This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 3 August 2015 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The world’s worst war crime and the countries willing to do it again
– From John Hersey’s Hiroshima
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The world’s worst war crime and the countries willing to do it again
3 August 2015. A World to Win News Service. “That fateful summer, 8:15. The roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast – silence – hell on earth.
“The eyes of young girls watching the parachute melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. Their hair stood on end. Their clothes were ripped to shreds. People trapped in houses toppled by the blast were burned alive. Others died when their eyes and internal organs burst from their bodies. Hiroshima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead.” (From the 6 August 2007 memorial statement by Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, in a plea to rid the world of all nuclear weapons)
“A woman who covered her eyes from the flash lowered her hands to find the skin of her face had melted into her palms… Hundreds of field workers and others staggered by, moaning and crying. Some were missing body parts, and others were so badly burned that even though they were naked, Yoshida couldn’t tell if they were men or women. He saw one person whose eyeballs hung down from his face, the sockets empty.” (From Nagasaki, Life After Nuclear War, by Susan Southard, Viking, 2015)
Seventy years ago the United States became the first and only country to ever use nuclear weapons.
On 6 August 1945, an American bomber dropped a nuclear device over a hospital in Hiroshima, a Japanese city with little military significance. The bomb was attached to a parachute and set to go off high in the air to maximize the number of people who would be exposed to lethal radiation. About 140,000 city residents were killed or so badly injured that died within a few months.
When informed about the blast he had ordered, U.S. President Harry Truman gleefully exclaimed, “This is the greatest thing in history.” To show just how “great” the atomic bomb was, three days later, on 9 August, the U.S. dropped another one, destroying the city of Nagasaki and killing another 70,000 people. Many years of suffering from cancer and other ills caused by radiation poisoning lay ahead for the survivors and their children. Susan Southard’s new book, based on interviews with survivors over the last decade, recounts how some were so monstrously disfigured that children would run away from them. The fact that about 192,000 victims are still alive shows that this is not ancient history.
The U.S. occupied Japan after the war ended shortly after, and suppressed news articles recounting the horror that had occurred. Instead, newspapers like the New York Times parroted official lies, denying the existence of radiation sickness and downplaying the seriousness and special nature of the devastation caused by atomic weapons – which the U.S. government was then considering using on the USSR. The general in charge of developing the atom bomb told Congress that death by radiation was “a very pleasant way to die.”
The U.S. unleashed the nuclear era in the closing days of the Second World War. Germany had already surrendered. Japan’s economy had been destroyed and its capital fire-bombed into ashes; its military had been dealt decisive defeats. Many historians believe that Japan would have surrendered without the atomic bombing. The purpose of the bombing was not just to make sure that the U.S. and its allies won the war, but even more, to make sure that the U.S. and the U.S. alone would benefit from Japan’s surrender.
The U.S. was determined not to let the Soviet Union prevent it from stepping into Japan’s shoes as the top colonial power in Asia. The USSR was still a socialist country then, although a decade later it would take a different path. It had been allied with the U.S. during the war against Germany and Japan, but even before the war was over the U.S. was baring its teeth to the USSR and setting out to dominate much of the world.
The USSR is no more but the U.S. and other countries still threaten the world with nuclear holocaust. The U.S., UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel hold thousands of nuclear warheads and the missiles, aircraft and submarines to use them. (Note: This list does not include Iran, despite the hysteria stoked by Truman’s successor as U.S. president, Barack Obama.)
When Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he promised he would seek nuclear disarmament. The committee that awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize the following year cited the agreement for a “nuclear-free world” he signed with Russia. (If Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for this, so did Russian president Vladimir Putin.)
Yet the treaty sought no such thing. It permitted the two sides to each retain 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons deployed and ready to go, not counting those in storage. (Russia already had less than that). Many are vastly more powerful than the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The thousands of tactical nuclear weapons not covered by the treaty are, in some ways, even more dangerous than the strategic ones, because their use is envisioned in ordinary official military doctrine, and once a nuclear exchange begins, no one can say how it will end. A nuclear world war is not now on the horizon, as it was at several points during the height of U.S.-Soviet contention for world domination in the 1960s through the 1980s, but still, the only reason to have nukes is to be able to use them.
