Hiroshima - the first atomic bomb attack

A Terrible Memory burned into the bodies of hundreds of thousands

"Hundreds of people who were trying to escape to the hills passed our house. The sight of them was almost unbearable. Their faces and hands were burnt and swollen; and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hang down like rags or a scarecrow. They moved like a line of ants. All through the night, they went past our house, but this morning they stopped. I found them lying so thick on both sides of the road that it was impossible to pass without stepping on them." - Michihiko Hachiya lived in Hiroshima during the Second World War. He wrote an account of the dropping of the atom bomb in his diary on 6th August, 1945. Retrieved from the Spartacus Educational website at http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWhiroshima.htm

"It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued from Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with a fighting skill of which they have already become well aware." - President Harry S. Truman, speech (6th August, 1945)

Thus was the era of nuclear war introduced to the world this day some 63 years ago. And for the past few years it seems to me that the world has lost sight of the horror, the sheer inhuman horror of that era. When the so-called "Cold War" ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall citizens of the world have been lulled into a kind of torpor and perhaps moral quietude about this issue.

Maybe all the other horrors of the modern world have eclipsed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wonder about that. I wonder if racism could be involved. I wonder if Japanese lives are less valuable than occidental, and particularly United States, lives. Or is it a reflection of the fact that the Japanese at the time were enemy combatants, systematically dehumanised in the propaganda of war, as Islamic people are now being made victims of similar propaganda in the wake of 9/11?

Images of the First Atomic Bomb used at Hiroshima

The energy released by the bomb was powerful enough to burn through clothing. The dark portions of the garments this victim wore at the time of the blast were emblazoned on to the flesh as scars, while skin underneath the lighter parts (which absorb
The energy released by the bomb was powerful enough to burn through clothing. The dark portions of the garments this victim wore at the time of the blast were emblazoned on to the flesh as scars, while skin underneath the lighter parts (which absorb
Seizo Yamada's ground level photo taken from approximately 7 km northeast of Hiroshima.
Seizo Yamada's ground level photo taken from approximately 7 km northeast of Hiroshima.
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy
Hiroshima, in the aftermath of the bombing
Hiroshima, in the aftermath of the bombing
Map showing the locations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan where the two atomic weapons were employed
Map showing the locations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan where the two atomic weapons were employed

The fate of the earth

Nuclear weapons have not gone away. They are still in the arsenals of combatant countries around the world, some acknowledged, and some unacknowledged. And that fact alone is extraordinarily scary.

As Jonathan Schell wrote in The Fate of the Earth in 1982: These bombs were built as "weapons" for "war," but their significance greatly transcends war and all its causes and outcomes. They grew out of history, yet they threaten to end history. They were made by men, yet they threaten to annihilate man. They are a pit into which the whole world can fall - a nemesis of all huiman intentions, actions, and hopes. Only life itself, which they threaten to swallow up, can give the measure of their significance."

Some years ago I was in Germany at the beginning of summer and walked with a friend up a gently swelling hill covered with, I think, beech trees, and these lovely little yellow flowers all around on the soft green grass, birds twittering in the branches and the sun warming our backs as we walked. It was so peaceful, so gentle, so quiet.

And then my friend quietly remarked, "Do you know that below this hill, some metres under our feet, are many megatons of nuclear warheads?" That kind of shattered the peace of the moment for me.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant scientist who led the team which developed this terrible weapon, is said to have thought, at the moment of the first successful detonation of an atomic device, of a quotation from the Bhagavad Gita , the famous Hindu scripture, a quotation from the Eleventh Chapter, entitled Visva-Rupa-Darsana-yoga, or the "Yoga of Theophany", the chapter in which Krishna displays His Universal form-His divine Opulence-to Arjuna: "The Lord said: ‘Time [death] I am, the destroyer of the worlds, who has come to annihilate everyone. Even without your taking part all those arrayed in the [two] opposing ranks will be slain!'"

