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Hiroshima Day: Remembering the Horrors of Nuclear Attack

By: Dr Nachiketa Das
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(Dr Nachiketa Das is Special Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Systems Science, Hiroshima University; And Director, School of Kaya Yoga, www.kayayoga.net )

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(This article is authored by Dr Nachiketa Das and Mrs Shizuka Imamoto, Japan.)

Hiroshima Day is not a day of celebration; it is a day of remembrance. This sombre observance is a reminder of a quarter of a million souls who have perished due to a single catastrophic explosion on a bright and beautiful sunny Monday morning of the 6th of August 1945 in Hiroshima, brought about by an American nuclear attack. The uranium fuelled atom bomb detonated at 8.15 am, 600 meters (2000 feet) above the ground surface, in a calculated devilish design to maximise the devastation, reduced this beautiful city to a veritable picture of hell. 80,000 died instantly, and by the end of the year of 1945 another 60,000 succumbed to radiation poisoning and other dreadful injuries, bringing the death toll to 140,000, out of a total population of 300,000. Many more continued to die due to cancer and genetic complications caused by the atom bomb (A-bomb), and the death toll, as of today, stands at 242,437. Still about 270,000 A-bomb affected people or hibakusha, live in Hiroshima today.

Neither the successful experimentation, nor the cataclysmic demonstration of their nuclear capability that obliterated Hiroshima deterred the Americans from a further attack. They were determined to test the more potent second atom bomb of a different fuel. Three days later on the 9th of August 1945, the American B-29 bombers flew low over the skies of Nagasaki, like the circling vultures portending death, to unleash the terror of the second nuclear strike within the week. Major Charles W. Sweeney piloted the B-29 named Bock"s Car, and took off from the Tinian island and flew towards Kokura, which was the chosen primary target for dropping the plutonium fuelled atom bomb, named by its makers as Fat Man, presumably a term of endearment. Since there is nothing endearing about a nuclear weapon, a more appropriate term with the same initials perhaps would be the Ferocious Monster.

Bock"s Car flew over the skies of Kokura but abandoned the target because of cloud cover, and altered its course to Nagasaki. At 11.02 am the 10,200 lb (4,630 kg) plutonium bomb was detonated at 500 metres above ground level. The nuclear blast annihilated Nagasaki and killed 73,884. The yield of the blast, 21 kilotons or the equivalent of 21,000 tons of TNT, though bigger than the Hiroshima bomb of 15 kilotons, caused relatively lesser devastation, because of the geographical features of the city of Nagasaki. Nagasaki is literally "long peninsula", where two rivers separated by a mountain flowed. The city nestled in the two narrow elongated river valleys, partitioned by the mountain, which to a great extent reduced the magnitude of the devastation. The atom bomb exploded almost directly above the Urakami Cathedral, which was the largest cathedral of East Asia of the time.

The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely not necessary. By the end of May 1945 American fire-bombings of 66 cities of Japan had already decimated Japanese infrastructure, killed anywhere between half a million to a million people, and made 8.5 million people homeless out of a total Japanese population of 73 million. Fire-bombings of Tokyo in one night, the 9th of March 1945, alone had killed over a hundred thousand people. Japan was already defeated, and was seeking a method for surrender. Japanese through their contacts in the neutral countries of Sweden and Switzerland, and the Soviet Union, with whom Japan had a "no war" pact, had already started discussions to negotiate an acceptable conditional surrender. American Secretary of War Henry Stimson and the American President were aware of the Japanese desires for surrender. However, the American desire to demonstrate their military supremacy to the world, particularly to their war time communist ally the Soviet Union, was the reason behind the nuclear attacks. The decision to drop atom bombs on Japan, and not on Germany, was motivated purely on considerations of race. We have made strong statements, however, we are not the first, and the present article will justify our claims.

Legacy of the twin tests of terror

With these twin tests of terror, America colonised Japan for the next 60 years, so much so that every year the US collects an annual subscription of billions of dollars towards the upkeep of about 50,000 American troops (in 2007) stationed in various military bases across Japan. These 50,000 uneducated semi-literate American soldiers who would otherwise be unemployed in the present recession ravaged declining economic environment of their native country, lead a life of relative luxury. During their stay of fifty years between 1952 and 2004, these American soldiers in Japan have committed over 200,000 crimes of all descriptions. 200,000 crimes over a period of 50 years averages to 4,000 crimes a year, and that is 11 crimes a day, every day of the year for the last 50 years. In this sustained crime wave the American troops have killed 1,076 civilians of their host nation and ally, Japan. Moreover, the American soldiers have developed a habit of raping Japanese teen-age school girls some even as young as 12.