Although the arms race between the U.S. and Russia today is no longer about an ever-accumulating stockpile of nuclear bombs, Omaba has launched a trillion-dollar campaign to modernize his country’s atomic bomb-making facilities, produce new or refurbished missiles, submarines and bombers to use them, and update existing warheads. Russia is reported to be updating its nuclear delivery vehicles. Similar efforts are being carried out by the UK (the modernisation of its nuclear arsenal and a new fleet of Trident ballistic missile submarines) and France (new air to ground nuclear-tipped missiles). Rather than working to consign nuclear weapons to the past, these programmes are meant to ensure their usability far into the future.
When asked to explain Obama’s apparent turn-around, an advisor pointed to “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.” (The New York Times, 21 September 2014). This is a perfect example of the Cold War posture when each of the two imperialist superpowers was ready to risk destroying the world rather than lose the contest to run it. The implicit threat to use nuclear weapons to “protect” Ukraine – in other words, to keep Russia from challenging U.S. geo-political interests – is completely insane from the viewpoint of the interests of the population of Ukraine and the world.
As for combating Islamist terrorism, the current pretext for U.S. and European military intervention in the Middle East, if terrorism is defined as the killing of innocent civilians for a political purpose, then there has seldom been a terrorist act more horrendous in its consequences or on a bigger scale than the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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From John Hersey’s Hiroshima
3 August 2015. A World to Win News Service. The American novelist and journalist John Hersey arrived in Hiroshima after the 6 August 1945 bombing, and returned again the following year to conduct interviews for a magazine article and later a book that helped open the eyes of several generations. It was banned in Japan under the American occupation. The following excerpts from his Hiroshima (Penguin Classics, 2001) focus on the accounts told by two survivors.
At exactly 8.15 am, on 6 August 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.
At that same moment, Dr Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read his newspaper on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbour tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defence fire lane. Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order’s three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine. Dr Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital (no relation to Miss Sasaki), walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen in his hand. And the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer.
A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. Later, they wondered why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counted many small items of chance or volition – a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one street-car instead of the next – that spared him. And afterwards each knew that, in the act of survival, he had lived a dozen lives and had seen more death than he ever thought he would see.
At the time, none of them knew anything. Then a tremendous flash of light cut across the sky. Reverend Tanimoto has a distinct recollection that it travelled from east to west, from the city toward the hills. It seemed a sheet of sun. Both he and his friend Mr Matsuo reacted in terror – they had time to react for they were 3,500 yards, or two miles, from the centre of the explosion. Matsuo dashed up the front steps into the house and dived among the bedrolls and buried himself there. Reverend Tanimoto took four or five steps and threw himself between two big rocks in the garden. He bellied up hard against one of them. As his face was against the stone, he did not see what happened. He felt a sudden pressure, and then splinters and pieces of board and fragments of tile fell on him. He heard no roar. (Almost no one in Hiroshima recalls hearing any noise of the bomb.)
When he dared, Reverend Tanimoto raised his head and saw that the rich man”s house had collapsed. He thought a bomb had fallen directly on it. Such clouds of dust had risen that there was a sort of twilight around. In panic, not thinking for the moment of Matsuo under the ruins, he dashed out into the street. In the street, the first thing he saw was a squad of soldiers who had been burrowing into the hillside opposite, making one of the thousands of dugouts in which the Japanese apparently intended to resist invasion, hill by hill, life for life. The soldiers were coming out of the hole, where they should have been safe, and blood was running from their heads, chests, and backs. They were silent and dazed. Under what seemed to be a local dust cloud, the day grew darker and darker.
Hatsuyo Nakamura had not had an easy time. Her husband, Isawa, had gone into the army just after the youngest of her three children, Myeko, was born, and she had heard nothing from or of him for a long time, until, on 5 March 1942, she received a seven-word telegram: “Isawa died an honourable death at Singapore.” Isawa had been a not particularly prosperous tailor, and his only capital was a Sankoku sewing machine. After his death, Nakamura got out the machine and began to take in piecework herself, and since then had supported the children, but poorly, by sewing.