T.S. Eliot wrote The Wasteland in 1922, a long and ambiguous poem that foreshadowed the anguish of the atomic age. These lines from Section V: What the Thunder said, are particularly apposite:

What is that sound high in the air

Murmur of maternal lamentation

Who are those hooded hordes swarming

Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth

Ringed by the flat horizon only

What is the city over the mountains

Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air

Falling towers

Jerusalem Athens Alexandria

Vienna London

Unreal

It's interesting that William Carlos Williams, the great US poet, remarked of this poem that it "wiped out our world as if an atom bomb had been dropped on it."

Certainly literature can help us maintain the memory of atrocities and hold the hope that humanity might one day learn to live in peace, but that hope seems precarious in the face of so much naked aggression and hatred as is loose in the world today.

As time goes by and the number of survivors of that terrible day in 1945 gets smaller and smaller, we need something to keep the knowledge alive, to keep us focussed on changing, of bringing the world a little humanity, a little dignity, a little peace.

This we can only do by, to quote Gandhi, by being the change we want to see in the world. This means by treating all life as sacred, each person as an end in himself or herself, as worthy of dignity and respect and understanding.

When I think of the thousands killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on those fateful days in1945, I am reminded of other words by Eliot, this time from one of the Four Quartets , first published in 1944:

We die with the dying:

See, they depart, and we go with them.

We are born with the dead:

See, they return, and bring us with them.

And then a few lines later in Little Gidding Eliot sounds a note of some ambiguous hope, some possibility of redemption:

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

On this anniversary of the dawn of the atomic age, I can only cling to this shred of hope.

The Sadako Sasaki story as a fairy tale

More by this Author


Comments 27 comments

stevenschenck profile image

stevenschenck 8 years ago from Sacramento California

Wow - I was reading along and then that line about race - have you forgotten the rapes, torture and murder Japan commited in the Philippines - Twelve of my family members were used for bayonet practice by officers and every woman in our family alive during the occupation was gang raped in camps, my grandfather watched as Japanese poured gas on American prisoner of war and burned them to death. 

Why not write about how many lives were saved 63 years ago, or the courage of our president to stop the most brutal army ever to exist on the plant, Japan never signed the Geneva Convention, hell, even Hitler signed and followed it.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 8 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Steven - no, I'm not forgetting the evil that the Japanese did during the war. I don't think, though, that evils can be compared in that way. I did not address the issue of whether or not the bomb ended the war more quickly - that's the subject of on-going scholarly debate. War is a terrible thing. Both sides commit atrocities in modern warfare. As for Hitler, whether or not he signed the Geneva Convention, his soldiers committed one of the worst genocides in human history, so his signing or not signing the Convention is rather beside the point, isn't it?

The point of my piece is that the coming of nuclear weapons has altered the course of our history irrevocably, and the consequences are still not clear.

The point of the racism comment was simply that people look at things from their own perspectives, which often contain racist elements, and we ignore these at our peril. I wanted to draw attention to the response to, for example, 9/11, which has been met with ferocious and atrocious military adventures in Afganistan and Iraq, quite out of proportion to the actual damage caused by the Islamic terrorists and, in the case of Iraq at least, based on a total fabrication of an excuse. Based on a blatant lie, in fact. And so I draw the conclusion that its OK to bomb Arabs and Islamic people into the dust, to destroy their countries, to kill and maim hundreds of thousands of them in retaliation for the deaths of some 2 000 mainly white people. And it was OK to use weapons of mass destruction against Japan because they were the enemy, and therefore were not human.

None of this excuses, or in any way diminishes the pain and suffering, which must be incredibly hard to bear, caused by the Japanese soldiers in the Philipines and elsewhere.