To add insult to injury, in 1990/91 when America started the Gulf War to take control of the Middle Eastern oil fields, they demanded $10 billion from Japan as the Japanese contribution to the war, and Japan duly obliged.

Chronology of the nuclear attacks on Japan

The seeds of the nuclear holocaust at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were planted on the 2nd of August 1939 when Albert Einstein, at the request of Hungarian born American physicist Leo Szilard, wrote a letter to the President of America F D Roosevelt, advising him to launch a project for conducting research for producing atom bombs. This was a month before Germany"s invasion of Poland on the 1st of September 1939, which marked the commencement of the Second World War. Einstein"s letter, however, did not reach President Roosevelt till the 11th of October 1939. But once the US President received the letter, he acted quickly and within ten days the Advisory Committee on Uranium was formed to conduct research for producing uranium fuelled atom bombs.

Research for producing atom bombs progressed steadily over the next two years. On the 10th of April 1940, gaseous diffusion was established as the most promising method for uranium enrichment. In July 1941, plutonium, which is produced during the chain reaction of uranium, was demonstrated as a superior fissile material, better than uranium, thus paving the way for producing a plutonium fuelled atom bomb, which would eventually annihilate Nagasaki. A large scale expansion of the atom bomb project was undertaken on the 6th of December 1941, a day before the attack on Pearl Harbour, which is generally accepted as the day of American entry to the WWII. America, thus, had progressed well on its way to conduct research for producing atom bombs even before entering the war.

In January 1942, at the University of Chicago, the Metallurgical Laboratory, which was a coded name for the top secret American Government project to build atom bombs, was established. On the 18th of June 1942, Manhattan Engineer District, commonly known as the Manhattan project, was formed that started functioning officially from August 1942. Robert J Oppenheimer took over as the head of the Manhattan project on the 15th of October 1942, and the project progressed steadily. By the beginning of 1945, the uranium fuelled atom bomb assured successful explosion, and by the 3rd of April 1945, preparations began in the Tinian islands to drop the atom bombs on Japan. From day one, Japan, not Germany ever, was the target for the nuclear attacks.

On the 27th of April 1945, the Americans held the first meeting of the Target Committee to select two targets for dropping the two types of atom bombs. They had a list of 17 targets, including Tokyo Bay, an unusual site for a non-lethal demonstration of the nuclear attack. Soon the list was narrowed down to four cities: Hiroshima, Niigata, Kokura and Nagasaki, as they had remained nearly unaffected due to a deliberate plan of keeping them intact by not targeting them for fire-bombings.

Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee held on the 10th and 11th of May 1945 are quite revealing, demonstrating unequivocally the sinister plot to annihilate Hiroshima. The minutes recorded the decision on the height above the ground surface for the detonation of the atom bombs of around 1500 feet (500 meters) for optimum devastation, and accordingly the fuses for the bombs were to be set. The target cities were discussed again, and Hiroshima was classified as an AA target, thus making it the number one target for the first nuclear attack. The reasons for selecting Hiroshima as recorded in the minutes are, ".it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase blast damage". . . Americans were keen on testing the atom bombs on living cities.

The target for nuclear attacks was always Japan, never Germany

Japan was always the target for American nuclear attack, and it was never Germany. In a memorandum dated the 23rd of April 1945, General Leslie R. Groves, Director of the Manhattan Project wrote to Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, which stated, "The target is and was always expected to be Japan." And we ask, why so? The answer is obvious from the writings of Ernest Taylor Pyle, a hugely popular American war correspondent who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944, and kept millions of Americans informed of the progress of the war. Pyle wrote, "In Europe, we felt that our enemies, horrible and deadly as they were, were still people, but out here (in Asia Pacific), I soon gathered that the Japanese were looked upon (by the Americans) as, something subhuman and repulsive; the way some people feel about cockroaches and mice". Japan was the target for the nuclear attack simply on grounds of race.