As Nakamura stood in her kitchen watching her neighbour, everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen. She did not notice what happened to the man next door; the reflex of a mother set her in motion toward her children. She had taken a single step (the house was about 1,30 metres from the centre of the explosion) when something picked her up and she seemed to fly into the next room over the raised sleeping platform, pursued by parts of her house.
Timbers fell around her as she landed, and a shower of tiles pummelled her; everything became dark, for she was buried. The debris did not cover her deeply. She rose up and freed herself. She heard a child cry, “Mother, help me!” and saw Myeko, the five-year-old, buried up to her breast and unable to move. As Nakamura started frantically to claw her way toward the child, she could see or hear nothing of her other children…
From the mound, Reverend Tanimoto saw an astonishing panorama. Not just a patch of Koi, as he had expected, but as much of Hiroshima as he could see through the clouded air was giving off a thick, dreadful miasma. Clumps of smoke, near and far, had begun to push up through the general dust. He wondered how such extensive damage could have been dealt out of a silent sky; even a few planes far up would have been audible.
Houses nearby were burning, and when huge drops of water the size of marbles began to fall, he half-thought that they must be coming from the hoses of firemen fighting the blazes. (They were actually drops of condensed moisture falling from the turbulent tower of dust, heat and fission fragments that had already risen miles into the sky above Hiroshima.) Reverend Tanimoto thought of his wife and baby, his church, his home, his parishioners, all of them down in that awful murk. Once more he began to run in fear –toward the city.
Hatsuyo Nakamura, the tailor’s widow, having struggled up from under the ruins of her house after the explosion, and seeing Myeko, the youngest of her three children, buried breast-deep and unable to move, crawled across the debris, hauled at timbers and flung tiles aside, in a hurried effort to free the child. Then, from what seemed to be caverns far below, she heard two small voices crying, “Tasukete! Tasukete! Help! Help!”
She called the names of her 10-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter: “Toshio! Yaeko!” The voices from below answered.
Nakamura abandoned Myeko, who at least could breathe, and in a frenzy made the wreckage fly above the crying voices. The children had been sleeping about three metres apart, but now their voices seemed to come from the same place. Toshio, the boy, apparently had some freedom to move, because she could feel him undermining the pile of wood and tiles as she worked from above. At last she saw his head, and she hastily pulled him out by it. A mosquito net was wound intricately, as if it had been carefully wrapped, around his feet. He said he had been blown right across the room and had been on top of his sister Yaeko under the wreckage. She now said, from underneath, that she could not move, because there was something on her legs. With a bit more digging, Nakamura cleared a hole above the child and began to pull her arm. “Itai! It hurts!” Yaeko cried. Nakamura shouted, “There’s no time now to say whether it hurts or not,” and yanked her whimpering daughter up. Then she freed Myeko. The children were filthy and bruised, but none of them had a single cut or scratch.
Nakamura took the children out into the street. They had nothing on but underpants, and, although the day was very hot, she worried rather confusedly about their being cold, so she went back into the wreckage and burrowed underneath and found a bundle of clothes she had packed for an emergency, and she dressed them in pants, blouses, shoes, padded cotton air-raid helmets called bokuzuki, and even, irrationally, overcoats. The children were silent, except for the five-year-old, Myeko, who kept asking questions: “Why is it night already? Why did our house fall down? What happened?” Nakamura, who did not know what had happened, looked around and saw through the darkness that all the houses in her neighbourhood had collapsed. The house next door, which its owner had been tearing down to make way for a fire lane, was now very thoroughly, if crudely, torn down; its owner, who had been sacrificing his home for the community’s safety, lay dead…
After crossing Koi Bridge and Kannon Bridge, having run the whole way, Reverend Tanimoto saw, as he approached the centre, that all the houses had been crushed and many were afire. So impressed was he by this time by the extent of the damage that he ran north two miles to Gion, a suburb in the foothills. At Gion, he bore toward the right bank of the main river, the Ota, and ran down it until he reached fire again. Near a large Shinto shrine, he came to more fire, and as he turned left to get around it, he met, by incredible luck, his wife. She was carrying their infant daughter. Reverend Tanimoto was now so emotionally worn out that nothing could surprise him. He did not embrace his wife; he simply said, “Oh, you are safe.” She told him that she had been buried under the parsonage with the baby in her arms. The wreckage had pressed down on her, and the baby had cried. She saw a chink of light and, by reaching up with a hand, she worked the hole bigger, bit by bit. After about half an hour, she heard the crackling noise of wood burning. At last, the opening was big enough for her to push the baby out, and afterwards she crawled out herself. She said she was now going out to Ushida. Tanimoto said he wanted to see his church and take care of the people of his neighbourhood association. They parted as casually – as bewildered – as they had met.
