Memories of a nuclear war
A ceremony that has resonance around the world this year is reported by BBC:
Tens of thousands of people attended the event, amid growing anti-nuclear sentiment and protests in the country.
A bell marked the start of a one-minute silence at 08:15 local time (23:15 GMT) when the US bomber Enola Gay dropped the bomb that killed 140,000 people.
Mayor Kazumi Matsui called for a nuclear-free world at the event at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
“I call on the Japanese government to establish without any delay an energy policy that guards the safety and security of the people,” he said.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, at the ceremony, said the lessons of Hiroshima must not be forgotten.
“We will establish an energy mix with which people can feel safe in the long- and medium-term, based on our policy that we will not rely on nuclear power,” he said.
Mr Noda has been under pressure from anti-nuclear activists since he ordered the restart of two nuclear reactors in June.
All 50 of Japan’s nuclear plants were shut after the meltdown at Fukushima, which was triggered by a tsunami and earthquake in March 2011.
The ceremony was also attended by a grandson of former US President Harry Truman, who ordered the bombing of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki.
Clifton Truman Daniel is the first of the family to attend the annual ceremony.
Mr Truman said while it was hard to hear the survivors’ stories it was important for his family to understand the full consequence of decisions made by his grandfather, says the BBC’s Mariko Oi.
Clifton Truman’s words assume significance in the light of an article in Independent:
On 6 August 1945 – 67 years ago today – a control operator at the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation noticed that there was no signal from Radio Hiroshima. It had, seemingly, gone off air. Telephone calls couldn’t reach the city centre either. There was a simple reason for this – the city centre wasn’t there any more.
At 8.15am an American B-29 bomber had dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima. People were literally vaporised by a light ‘”brighter than a thousand suns”. A firestorm and 600mph winds sucked the remaining air out of the downtown district. Soon a mushroom cloud spiralled into the stratosphere, and under it 140,000 civilians lay dead.
Apologists for these events have used two arguments. These attacks were necessary because Japan wouldn’t surrender without them, and because a land invasion against Japan’s disciplined troops would have caused 300,000 US casualties or more. The bombing also kept the Soviets out of Japan and helped speed the end of the war. This thought now dominates – anyone disagreeing is “a soft peacenik”. No one objected to the A-Bomb’s use in 1945, we are told. No one who knew the score amongst the military high-ups. There was no alternative.
But the argument that no one in the know objected is a fallacy. General Eisenhower opposed it, “Japan was already defeated… dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.” The Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Nimitz agreed: “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in their defeat.” Admiral Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, concurred: the atomic attacks were “of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already ready to surrender…”
By the spring of 1945 Japan was faltering. Germany surrendered in May and since April US aircraft had roamed almost at will over Japan. Heavy bombing raids using dozens of B-29s were met with token resistance, and the firebombing of Tokyo had not been seriously opposed. A sea blockade had decimated imports.
During this time Japan put out peace feelers: on 25 July Japan tried to get envoys to Russia, carrying Imperial letters which read, in part: “His Majesty… mindful of the fact that the present war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice of the peoples… desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated. But as long as England and the US insist upon unconditional surrender the Japanese Empire has no alternative but to fight on… for the honour and existence of the Motherland …”
These feelers were rebuffed by the US demand for unconditional surrender. But this was unacceptable to Japan, for it could mean that Hirohito –seen as semi-divine – could be put on trial. In mid-1945 The Washington Post kept asking why Truman was demanding unconditional surrender while granting that a condition could swiftly end hostilities. In July, Time wondered whether the answer was some “deep secret” while the United States News confirmed, days after Hiroshima, that “competent testimony exists to prove that Japan was seeking to surrender many weeks before the atomic bomb…”
And, of course, post-Nagasaki, the US did grant the condition that the Emperor be left alone. So if America could agree to this in August, why not in July or even June? Why not end the war earlier? US stubbornness only makes sense if it’s seen for what it really is: an excuse to delay peace long enough to test the bomb on real cities. Which is why previous heavy bombing raids had always spared the first atomic targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Kyoto.
The Telegraph has a long article on the nuclear bombing of Japan:
In the centre of the city everything but reinforced concrete buildings disappeared in an instant, leaving a desert of clear-swept, charred remains. The blast wave shattered windows for 15km from the hypocentre – or, as it is more colloquially known, ‘ground zero’. More than two thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings were demolished or gutted, all windows, doors, sashes and frames ripped out. Hundreds of fires were ignited by the thermal pulse, generating a firestorm that rolled out for several kilometres. At least 80,000 people – about 30 per cent of Hiroshima’s 250,000 population – were killed immediately. The figure is possibly nearer to 100,000; the exact number will never be known.
At the instant of detonation, the forward cabin of Enola Gay lit up. Colonel Paul Tibbets, the commander of 509th Composite Group and the command pilot on the Hiroshima mission, felt a tingling in his teeth as the bomb’s radiation interacted with the metal in his fillings. A pinpoint of purplish-red light kilometres below the B-29s expanded into a ball of purple fire and a swirling mass of flames and clouds. Hiroshima disappeared from sight under the churning flames and smoke. A white column of smoke emerged from the purple clouds, rose rapidly to 3,000m and bloomed into an immense mushroom. The co-pilot, Captain Robert Lewis, wrote in his log, ‘My God, what have we done?’