Japan had been rebuffed earlier by Britain and America over the race issue soon after the conclusion of World War One in 1919, barely 20 years before the commencement of WWII, at the peace conference held at Paris where the League of Nations was born. It may come as a surprise to many of the readers that Japan was an ally of Britain and the US during the WWI, and had fought the Germans and captured German territories in China and in the Pacific. Japan as a partner of the Anglo-Japanese alliance signed in 1902 and ratified thrice, through her navy had provided protection to the British dominion of Australia from German attacks by patrolling her coastal waters, and had transported Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) troops from Australia to the Middle East. After the conclusion of the WWI, Japan as a victorious ally was invited to participate in the Paris Peace Conference.

The single most important item in the Japanese agenda for the conference was enshrinement of the Principle of Racial Equality in the Charter of the League of Nations. Japan in addition to upholding a moral principle of this nature, was keen for the adoption of the Racial Equality Bill to stop racial prejudices its citizens suffered from in the US, Australia and Canada. Australian Prime Minister Bill Hughes, who was a champion of White Australia Policy, most obstinately opposed the Japanese proposal. The British, who backed Australia, circulated legal arguments to the representatives of other nations demonstrating "why different states and races should not be considered equal". In England, racist and extremely derogatory remarks directed towards the Japanese emphasising the racial stereotypes of superficial differences with statements like, "the Japanese are five foot high, brown in colour, they have swivel shaped eyes, and they eat raw fish" kept appearing in various publications. President Wilson of the USA, who was the chairman of the commission, was a firm believer in the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race, evident from one of his earlier assertions:

"We, Anglo-Saxons, have our peculiar contribution to make towards the good of humanity in accordance with our special talents. The League of Nations will, I confidently hope, be dominated by us Anglo-Saxons; it will be for the unquestionable benefit of the world. The discharge of our duties in the maintenance of peace and as a just mediatory in international disputes will rebound to our lasting prestige. But it is of paramount importance that we Anglo-Saxons succeed in keeping in step with one another". No wonder, the chairman President Wilson, who harboured such racial supremacist views rejected the Japanese Racial Equality Bill, which had secured majority support from the participating nations.

The Japanese, who in their zeal for modernisation had valued the British friendship so much so that they had followed the British request and had provided the leadership to the eight (British, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Austria, America, Japan) nation alliance to quell the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, in the process earning an enduring wrath of the Chinese that continues till today. Despite their proven support for their allies Britain and America, Japanese had been utterly snubbed simply on grounds of race.

Japan experienced further humiliation following the Washington Naval Conference in 1922, when the British and the Americans joined hands in a successful conspiracy to substantially reduce Japanese naval power, and to abrogate the Anglo-Japanese alliance. By 1933, Japan was so disgusted and so isolated in the League of Nations, essentially on grounds of race again, that they left the League all together.

Fire-bombings of 66 Japanese cities; Japan defeated and willing to surrender

Before the commencement of World War II, the USA and Britain along with many other nations had denounced bombing of civilians as "contrary to principles of law and humanity". Yet on the 13th to 15th of February 1945, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) carried out a systematic annihilation of the beautiful German city of Dresden, which was an icon of culture and education of no military significance, and was affectionately known as the "Florence on the Elbe". The British and American air raids by 1,300 heavy bombers dropped around 7,000 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices that caused a fire-storm and wiped out 34 square kilometres of the city. Anywhere between 50,000 to a hundred thousand people died. This fire-bombing of Dresden, barely 12 weeks before the Germans surrender of the 7th of May 1945, was so atrocious a crime that even the outraged British press ran headlines that screamed "The Terror Attacks.". It was indeed an act of terrorism, without any justification whatsoever.

Soon afterwards in Japan, when the conventional bombing raids by the US air force did not achieve the total destruction of the Japanese cities, Major General Curtis LeMay designed the fire-bombings. The plan to fire-bomb deliberately targeted civilians with incendiary bombs filled with highly combustible chemicals such as magnesium, phosphorus and petroleum jelly (napalm) to cause the maximum possible destruction and casualties. LeMay, named "Demon LeMay" - not inappropriately- by the Japanese, would later boast that the victims were "scorched and boiled and baked to death".

A single night"s incendiary bombing raid on March 9-10 on Tokyo, had killed over a 100,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, and decimated a large chunk of the city. A quarter of all buildings of Tokyo were obliterated by this raid carried out by 300 American planes that had taken off from Guam, Saipan and the Tinian islands. The airplanes had specifically targeted the Tokyo suburbs of wooden houses, where each plane had dropped 180 oil-gel sticks. They were followed by the dropping of napalm bombs to ensure that the fires licked clean everything on their way. The airplanes chased and hunted down the fleeing civilians, and deliberately set the Sumida River on fire to seal the escape route. The heat was so intense that the entire sections of the river boiled.

