Hiroshima Marks Anniversary of Atomic Bombing

August 5th, 2014 - by admin

Channel News Asia & Eric Sutphin / Ploughshares & Reid Dennis / Ploughshares – 2014-08-05 21:11:03


Hiroshima’s Civilian Victims
Lt. D. A. McGovern / USSBS Film

National Archives and Records Administration film files containing raw army footage of Hiroshima victims.

Hiroshima Marks Anniversary of Atomic Bombing
Channel News Asia.com

HIROSHIMA, Japan (August 6, 2014) — Tens of thousands were to gather for peace ceremonies in Hiroshima on Wednesday (Aug 6), marking the 69th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the city, as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan.

Ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates, including US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, were to observe a moment of silence at 8:15 am local time (2315 GMT), when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.

An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It had killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.

Three days later, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, bringing the war to a close.

Historians have long been at odds over whether the twin attacks brought a speedier end to the war by forcing Japan’s surrender and preventing many more casualties in a planned land invasion. The bombed cities have long been spearheading anti-nuclear movements, calling atomic bombs “the absolute evil”.

Last week, US media reported the death of Theodore Van Kirk, the last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay, who passed away aged 93. A funeral was reportedly scheduled for August 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, which would coincide with the Hiroshima anniversary in Japan.

Many atomic bomb survivors, known as “hibakusha”, oppose both military and civilian use of nuclear power, pointing to the tens of thousands who were killed instantly in the Hiroshima blast and the many more who later died from radiation sickness and cancer.

Anti-nuclear sentiment flared in Japan after an earthquake-sparked tsunami left some 19,000 dead or missing and knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.

None of those deaths were directly attributed to the nuclear crisis. But reactor meltdowns spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to leave their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Despite strong public opposition, Japan’s nuclear watchdog last month said that two atomic reactors were safe enough to switch back on. The decision marked a big step towards restarting the country’s nuclear plants which were shut after the disaster, and sparked accusations that the regulator was a puppet of the powerful atomic industry.

Hiroshima – An Ominous Anniversary
Eric Sutphin / Ploughshares.org

(August 4, 2014) – Sixty-nine years ago, the world fundamentally changed. With a single bomb, an atom bomb, the entire city of Hiroshima was wiped out and and more than 100,000 people were killed. Nagasaki was similarly bombed three days later and again, a single bomb killed 50,000 people.

A new era had begun, one in which all humanity was just minutes from destruction.

The ensuing decades were defined by a Cold War arms race, which produced tens of thousands of these devastating weapons. Living under the shadow of nuclear Armageddon has made a profound impact on the world. These weapons have cost taxpayers trillions of dollars, damaged human health, contaminated the environment and spread fear across the globe. More than once the world teetered on the verge of World War III, this time armed with nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only times these weapons have been used in conflict. But the threat remains. There are still 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world held by nine countries. The lessons and legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must be remembered by new generations.

Over the next five days we will be commemorating the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings using Twitter to curate a series of tweets and information highlighting the risks, threats to health, the financial costs and arms control successes associated with nuclear weapons. The themes each day are:

• Aug 04 – On the Edge of Disaster – Accidents and Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War

• Aug 05 – Nuclear Weapons Testing and the Human Toll

• Aug 06 – Hiroshima Bombing: The Day the World Changed

• Aug 07 – Nuclear Weapons: The Cost to Taxpayers

• Aug 08 – Rolling Back the Tide: Arms Control Successes, Challenges that Remain

We encourage you to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and experiences living under the threat nuclear weapons (think “duck and cover” drills at school), the cost to taxpayers or even your recollections of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Why do you oppose nuclear weapons? And what do you think we must do to create a world where we will never again feel threatened by their devastating force?

A Tale of Two Cities
The US War Department

This 1946 film shows actual footage of the atomic bomb destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan

A First-hand Account:
Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the Bomb

Reid Dennis / Ploughshares.org

In 1945, Ploughshares Fund supporter Reid Dennis was sent by the Navy to Japan. While there he visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after their bombing. Reid has kindly shared his remembrances of that visit with us, below.

(August 9, 2012) — I volunteered for the U.S. Navy in May 1944, just before my 18th birthday. I had been accepted for a training program to become a radio or radar technician. In June, literally the day after graduating from high school, I was on a troop train headed for Great Lakes Naval Training Base near Chicago. Basic training together with the technical training program kept me busy for the next thirteen months with the last month being devoted to LORAN, a new Long Range Navigation system that was highly classified.

After training, I was based at the Naval Repair Station in San Diego. One or two days after “VJ” Day in August 1945, I received orders to report on board the U.S.S. Baltimore, a Heavy Cruiser, in Long Beach harbor. They needed a LORAN technician. I went on board one evening, and we sailed for Japan early the next morning! We did not stop en-route and were refueled at sea. We went straight to Japan, into the Inland Sea and on to Kure which was about 20 miles from Hiroshima. Kure, at some point, had been the largest operational naval base in the world, but it was now completely devastated.

In October, the Navy began sending voluntary “sight-seeing” trips down to Hiroshima in landing craft. No one knew anything about residual radiation. We were free to roam about in the rubble and pick up anything that looked interesting. I remember climbing over blocks of fallen masonry inside the steel frame of a building that has now been turned into a shrine. They had cleared the rubble out of some of the main streets, but all of the cross streets were still blocked. The devastation was horrific, but so was the devastation in Kure and other nearby communities. We were used to devastation. The only big difference was that Hiroshima was the result of one “big” bomb.

Our reaction to our visit to Nagasaki some weeks later was much the same. “One bomb did all of this?”

What is incomprehensible today is that the nuclear bombs of today are 1,000 times more powerful than the ones that were used in 1945. If that is true, then the world cannot afford to have even one more such device explode. It would be the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.

Reid and his wife Peggy became involved with Ploughshares Fund in 1983 at the gentle persistence of founder Sally Lilienthal. According to Reid, they “take satisfaction from having supported the organization from the very early days when relatively modest contributions were nevertheless very important.”

Check out Reid’s photos from his visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in our slideshow, above. Then, help Ploughshares Fund commemorate the 67th anniversary of the bombings by folding a paper crane for peace.