60 Years Later: A Look at Hiroshima

"We heard a hum and saw a little airplane in the sky to the southeast…Then suddenly a thing like a white parachute came falling. Five or six seconds later everything turned yellow in one instant. It felt the way it does when you get the sun-light in your eye. A second or two later, CRASH! There was a tremendous noise. Everything became dark and stones and roof tiles came pouring down on our heads. For a while I was unconscious. A whole lot of lumber came piling around my hips…I came to again with the pain. I quickly crawled outside. There were lots of people lying around out there; the faces of most of them were charred…

"A muddy rain began to fall…when the rain stopped it suddenly got cold…I got terribly thirsty so I went back to the river to drink. From upstream a great many black and burned corpses came floating down the river…At the margin of the river there were corpses lying all over the place. Among them were some children who were screaming, `Mother! Mother!’…There were also some people who came tottering to the edge of the river and fell in and died just like that…"

That morning, the U.S. government’s Enola Gay B-29 plane and two weather observation planes had flown from the northeast towards Hiroshima, Japan. From an altitude of over 31,000 feet, the B-29 released a uranium atomic bomb over the Japanese city at  Forty three seconds later the atomic bomb exploded inside Hiroshima.

Three days later, at , a U.S. government plane dropped a plutonium atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. The atomic bomb utilized on August 9, 1945 by the U.S. government was originally scheduled to be dropped in the Kokura area of Japan. But "the skies of Kokura…were covered by heavy clouds; and after circling the area for about 10 minutes," the bombing plane and its accompanying planes "headed for Nagasaki,, their second target," according to the Committee for The Compilation of Material On Damage Caused By The Atomic Bombs In Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s 1981 book, Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical, and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings.

Wilfred Burchett was the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the U.S. government’s atomic bomb was dropped on the city. In his 1983 book, Shadows of Hiroshima, Burchett wrote the following:

"In 1945 I was too overwhelmed by the enormity of what had happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to appreciate the cool deliberation and advance planning that went into manufacturing the subsequent cover-up…

"…As I learned of the experiences of journalistic contemporaries and Japanese survivors, I was forced to recognize the existence of an official policy to suppress accurate reportage of the terrible after-effects of nuclear war. This cover-up–which continues today–is closely related to other attempts to disguise the reasons why President Truman decided to drop two atomic bombs on an already prostrated and defeated Japan. The total accumulation of lies, half-truths and manipulated public opinion, at the ultimate expense of thousands of lives…makes the Watergate Affair look like rather small change…"

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical, and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings book also recalled:

"The fourth reason for incomplete data on A-bomb damage derives from the restrictions imposed by the Allied Occupation of Japan…On 19 September [1945], a press code was adopted that imposed prior censorship on all radio broadcasts and on newspapers, magazines, and other print media. As a result, all reports, commentaries, and treatises dealing with A-bomb damages, including even those about medical treatment of A-bomb-related symptoms, were prohibited. Except for a brief time before the press code was imposed, all accounts of A-bomb damages disappeared from newspapers, magazines and academic journals…"

According to A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn, in addition to the 100,000 Japanese civilians who died immediately and the "tens of thousands more" who died more slowly from radiation poisoning, "twelve U.S. navy fliers in the Hiroshima city jail" were also killed in the atomic bombing–although "the U.S. government has never officially acknowledged" this fact. Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical, and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings also noted:

"As many as 3,200 second-generation Japanese-Americans were reportedly in Hiroshima…But when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was planned, no one in the U.S. military command raised any questions about killing or wounding the American citizens in the city."

A People’s History Of The United States also observed that at the time the A-bombs were used "it was known the Japanese had instructed their ambassador in Moscow to work on peace negotiations with the Allies"; and that A World Destroyed by Martin Sherwin asserted that after a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki "among the Nagasaki dead were probably American prisoners of war." According to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings, "the total deaths following exposure to the bomb by the end of 1945 totalled 140,000 ( plus or minus 10,000) in Hiroshima and 70,000 (plus or minus 10,000) in Nagasaki."

Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths Of American History by Richard Shenkman also stated:

"In 1946 the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, after an exhaustive survey, found that…`in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped…and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated…’ On June 20, 1945, the emperor and leading members of the Supreme War Direction Council had secretly decided to end the war…"

No U.S. president has publicly apologized to the people of Japan for the U.S. government’s 1945 decision to drop atomic bombs on Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“One of the worst atrocities in history”

Fleet Admiral William Leahy was the chief of staff to President Truman when Truman learned that the White House order to drop an atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima had been carried out. In his postwar book, I Was There, Leahy recalled how Truman reacted to this news:

"On August 6, 1945, the cruiser Augusta was speeding across the Atlantic, bringing President Truman and the delegation that had accompanied him to the Potsdam Conference back to Washington…While the President was eating lunch…Captain Frank H. Graham…handed him a brief message…

"This message told him that the Army Air Force had dropped an atom bomb on…Hiroshima…

"Truman was excited over the news. He shook Captain Graham’s hand and said, according to those present, `This is the greatest thing in history!’"

In the same book, Admiral Leahy explained why he felt it was morally wrong for the U.S. government to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago:

"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons…

"…`Bomb’ is the wrong word to use for this new weapon. It is not a bomb. It is not an explosive. It is a poisonous thing that kills people by its deadly radioactive reaction, more than by the explosive force it develops.

"…My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarian of the Dark Ages…"

In 1995, Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich ordered the Smithsonian Institution to cancel a museum exhibit of the Enola Gray B-29 bomber that nuked Hiroshima in 1945–because the exhibit apparently expressed sympathy for the 130,000 to 140,000 Japanese civilians who were killed or injured by the U.S. government’s initial use of nuclear weapons. Yet, as early as 1945, the now-deceased Toward Freedom magazine writer-activist Dave Dellinger indicated in an editorial that appeared in the first issue of Direct Action magazine why U.S. Establishment politicians might consider now apologizing to the Japanese people for the U.S. government’s 1945 A-Bomb attacks:

"…Without any semblance of a democratic decision–without even advance notice of what was taking place–the American people waked up one morning to discover that the United States government had committed one of the worst atrocities in history.

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atomized at a time when the Japanese were suing desperately for peace. The American leaders were acting with almost inconceivable treachery by denying that they had received requests for peace, rumors of which had been trickling through censorship for months.

"The atomic bombs were exploded on congested cities filled with civilians. There was not even the slightest military justification, because the military outcome of the war had been decided months earlier…"

Since nuclear weapons of mass destruction were first used by the U.S. government against Japanese civilians, U.S. anti-war movement activists have often protested in the streets to demand that the U.S. pursue a pacifist foreign policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. In the early 1960s, for instance, U.S. anti-war movement street protests helped pressure the Democratic Kennedy administration to sign a 1963 nuclear test-ban treaty a few months before JFK’s assassination. And on June 12, 1982, over 800,000 anti-war protesters marched in Manhattan in opposition to the Reagan administration’s plans to place more nuclear weapons in Europe.

Yet 60 years after the immoral bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. anti-war movement activists who favor nuclear disarmament are still ignored by U.S. mainstream media – despite the Pentagon’s continued preparations for nuclear and space warfare in the 21st century era of permanent war.

Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based U.S. anti-war Movement writer-activist.