Two and a half months later on the 23rd of May 1945, 520 B-29 bombers dropped another 4,500 tons of bombs on the rail yards, the commercial centre, and the Ginza entertainment district of Tokyo. Two days later, on the 25th of May 1945, 502 B-29 bombers dropped yet another 4,000 tons of bombs. These two raids decimated 56 square miles of Tokyo. Sixty-six Japanese cities that included Yokohama, Kawasaki, Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, and even smaller cities like Toyama had been fire-bombed; and the only four cities that were deliberately spared for the demonstration of nuclear holocaust were Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kokura and Niigata. The fire-bombings had destroyed 2.5 million buildings in 66 cities and had killed at least half a million Japanese, the death toll could actually be closer to a million people, and 8.5 million people were rendered homeless.

General Douglas MacArthur"s aide, Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, described the fire-bombings of Japan as ".one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history". Robert McNamara who served with Curtis LeMay accepted that they would have been prosecuted for war crimes had the US lost the war.

And by the end of May 1945, Japan was utterly destroyed and was looking for a method for surrender. There was no need whatsoever for the nuclear attacks of August 1945.

Appeals to abandon the nuclear attacks

Germany had signed the surrender on the 7th of May 1945 at the American advanced headquarters in Rheims, and again, two days later on the 9th of May 1945, in Berlin before the representative of the Russian High Command. The US, Britain and their western allies celebrated Victory in Europe (VE) on the 8th of May 1945, and the Soviet Union, celebrated VE Day on the 9th of May 1945. A rift had already appeared between the Americans and the Russians, the two allies of WWII who had fought the Germans.

American troops occupied the Japanese island of Okinawa on the 21st of June 1945. A week later, on the 29th of June US troops captured the Philippines from the Japanese. By this time Japan through their contacts in Sweden, Switzerland and the Soviet Union had already started discussions for a conditional surrender. Many American military men were already aware of the Japanese defeat, so some of them upon learning plans for the nuclear attacks recorded their opposition. We have cited relevant portions from those petitions advising the US President not to use atom bombs, below.

Professor James Franck in a report now well-known as the Franck Report of 11th of June 1945 stated, ".the use of nuclear bombs for an early, unannounced attack against Japan is inadvisable." The report advised for the destructive capabilities of nuclear bombs to be "first revealed to the world by demonstration in an appropriately selected uninhabited area". The US Undersecretary of the Navy, Ralph A. Bard in a memorandum written on the 27th of June 1945, had mentioned the imminent surrender of Japan. Bard was so appalled by the American plans of testing atom bombs on Japan that in his memorandum, now well known as the Bard Memorandum, had pleaded against the dropping of atom bombs on Japan without giving a proper warning.

On the 3rd of July 1945, Leo Szilard, the chief scientist with the Manhattan Project, who had been a key figure in the development of atom bombs, wrote A Petition to the President of the United States that described atom bombs "a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities". The petition appealed to the President "to rule that the United States shall not, in the present phase of the war, resort to the use of atomic bombs". The petition was signed by 59 scientists from the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, who worked on the Manhattan Project that developed the atom bombs in the US. When Szilard circulated the petition on the 4th of July 1945, among his fellow scientists of the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos laboratories, inviting the scientists to take a moral stand against the use of atom bomb, American General Groves sought ways of taking action against him.

On the 13th of July 1945, the scientists of Oak Ridge laboratory drafted a similar petition signed by 18, endorsing the petition of Szilard. A few days later, another petition signed by 67 scientists of Oak Ridge laboratory requested for the devastating powers of the atomic bombs be "adequately described and demonstrated" before use, "and the Japanese nation should be given the opportunity to consider the consequences of further refusal to surrender".

Despite a large number of appeals from American scientists and diplomats of the highest level, requesting the US President not to use atom bombs, President Harry Truman gave the orders on the 25th of July 1945 to drop them on Japan. In a premeditated and meticulously planned exercise the US carried out the first ever nuclear attack, on the civilian population of Japan at Hiroshima. No one has ever been punished for these acts of genocide. The war crimes trial after the WWII did not consider the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for that matter the fire-bombings of Tokyo either. The only judge, Justice Radha Binod Pal of India, among the 11 judges of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East that conducted the trials into war crimes by Japan, questioned the very legitimacy of the tribunal - and its rulings - that did not include the atomic-bombings and the fire-bombings of Japanese cities.