As I say, if one starts to try to compare or weigh up the suffering caused by different sides, it becomes an exercise in futility. But if one stays with the individual human who has suffered, and tries to understand these things from the individual point of view, thereby gaining some compassion, then maybe we can get something going which would, maybe some day in the future, ensure that these things won't happen.


peacenow 8 years ago

I agree that it is important to not lose the essence of the individual point of view. This is the humanity thread thread that binds us all together.

Regarding radical Islam, have you viewed the short clip "Obsession" (can be seen on Youtube)? This is not a fabrication. Do you think that we should stick our heads in those Middle Eastern sands rather than our noses? I do not think that we should chose to be naïve in the suit of being politically correct.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 8 years ago from South Africa Author

Haven't seen that clip but will go there. No I'm not in favour of sticking my head into the sand anytime! Not even in pursuit of political correctness (I'm not particularly PC myself). The view is not good! As for sticking our noses there it depends very much on how and why. The Middle East is in anycase a minefield for those who are PC and those who are not. Of course PC also depends on one's perspective. In whose terms is the correctness defined? I believe in an open mind, an open heart and lots and lots of compassion for people, for individuals.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa Author

"Because the effects of that atomic bomb, still eating away at the minds and bodies of the hibakusha, have for decades been so underestimated, a complete picture of the damage has yet to emerge. Most severely neglected have been the emotional injuries. Therefore, the city of Hiroshima is initiating a two-year scientific exploration of the psychological impact of the A-bomb experience." from an address by the present-day Mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, on 6 August 2008 and published on the OpenDemocracy website: http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/hiroshima-194...


Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

There is no one good war. But there is just and unjust war. I went through one, WWII, I was a small boy.

The wars are result of hate. The only solution is spiritual solution, the eleimination of hate which is love. We have to address roots of the evil. 

An interesting for me is that explosion on Nagassaki was never seen on the pictures.


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 7 years ago from New York

The first time I saw a channel coverage of (after effects of) 'Nagasaki' & 'Hiroshima' explosion, I was in middle school. Seems to be ages since then. I still remember how horrified I was, when it was reported that 'most human bodies were not even found as they had simply evaporated by a million degree heat generated due to explosion'. It was one of the worst attacks, the human race had ever witnessed. Since then, we've had many of such gruesome killings, in different parts of the world. It's hard to justify wars no matter how grave the provocation might be. The end result is always catastrophic.


britneydavidson profile image

britneydavidson 7 years ago from united kingdom

great hub...what would happen with the people there? it sounds so horrible...


cobraski profile image

cobraski 7 years ago from Maryland

Very informative hub. I will check out Doug Long web at the bottom. Thanks


shamelabboush profile image

shamelabboush 7 years ago

Those are very horribles images! I can understand your fury now towards nuclear weapons. This madness should have an end or we will all regret.


trooper22 profile image

trooper22 7 years ago from Chicago

Lest we forget, the question is not whether the bomb should have been used, it is whether it will ever be used again. No horror of human imagination has ever equaled the reality of this weapon's destructive potential.

This is a great hub, and a very important reminder that no one should take lightly.

Ironically I published a hub much like it before I seen this one.

http://hubpages.com/education/Killin-by-the-Millio


ocoonocoon profile image

ocoonocoon 6 years ago

The fact remains that these were the only two nuclear weapons dropped on human populations. Considering the horrible destruction that could occur if there were a nuclear war, I think that there should be more global attention paid to what happened to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is truly awful.

Americans, especially, are largely ignorant of the horrors caused by these bombs, and it seems that they are turning a blind eye to what happened. The Japanese did horrible things during the war, but so-it seems- did the Americans. It seems arrogant and contradictory to say, "we had to kill thousands of women and children in order for good to prevail." War brings out the worst in people, and should be avoided at all costs. Let's at least not toss this aside with a simple, "it had to be done."


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks good people for commenting.

Indeed the atom bomb is a weapon like no other and should not ever be used again. The consequences of using it, human and ecological, are just too devastating and uncontrollable.

Love and peace

Tony


Saad Shaukat 6 years ago

Time to do something practical! Better late then never!