All day, people poured into Asano Park. Hatsuyo Nakamura and her children were among the first to arrive, and they settled in the bamboo grove near the river. They all felt terribly thirsty, and they drank from the river. At once they were nauseated and began vomiting, and they retched the whole day. Others were also nauseated; they all thought (probably because of the strong odour of ionisation, an “electric smell” given off by the bomb’s fission) that they were sick from a gas the Americans had dropped. When Father Kleinsorge and the other priests came into the park, the Nakamuras were all sick and prostrate. A woman named Iwasaki, who lived in the neighbourhood of the mission and who was sitting near the Nakamuras, got up and asked the priests if she should stay where she was or go with them. Father Kleinsorge said, “I hardly know where the safest place is.” She stayed there, and later in the day, though she had no visible wounds or burns, she died.
When Reverend Tanimoto, with his basin still in his hand, reached the park, it was very crowded, and to distinguish the living from the dead was not easy, for most of the people lay still, with their eyes open. To Father Kleinsorge, the silence in the grove by the river, where hundreds of gruesomely wounded suffered together, was one of the most dreadful phenomena of his whole experience. No one wept, much less screamed in pain; no one complained; not even the children cried; very few people even spoke. And when Father Kleinsorge gave water to some whose faces had been almost blotted out by flash burns, they took their share and then raised themselves a little and bowed to him in thanks…
As she dressed on the morning of 20 August, in the home of her sister-in-law in Kabe, not far from Nagatsuka, Nakamura, who had suffered no cuts or burns at all, though she had been rather nauseated, began fixing her hair and noticed, after one stroke, that her comb carried with it a whole handful of hair; the second time, the same thing happened, so she stopped combing at once. But in the next three or four days, her hair kept falling out of its own accord, until she was quite bald. She began living indoors, practically in hiding. On August 26, both she and her younger daughter, Myeko, woke up feeling extremely weak and tired, and they stayed on their bedrolls. Her son and other daughter, who had shared every experience with her during and after the bombing, felt fine. At about the same time, Tanimoto fell suddenly ill with a general malaise, weariness, and feverishness. These four did not realise it, but they were coming down with the strange, capricious disease which came to be known as radiation sickness…
A year after the bomb was dropped, Toshiko Sasaki was a cripple; Hatsuyou Nakamura was destitute; Father Kleinsorge was back in hospital; Dr Sasaki was incapable of the work he once could do; Dr Fujii had lost the 30-room hospital it took him many years to acquire, and had no prospects of rebuilding it. Reverend Tanimoto’s church had been ruined and he no longer had his exceptional vitality. The lives of these six people, who were among the luckiest in Hiroshima, would never be the same…
It would be impossible to say what horrors were embedded in the minds of the children who lived through the day of the bombing in Hiroshima. On the surface, their recollections, months after the disaster, were of an exhilarating adventure. Toshio Nakamura, who was 10 at the time of the bombing, was soon able to talk freely, even gaily, about the experience, and a few weeks before the anniversary he wrote the following matter-of-fact essay for his teacher at Noboricho primary school: “The day before the bomb, I went for a swim. In the morning, I was eating peanuts. I saw a light. I was knocked to little sister’s sleeping place. When we were saved, I could only see as far as the tram. My mother and I started to pack our things. The neighbours were walking around burned and bleeding. Hetaya-san told me to run away with her. I said I wanted to wait for my mother. We went to the park. A whirlwind came. At night a gas tank burned and I saw the reflection in the river. We stayed in the park on night. Next day I went to Taiko bridge and met my girl friends Kikuki and Murakami. They were looking for their mothers. But Kikuki’s mother was wounded and Murakami’s mother, alas was dead.”
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