Denunciations of the nuclear attacks

Dwight Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and who became the President of the US from 1953 to 1961, had objected to the intended nuclear attack. Eisenhower in the book Mandate For Change, has recorded, ".in (July) 1945.Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our (American) government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan.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. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face". The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude." Decades later in an interview with the Newsweek, Eisenhower again mentioned his meeting with Stimson with the words, ".the Japanese were ready to surrender and it was not necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

Admiral William D. Leahy, who was Chief of Staff to the US Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had voiced his opposition. Years later, in the book, I Was There, he wrote, "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".

General Douglas MacArthur, in the book The Pathology of Power, is recorded, ". he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb." Moreover, he added, "The war might have ended weeks earlier, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor".

Herbert Hoover is quoted in, Judgement at the Smithsonian, ".the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945.up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped;. if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the (atomic) bombs". Ralph Bard, Under Secretary of the Navy, in a report entitled, War Was Really Won Before We Used A-Bomb, stated, ".the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb."

Brigadier General Carter Clarke, the military intelligence officer in charge of preparing intercepted Japanese cables for US President Truman and his advisors, is quoted in the book, The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, ".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."

Despite all these oppositions and appeals, President Harry Truman ignored the voices of reason and decided to conduct the horrible experiments of dropping the atom bombs on Japan, as a means of demonstrating the American military might to the world in general, and to the Soviet Union in particular. On the 2nd of July 1945, President Harry Truman postponed his meeting with Stalin until the atom bomb could be tested. The atom bomb was tested by the American scientists on the 16th of July 1945 in the deserts of New Mexico, and the test was a spectacular success. Armed with the proof of his military might, on the 24th of July 1945, Harry Truman met with Stalin in the presence of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and stated "we have developed a new bomb far more destructive than any other known bomb, and that we planned to use it very soon." Soviet Marshal Georgii Zhukov recorded the meeting with the words "It was clear already then that the US Government intended to use the atomic weapon for the purpose of achieving its Imperialist goals from a position of strength in "the cold war". This was amply corroborated on August 6 and 8. Without any military need whatsoever, the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on the peaceful and densely-populated Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Preparation for nuclear attack on Hiroshima

On the 25th of July 1945, the US President Harry Truman ordered the use of atom bomb "against Japan between now and August 10th". On the same day the 25th of July 1945, General Spaatz issued the order to drop the atom bombs. His order stated the dropping of the bomb ".as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki." The experimentation of the nuclear attack on Japan is obvious from his statement, "To carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the War Department to observe and record the effects of the explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany the airplane carrying the bomb".

In September 1944 Colonel Paul Tibbets, an American air force pilot was drafted to lead the mission to drop the atom bombs. On the 1st of March 1945, the group of air force men led by Tibbets moved to the Tinian island in the Marianas in the Pacific, barely 1,500 miles south of Tokyo. Japan had become the target for nuclear attacks regardless of the outcome of the ongoing war.

Colonel Paul Tibbets had practised hard for a good few months with the B-29 bombers, to achieve perfection in steering the plane at full speed curve away at 159o within 40 seconds from the point of dropping of the deadly cargo. On the 6th of August 1945 at 2.45am he took off the B-29 bomber, named Enola Gay after his mother Enola Gay Haggard, from the American air base of the Tinian island. Enola Gay had a crew of 12 that included the two pilots, two flight engineers, two weaponeers, a navigator, a bombardier, a tail-gunner, a radio and two radar operators, and the 4.5 ton (9,700 lbs) atom bomb nick named Little Boy. Several other B-29 bombers accompanied Enola Gay in the raid on Hiroshima. Three planes to scout the target and issue all clear signals to the primary B-29 Enola Gay had taken off an hour earlier. Two other B-29s followed Enola Gay. Charles Sweeney piloted the B-29 named the Great Artiste carrying scientific instruments to follow Enola Gay closely. The purpose of this B-29 was to drop instruments, tied to parachutes, from the air shortly before the dropping of the atom bomb to record the effectiveness of the nuclear weapon, and to make various scientific measurements for achieving perfection in the future, in manufacturing nuclear weapons. The second B-29 named The Necessary Evil piloted by George Marquardt to take photographs of the atom bombing followed Enola Gay at considerable distance to avoid the shock waves arising from the blast. The B-29s encountered no resistance, neither anti-aircraft fires nor interception by airplanes, as the Japanese Air Force had been all but decimated. The B-29s flew low at an altitude of 23,000 feet, and climbed to their bombing altitude of 30,700 feet as they approached Hiroshima.

