06 August 2009

Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: a tale of continued fear and anxiety



Today is 6th August, a day that marks the most dreadful slaughter of civilians in modern history. It was 8:15 morning, 6th August 1945, when an American military B-29 airplane called Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the entire area was reduced to ashes. Three days later, another atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki city of Japan. The bombs killed as many as 255000 people out of which, roughly half died on the day of bombings itself. Since then the city hosts the peace memorial ceremony every year where leaders from each corner of the world assemble to console the souls of A-bomb victims. This year was not an exception. Representatives from around the globe attended this year's peace memorial service of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Today, as the city of Hiroshima marks 64th anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic bomb, lets recall why the names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are incised into our memories. Lets share the pain, fear and anxiety of the people of Hiroshima and the rest of the world.

What happened on August 6, 1945?

  • Why Hiroshima was the target?: The city of Hiroshima used to play a significant role as the center of economy, education, culture and military besides being the capital of a prefectural government. A number of military camps were located nearby, including the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Shunroku Hata's 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. Besides these facts, one more significant reason was that Hiroshima was believed to be the only city without prisoner of war (POW) camps, so Washington decided to allot it highest priority for bombing.
  • The bombing: August 6 was chosen because there had previously been cloud cover over the target. The dropping of A-bomb "Little Boy" at 08:15 (local time) took 57 seconds to fall from the aircraft to the predetermined height about 580 meters above the city. An immense shock wave traveled from the blast. At the hypocenter, the blast reached a speed of 440 meters per second. A fireball with a radius of 200 meters was generated whose surface temperature reached about 8000 degree centigrade. In addition, the A-bomb released tremendous amount of radiation.
  • The clock stopped ticking: All the watches found in the ground zero were stopped at 8:15 am, the time of the explosion.
  • Hiroshima was burnt to ashes: Due to the bombing, 90% of the Hiroshima's buildings were either damaged or completely destroyed. The building in the picture below was the former Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall which was built in 1915 in European style design and used for promotion of the regional specialty products. The A-bomb exploded almost right over the building. Everything at an angle to the force of the explosion was knocked over.The burned area reached about 13,250,000 sq. meters.
  • People burned to death: The casualty in Hiroshima was beyond imagination. "Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death," the Japanese radio broadcaster reported.
A wounded person who was brought to a naval hospital described, "I heard the sound of a car's horn in the darkness, then a military transport vehicle and a truck arrived. The wounded were crammed in the transport vehicle, but the truck was worse. On the open top loading space, as many people as possible had been piled up on top of each other. I couldn't tell if they were dead or alive. All the people's hair was burned and crimped.Their clothing was ragged and their exposed skin was terribly burned and soaked with blood. As I shined my flashlight over them, I could see countless pieces of wood chips, glass and metal shards stuck into their faces, backs and limbs. I couldn't believe they were human beings. A coal-tar like substance was oozing from every single person's face and body." (source: the book 'One Day in Hiroshima - An Oral History' by Nanao Kamada)

After August 6, 1945?

  • The degree of family disintegration was unimaginable. Children lost their parents and were destined to live as street children. Many old people lost their spouse and children to live in loneliness.
  • Many A-bomb survivors were exposed to radiation which caused 'acute radiation symptom'. Several types of diseases were reported including leukemia (a cancer of the blood), meningioma (a type of brain tumor) and the cancers of thyroid, breast, lung, stomach, colon, skin and others. Besides this, other illnesses were also seen even among people who were in their mother's womb when the A-bomb was dropped.
  • The psychological burden borne by A-bomb survivors are far more than the physical diseases. Remorse and the feeling of guilt and an infinite fear made it extremely hard for the people to escape from the memories of the A-bomb experiences. A fear that radiation could affect their children when they married and had children, caused A-bomb survivors to be socially isolated.
Now?

Things have changed dramatically over the years. The suffering has led Japan to seek the abolition of nuclear weapons from the world ever since, exhibiting one of the world's most firm non-nuclear policies. The city of Hiroshima has been re-built. Strong industries are the energy of Hiroshima as it continues to strengthen science and technology in the prefecture. The city promotes exchanges of people, goods, and information around the world. It's a safe place to live now, free of radiation hazards. Below is a glimpse of the Hiroshima city (the top image is the A-bomb dome, the former Trade Promotion Hall, which survived the bombing. It has been registered as a world heritage site as a reminder of the horror of the war)


Has the world learnt anything?