We should join our hands and work together towards a nuclear free world. Global Zero is one such initiative struggling to bring down the level of nukes to zero. Please read more about it at,

http://hubpages.com/politics/Moving-backwards-on-N...


blackreign2012 profile image

blackreign2012 6 years ago

Its sad that generations of a people totally gone. Ppl who had nothing to do with the attack on pearl harbor but they still had to pay the price for what their government "did". There is no telling what really happened with that pearl harbor deal. I have come to the realization that The United Snakes government can and will stage anything if its suits their purpose so I am quite sure there is way more to the pearl harbor saga that meets the eye. I shutter to think of the women and children who suffered.. I saw the japanamation version of this horrific event and I was tearing and speechless by the end. How could anyone inflict such carnage and it not effect them? But these humanists/genocidalist are an uncaring lot disassociated from their own humanity and therefore cannot and will not have empathy for the horrible crimes they commit. Whoa.. got on my soapbox a little there but this subject strikes a cord with me. As usual excellent hub ~hugs~


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Blackreign - the suffering caused by the bomb on Hiroshima was a dreadful indeed and mostly the people who suffered had absolutely nothing to do with Pearl Harbour as you say.

Thanks so much for the visit and the comment. I appreciate it very much that you took the time.

And hugs to you too!

Love and peace

Tony


billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 6 years ago

My dad visited Hiroshima shortly after the attack- he told us of the horrific effects. Only pray for peace on earth.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Billy - thanks for coming by and commenting! Peace is my constant prayer because we have seen too much of war and violence. I wish I could have talked with your father about Hiroshima.

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

There is no justification for what happened; none. As long as is not our tragedy, it does not matter. A human tragedy becomes real ONLY when it hit home.

What bothers me the most is the supreme arrogance of America in trying to explain away the “motives” of committing criminal acts against humanity. Japan, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan today are only examples that illustrate how unimportant the lives of others are as opposed to how precious the American ones have always been.

A life is a life, is a life. Color should not matter, religion should not matter, but sadly it does. If we are to believe the facts, a Jewish life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives, an American life is worth a thousand Muslim lives; the world is watching and says nothing, we got used to the atrocities and look the other way while the bloodshed goes on and on.

I have very little hope that we will ever learn; what we will do is re-write history and come out smelling like roses.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Petra - you are so right! There can never be any justification for the bomb, or for dropping it (twice) on Japan. And as you say, history will be re-written to make it sound OK. Because history is always written by the victors, never the vanquished.

Like you I also am troubled by the different values placed on the lives of different people, especiually when those differing values are used to justify the unjustifyable.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

Love and peace

Tony


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Too painful, Tony. I just could not make it to the end


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Dimitris - thank you for the coming by and I know, it is all too horrible for words, isn't it? I just feel so angry that firstly human life is counted so cheap, especially if it is "other" humans; and that, when so many in the world don't have the basic necessities of life, governments can go on spending billions on ever-more sophisticated ways of killing instead of helping people to live lives with some basic human dignity. It's actually criminal, but as Petra noted above, history is written by the victors who tend to whitewash over the crimes and, as she says, come up smelling like roses.

Thanks again for being so human! We need more people like you, Dimitris!

Love and peace

Tony


ralwus 6 years ago

It is hard to have hope for true peace with such hatreds and such terrible consequences summed up in a tiny atom all too ready and indiscriminate for destruction. great hub my friend.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Every year I read Sadako and a thousand paper cranes with my class, and every year I cry when she dies from the radiation poisoning


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Charlie - it is very difficult indeed.

Cindy - you are a great teacher!

Thanks good friends for coming by and commenting. It means a lot to me.

Love and peace

Tony


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 6 years ago from Australia

This is indeed a story that needs to be kept current.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Manna - thanks for stopping by. I try to keep this alive because I feel so strongly about it. Thanks for the support.

Love and peace

Tony

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