Uranium fuelled atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima

Around 8 am in the morning of Monday the 6th of August 1945, the fleet of American B-29s flew over the skies of Hiroshima. People of Hiroshima were by now quite used to American planes, as they flew over the skies of the city in the preceding months as a part of their target selection for the grotesque nuclear experimentation. The Americans did not fire-bomb the city of Hiroshima, in fact had left the city pretty much intact for the nuclear attack. The people of Hiroshima however, had no inklings of the sinister American designs to test the nuclear devastations on a living city. A little before 8.15 am the B-29 named the Great Artiste dropped the scientific instruments tied to parachutes to record temperature and pressure changes in the atmosphere brought about by the nuclear detonation over Hiroshima. The descending parachutes in a bright sunny morning were eye-catching and drew crowds of children, and some women and elderly, outdoors to view the spectacle. People wondered if something special was going to happen, but little did they realise that they faced annihilation by a nuclear bomb of hitherto unprecedented ferocity and devastation.

Then at 8.15 am Enola Gay dropped the atom bomb, and immediately veered to the right at 159o at full speed. The uranium fuelled atom bomb exploded at 1890 feet above the ground level, and the shock waves travelling at the speed of sound (1,100 feet per second) shook the B-29s as they raced away. The mushroom shaped cloud typical of a nuclear blast within minutes reached 17,000 meters into the sky. The devastations on the ground were total; the entire city of Hiroshima lay annihilated. The vast quantities of irradiated dust and debris that had been lifted into the atmosphere combined with moisture, and rained down on Hiroshima a few hours later as black rain. Survivors of the blast who got soaked by the black rain died of radiation poisoning. This nuclear attack had been carried out without any warning whatsoever by the Americans.

Well after the dropping of the uranium fuelled bomb on Hiroshima, on the 9th of August 1945 at 10 pm Washington time, President Truman announced the American nuclear attack in a radio speech to the nation from the White House. By this time the second atom bomb, the plutonium fuelled one, had already been dropped on Nagasaki. In a deliberate lie to mislead the American people, and in a crude attempt to legitimise the nuclear attack, Truman described Hiroshima as a military base, when he stated, "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base." Hiroshima was a living city, full of women, children and the elderly, and was anything but a military base.

There are many eye-witness accounts of the nuclear detonation describing the pure unmitigated horrors dancing on the vaporised city of Hiroshima. We recommend a heart-wrenching pictorial depiction of an eye witness account (with English translations by Professor Toshiyuki Tanaka of Hiroshima Peace Institute) "Introduction to the Testimony of the Atomic Bomb Survivor Akihiro Takahashi" in Ground Zero 1945: A School Boy"s Story, MIT Visualising Cultures dated September 2007, posted on Hiroshima Peace Institute (Hiroshima City University) website: (http://serv.peace.hiroshima-cu.ac.jp/English/).

After the Government of Japan signed the instrument of surrender on the 2nd of September 1945, the Americans took over the administration of Japan. The American administration of Japan systematically recorded the horrific after-effects of the nuclear attack on the civilians. Many of these observations are still in archives and need to be researched.

Paul Tibbets who piloted Enola Gay, that carried out the nuclear attack on Hiroshima has expressed no remorse whatsoever for the annihilation of the city. In an interview in 2002, at the ripe old age of 87, Tibbets instead of showing some remorse for the quarter of a million human lives he extinguished, in callous arrogance and utter disdain, maintained that he would do it all over again. To-day Enola Gay is proudly exhibited at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., as a symbol of the triumph of the American version of the philosophy of "might is right".

Hiroshima in the twenty-first century

60 years after the nuclear attack, Hiroshima to-day stands tall as a magnificently picturesque, clean and tidy city. The 1.6 million people of Greater Hiroshima live in a city of peace that is almost free from crime when contrasted with cities of comparable size anywhere in the western world, particularly the US. The rejuvenation of Hiroshima is a testimony to the indomitable spirit and the indefatigable zeal of the Japanese people.