This continues to be a million dollar question: has the world really learnt any lesson from what happened in Hiroshima on and after the 6th August 1945? The countries that possess nuclear arms continue to flex their muscle to terrorize others and use the threat of the nuclear arsenals in order to ensure their economic advantage. We all know that nuclear bombs are the weapons of mass destruction with enormous power to kill people indiscriminately; yet we have not stopped producing them. Two atomic bombs killed over 250000 people in 1945 alone, how many more lives do we need to sacrifice before committing for a 'nuclear-weapon free' world?

At the end, I am leaving you with a video film on the Hiroshima bombing on 6th August 1945.




update: please click here for a cyber tour to the Hiroshima peace memorial park and to have a look of the ceremony that marked the 64th anniversary (6th August 2009) of A-bombing on Hiroshima.

*Sources: 1, 2, 3.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous said...

After long time I visited your blog. I am really happy to know that you are still updating blogs in different ways. As I said before I appriciate your bloging style. well presented. keep in touch. your friend
Narendra

B.J. Dummali on August 7, 2009 at 6:49 AM said...

Yea bro it's really so sad history about Japan, I dunno full history but now i got some details from your blog Thanks for Info.

AP said...

A very good, concise, informative and well presented article. I have a question though, do you think the US decision justified in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Gyanendra Kumar Jha said...

Dear Dai,
Its quite pity that we human ourselves are enemies to each other. Sometimes devil thought of ours do not want let a single creature alive!!It was the day of 6 Aug of 1945, when the world witnessed one of the ever devastating bomb attack on hiroshima! Bhaiya you have realy memorised us that day! I pray not to happen such a thing ever after!! Your writing and the posted pictures truely reflects what had happened to the world that day! It was great reading the blog! Fantastic!

सूर्य/सिकारु on August 7, 2009 at 10:06 PM said...

Depandra jee. i alreadly read some stories about this historical attak in hirosima n nagasaki 1945(second world war). it is really painful memorised to everyperson . thanx for giving chance to read in details . we pray, that kinds of war never repeat in our human life .

Natsu said...

@ AP, that would be a never-ending debate.

DEEPENDRA on August 12, 2009 at 11:18 PM said...

Narendra ji, welcome back to 'never stop dreaming'! I believe that you will be able to find some time to visit the blog regularly in coming days. looking forward to hear from you again.

B. J. ji, I appreciate your opinion and agree that the history is a sad one. But what is more distressing that no country is willing to give up their nuclear armories even now.

@AP, America's decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of World War- II continues to be one of the most controversial topics as rightly pointed out by Natsu. The argument that goes in favor of the decision is that it marked the end of the World War- II which eventually saved several lives whereas, the main argument against the decision is the fact that the bombs caused unthinkable destruction. People condemn it also because the atomic bombs were largely targeted at the civilians. However, I agree that this is a never- ending debate and whoever wins the debate has no or very little significance at the present.

Thank you Gyanu, Surya ji and Natsu for reading the post and commenting.

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TofuUnion said...

As far as the threat of nuke usage and its damage are concerned, the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is still a vivid and instructive historical fact. We are just standing at the entrance of the nuclear disarmament and there are actually hundreds thousand of people suffering in former USSR countries and the USA who were radiation damaged by nuke experiments or some depleted uranium bombs used at the battle.

Anonymous said...

Nuclear bombs were not the only weapons used to target civilians during WWII. Tokyo basically wiped from the face of the earth using conventional fire bombs. The conventional wisdom on the decision to use the A-bombs points to two ideas: 1) using the A-bombs would preclude the amphibious invasion of mainland Japan by U.S. troops (ala Normandy) resulting (theoretically) in more total deaths than the bombs. It should also be telling that it took 2 A-bombs to end the way. The death cult that the now white-washed Japanese regime employed at the time was still looking for a place of strength to negotiate surrender. It took 2 freakin' bombs for them to take the hint. We should just thank our lucky stars every night that it was us that had the bomb and not them. Do a little research please, especially on the war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army.

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