions of people, the report said.

There had been speculation that the event more than 50 years ago was extraordinarily serious, but the US government has long denied its nuclear arsenal has put Americans at risk through safety flaws. The declassified report was the first conclusive evidence of how close the U.S. came to nuclear devastation that day.

“It would have been bad news in spades,” wrote the author of the report, U.S. government scientist Parker F. Jones. “One simple, dynamo-technology, low-voltage switch stood between the United States and major catastrophe,” wrote Jones. “The MK Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52.”

Jones titled his report “Goldsboro Revisited or: How I Learned to Mistrust the H-Bomb,” a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 nuclear satire, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

What the Goldsboro blast would have looked like.  This is the only time we tested this warhead at full yield, the detonation “Cherokee” at Operation Redwing, in 1958.

What the Goldsboro blast would have looked like. This is the only time we tested this warhead at full yield, the detonation “Cherokee” at Operation Redwing, in 1958.

The report was uncovered by the U.S. investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act while he was researching a book on the nuclear arms race, now published as Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Schlosser told The Guardian that he had found at least 700 noteworthy incidents involving nuclear weapons that took place between 1950 and 1968 — but the public largely doesn’t know about any of them.

“The U.S. government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy,” Schlosser said. “We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here’s one that very nearly did.”