Photo: Hajime Miyatake/Getty
It is 70 years on 6th August 1945 since the US piloted Enola Gay dropped the uranium atomic bomb (Little Boy) on the city of Hiroshima in Japan and 3 days later a plutonium implosion type bomb (Fat Man) on Nagasaki. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan marked the end of World War II as America targeted one of the main supply depots for the Japanese army. Children and animals were vaporized as the bomb exploded 580 metres above Hiroshima with a blinding flash, creating a giant fireball and a mushroom shaped cloud that rose over a devastated landscape. Temperatures in the centre of the explosion reached as high as 4,000 C melting concrete and steel and in places equalled that of the sun. All that remained of some citizens were their shadows, ghosts etched on walls, thermal rays imprinting one person forever on the stone steps of the Sumitomo Bank.
According to Japanese officials around 69% of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and another 6–7% damaged. The Prefectual Industrial Promotional Hall (Genbaku, A bomb dome) built to withstand earthquakes remained standing and the ruin was named Hiroshima Peace Memorial becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Buildings constructed of wood and paper in both cities were set alight rapidly with firestorms engulfing homes and offices where moments before families and workers were going about their daily business.
In the months that followed many civilians died from the effect of burns and radiation whilst others succumbed to disease and malnutrition following the collapse of the infrastructure of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and little left standing in some areas and each bomb impacting heavily on areas of several square miles. On August 15 1945, Emperor Hirohito surrendered to the Americans such was the impact of this “new and most cruel bomb.” The US had committed alleged war crimes and there was to be no accountability.
Looking north from the Chamber of Commerce stands the Atomic Bomb Dome (Image, Hiroshima and Nagasaki remembered)
The Japan Times reports,
“the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing in Hiroshima killed about 140,000 people from injuries and immediate effects of radiation within five months, and another one dropped on Nagasaki three days later killed 73,000. The death toll linked to the attacks and their radiation effects has since risen to 460,000, with the number of survivors declining to some 183,000, according to latest government statistics.”
As John Pilger stated in his 2008 article,
“the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a criminal act on an epic scale. It was premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. For this reason its apologists have sought refuge in the mythology of the ultimate “good war”, whose “ethical bath”, as Richard Drayton called it, has allowed the west not only to expiate its bloody imperial past but to promote 60 years of rapacious war, always beneath the shadow of The Bomb.”
See “The lies of Hiroshima are the lies of today”
Masatoshi Hirose, Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor, shares his experience (Image, CNS)
The hibakusha, a term widely used in Japan refers to the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who work hard to educate each new generation. Hibakusha translates literally to “explosion-affected people” and many are now in their 80s. As the Hibakusha website states,
“according to the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law, there are certain recognized categories of hibakusha: people exposed directly to the bomb and its immediate aftermath; people exposed within a 2 kilometer radius who entered the sphere of destruction within two weeks of the explosion; people exposed to radioactive fallout generally; and those exposed in utero, whose mothers were pregnant and contaminated in any of these defined categories.”
Hibakusha suffered the additional trauma of discrimination as little was known initially about radioactive contamination and fellow Japanese feared it might be contagious. This meant work and marriage became difficult areas for survivors due to the stigma.
The following is a testimony of a survivor
One of those who experienced for himself the horrors of nuclear war was a young boy who suffered thermal burns on more than one-third of his body, and his chest and the left side of his belly were also seriously injured. The father of two spent 3 years and 7 months in hospital and recalls his memories of that devastating day,
“at that time I was riding a red bicycle on the streets of Sumiyoshi township (about 2 kilometers from the hypocenter). I was 16 years old, and it was my second year as a telegram messenger. The moment of face, I was blinded by the flash and thrown 3 meters away by the blast that came from my rear left, and my bicycle was twisted and bent. It was strange that I was not bleeding and did not feel any pain until I reached an underground shelter 300 meters away. The moment I reached the shelter, I felt severe pain in my back, which ran through my whole body. From then on, for three days and three nights, I kept on groaning in the shelter, and on the fourth day I was finally rescued and sent to a first-aid station.”
“In the early stages, the only treatment I received for my burns was the application of a mixture of ash and oil as a substitute for medicine. I do not know how many times I yelled “kill me!” because of the severe pain and desperate feeling.”
“Thereafter, as a result of the several operations I underwent, I escaped death and returned to work. Since I have once given up my life, I wish to dedicate my new life to the struggle against atomic bombs.”
See following link for more stories,
One person who became a national symbol of endurance was Sadako Sasaki who was exposed to radiation age 2 and developed leukaemia, “Sadako was inspired by the Japanese legend that says: if you fold 1,000 paper cranes your wish will come true.” The origami crane was adopted as a peace symbol and many visitors go to view a statue in memory of a young girl in Hiroshima Peace Park who inspired others and continues to do so after her death. More information can be found on the Hibakusha Stories website,
Anna Fifeld, Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post tweeted the following on hibakusha today,
Okahiro Terao was 4 when the US bombed Hiroshima. He’s trying to keep the memory alive https://instagram.com/p/58nTdftlUE/
The Humanitarian impact of Nuclear Weapons
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) remind the world that with regard to nuclear weapons, “no weapon ever invented can cause so much death and destruction so quickly, on such a catastrophic scale, or such widespread and persisting toxicity in the environment.” IPPNW have introduced a new online resource for anyone working to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. This includes “essential facts about the blast, burn, and radiation effects of nuclear weapons; the devastation they wreak upon the environment; and the inability of physicians to reach and treat the surviving victims of nuclear war; in language that is accessible, understandable, repeatable and, we hope, persuasive.” The link can be viewed below,
“Hiroshima 70 years on: One survivor remembers the horrors of the world’s first atomic bombing”
“24 hours after Hiroshima” (video)
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.