August 6th and August 9th - days that live in infamy.
Over sixty years ago the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in a horrific blink of an eye. In Hiroshima, on August 6th 1945 at 8:15 a.m. - 80,000 people were instantly vaporized, and a total of around 140,000 people, representing around 40% of the city’s population of 350,000, were to be dead by the end of that year.
The death toll from radiation-related diseases in Hiroshima continues to grow, reaching a total (as of August 6, 2005) of 242,437 (95% civilian). 1
Three days after Hiroshima was decimated, Nagasaki was hit. At 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945 - the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. 74,000 people were killed and another 70,000 were wounded.
The decision to bomb Nagasaki only a few days after Hiroshima raises separate issues. Some people hold that most of the arguments for the use of the atomic bomb didn’t justify dropping the second one on Nagasaki. “I knew a single word that proved our democratic government was capable of committing obscene, gleefully rabid and racist, yahooistic murders of unarmed men, women and children, murders wholly devoid of military common sense... I said the word, It was a foreign word. That word was Nagasaki.” - said Kurt Vonnegut in his semi-autobiographical novel Timequake.
Why were those bombs dropped at that time? At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Soviet Union had secretly agreed to join the war against Japan within three months of Germany's surrender. Preparing for its next tactical enemy, the United States wanted to force Japan to surrender before the Soviet Union could enter the war and secure a stronger political position after the war. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 - and time was running out. Japan sent diplomatic cables to Washington in June and July of 1945 requesting terms for surrender. The cables were ignored. The last thing they (the Japanese) wanted was the Russian army, a historical enemy, to be occupying the country, writes Professor Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (U.C. Santa Barbara) in his new book entitled Racing the Enemy. 2.
The United States had a problem, some say ulterior motives. It had spent 2 billion dollars on the Manhattan Project to develop the supreme weapon, and it needed to use this weapon in a war so as to measure its effectiveness (that is to say, destructive power on cities and human flesh), exact revenge for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and to demonstrate U.S. capabilities to the Soviet Union regardless of the cost in human lives. Scientists working on the Manhattan Project later stated that they were pressured to finish the bomb to coincide with the Soviet entrance into the Pacific theater.
At first the U.S. wanted the Soviets to join in the war against Japan, but “Once the tests (atomic) succeeded in July, however, the atomic bomb was preferred because, Hasegawa and others argue, U.S. leaders, for political reasons, no longer wanted the Soviets to enter the war.3
U.S. Opposition to use of atomic bombs.
One has to remember that the Manhattan Project was created to counter to Nazi Germany's atomic bomb program, once Germany was defeated, many of those working on the project felt that the United States should not be the first to use these horrific weapons.
Leo Szilard, a scientist who was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb, said:
"If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them."
The use of atomic weapons against civilian populations on a large scale is a crime against humanity and a war crime. In fact, knowingly bombing civilian populations (as in the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresdin) is a crime against humanity and a war crime. The use of poisonous weapons (due to the effects of the radiation) were defined as war crimes by international law after the first world war.
The highest-ranking officer in the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur, was not consulted beforehand, but said afterward that he felt that there was no military justification for the bombings.4
Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for Truman and his advisors);"...when we didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs."5
Major General Curtis LeMay: “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.” “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all”6.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings stated: “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 the war. . . .The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan. . . . “7
Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander U.S. Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946: 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.8
Eisenhower wrote in his memoir The White House Years:
"In 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. 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.9
In a Newsweek interview, Eisenhower again recalled the meeting with Stimson:"...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."10-
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, after interviewing hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, reported:
"Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.11
So the important question here is: If there was no strategic need to drop the bombs, and if the Japanese government would have surrendered by years’ end anyway without the need for a Soviet or American invasion - WHY WERE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE USELESSLY SLAUGHTERED? To send a message to the Soviets?
At the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Park it is inscribed:
"Let all the souls here rest in peace, as we will never repeat this mistake."
On August 6, 2005, under a scorching sun, more than 55,000 people gathered in Peace Park in Hiroshima to remember the 60th anniversary of the bombing that killed so many, and ushered in the nuclear age. At 8:15 a.m. local time (the exact moment the atomic bomb exploded on August 6, 1945) the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, led the gathering in a minute of silence. A huge metal bell then tolled in memory of the victims. Children dressed in black and white (colors of mourning) laid wreathes of flowers at the arch shaped Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims memorial.
Participants and activists who had gathered from across the globe then released 1,000 doves into the sky as a symbol of peace. Wreaths of origami cranes and offerings of water were placed at alters, shrines and monuments to symbolize the suffering of those who died. As dusk fell, paper lanterns were floated down the Motoyasu-gawa River (that runs by the park) to symbolize the souls of the dead.
Mayor Akiba warned the nuclear powers that they were “jeopardising human survival” by clinging on to their arsenals. “We have to pay tribute to all the souls claimed by the atomic bomb,”
A statement read by Nobuyasu Abe, the UN undersecretary of disarmament on behalf of Kofi Annan said that “Today, we are all Hibakusha.” Annan called for a concerted action to prevent “a cascade of nuclear proliferation”. “The world has made little progress in tackling the spread of nuclear weapons. ”
The survivors of the bombings are called hibakusha, a Japanese term for the surviving "atomic bomb victims." The number of hibakusha continues to decline. As of last April, there were 81,649 officially recognized hibakusha victims of the Hiroshima bomb, and their average age was 72.12
Hiroshima A-bomb survivor Tadahiko Murata, in appealing to the global community to eliminate nuclear arms at a symposium held near Boston stated:“ 'Hibakusha' (atomic bomb victims) are even now being created in the world due to the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, for example. “
As he has done in the past, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba used the occasion to touch on recent international trends related to the abolition of nuclear weapons. This year's news, the mayor said, was particularly bad.
"Unfortunately, the Review Conference of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty this past May left no doubt that the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, and a few other nations wishing to become nuclear-weapon states, are ignoring the majority voices of the people and governments of the world," Akiba said in the annual peace declaration (see declaration below).
"Within the United Nations, nuclear club members use their veto power to override the global majority and pursue their selfish objectives."
Akiba also declared the period from Saturday until Aug. 9, 2006, as the "Year of Inheritance, Awakening and Commitment."
"Over the next year, Mayors for Peace, which consists of mayors from over 1,000 cities worldwide, will work with nations, NGOs and others to launch a great diversity of campaigns for the abolition of nuclear weapons," Akiba said.
"Japan will take the lead in the international community to push for the global disarmament of nuclear weapons," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a separate speech. "We will also do all we can to push for the abolition of nuclear weapons."
Hiroshima Peace Declaration 2005
by Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, August 6, 2005
The Nagasaki Peace Declaration - 2005
by Iccho Itoh, Mayor of Nagasaki
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
- 9/7/05 The Japan Times
- The Progressive August 4, 2005 Unhappy Anniversary of the Bomb.
- Gar Alperovitz, 60 years later, evidence shows atomic bombing of Japan was unnecessary - The Progressive Media Project July 27, 2005
- Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71
- The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, by Gar Alperovitz,Vintage (August 6, 1996) pg. 359.
- The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz Vintage (August 6, 1996), p. 336.
- The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz Vintage (August 6, 1996),, p. 329; see additionally The New York Times, October 6, 1945.
- The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz Vintage (August 6, 1996), p. 331.
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-56. pg. 380 Garden City: Doubleday.
- Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63
- "United States Strategic Bombing Survey Summary Report (Pacific War) Washington, D.C. 1 July 1946 - Japan's Struggle to End the War. Washington: Government Printing Office.
- 9/7/05 The Japan Times
- Japan Today April 27, 2005