The possibility of a nuclear attack in this twenty-first century is not that far fetched. We, particularly as residents of Hiroshima, hope that this never happens again, but it can. Americans contemplated the use of nuclear weapons on many occasions. Policy advisers of the US Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, on various occasions discussed the possibilities of using nuclear weapons. Belligerent warmonger Curtis LeMay, who the Japanese named "Demon LeMay", who became the Chief of the Staff of the United States Air Force, during 1961 insisted on pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the Soviet Union, which President Kennedy did not agree to. In 1969, in the November Ultimatum, the US President Nixon threatened the employment of nuclear weapons against North Viet Nam. Nixon as an ally of Pakistan contemplated the use of nuclear weapons against India, during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. Even as recently as 2005/2006 Bush administration contemplated nuclear attack on Iran. Americans have dropped atom bomb twice, and will not hesitate to attack with nuclear weapons again. During the Falklands war of 1982, British public in street demonstrations in support of their Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, urged her to "nuke" Argentina. Any future confrontations between nuclear powers, or involving a nuclear power, could see the use of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima Day is observed in Japan, and by the Japanese all over the world. In Dhauligiri that hosts the Shantistupa set up by the Japanese Guru Fuji, in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, Orissa, Hiroshima Day was observed in 2007. It was a small and a sombre ceremony of remembrance attended by only a handful of people. We hope in years to come, as India continues to grow as a military superpower armed with nuclear weapons, the observation of Hiroshima Day becomes more widespread, and serves as a reminder of the devastations of nuclear attacks.

A prayer for peace

There exists a substantial body of parochial Anglo-American literature justifying the nuclear attacks on Japan. They all appear to be based on the premise that American lives are precious and Japanese lives are expendable. American attitude of racial superiority continued well beyond the nuclear attacks on Japan, into the 1960s, demonstrated in full when lynching the African-Americans in the southern states of the US, and when napalm bombing the Vietnamese. To all those Americans and their allies, who justify nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we ask, do you justify the attacks on World Trade Centre; the vast majority of the population of the Middle East do, and many more from all over the world do. We say both these attacks show an utter disdain for human life. We reiterate that both these attacks are utterly immoral, absolutely wrong, and are crimes against humanity. Such acts of terror must never be unleashed, let alone on civilians. Taking a human life is wrong; militarism is wrong regardless of whomever the perpetrator; racism is wrong regardless of whomever the target; terrorism is wrong regardless whatever the ideology. There is no justification whatsoever for taking even a single human life.

Let us learn to praise human life, let us treat human lives with the respect they deserve. Let us learn to live, and live peacefully. A relevant quote from the Katha Upanishad will not go amiss. The original Sanskrit text is followed by a translation by ND:

"Om Saha Naavavatu
Saha Nou Bhunaktu
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai
Tejaswi Naavadheetamastu
Maa Vidwishavahai
Om Shantihi! Shantihi!! Shantihi!!!"

Bless with the bliss of knowledge,
And afford us protection;
Make us strive; and engage,
In practising what we learn,
And among us,
May there ever be no animus.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi.


I conclude our article with a deeply personal heartfelt epilogue, as presented below.

May these horrors of the August of 1945, visit no one ever again. May the quarter of a million souls of the city of Hiroshima, who perished, rest in peace, and may their deaths not go in vain. This human sacrifice of unprecedented magnitude makes Hiroshima the holiest of the holy cities of the world today. Every speck of dust of the terra of this city that I tread upon is sacred, every puff of air of this city that I breathe is sacred, every drop of water of this city that I drink is sacred, every morsel of food that I partake in this city is sacred. I am honoured for the opportunity You have given me to be a resident of this holy city, and I thank you Lord. Every moment of my stay here in Hiroshima is an episode in my long pilgrimage; and I pray:

"Sarbe janaah sukhino bhabantu,
Sarbe santu niraamayaah,
Sarbe bhadraani pashyantu,
Maa kaschit dukha bhaaaga bhabet."

May there be happiness for us all,
May good health be granted to all,
May there be right vision in all,
May no one suffer any pain at all.
(Translation, N.D.)
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi.

Dr Nachiketa Das

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References & Notes:

(This article is authored by Dr Nachiketa Das and Mrs Shizuka Imamoto, Japan.)

(This article was first published in an online newspaper from Orissa, www.hotnhitnews.com on April 19, 2008, bearing the caption Hiroshima Day - A Contemporary Perspective of History; also posted on www.sulekha.com on June 4, 2008. The authors retain the copyright.)

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