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The Nuclear Age: Sixty-Eight Years Ago

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN – AUGUST 06: People take part in an anti-nuclear power protest on the 66th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing on August 6, 2011 in Hiroshima, Japan. The world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 by the United States during World War II, killing an estimated 70,000 people instantly with many thousands more dying over the following years from the effects of radiation. Three days later another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

Not only is the United States of America the only country to have used nuclear weapons during wartime, they are also the only country to do it twice. On this date, August 9, 1945, the United States delivered the second atomic bomb instantly killing 39,000 Nagasaki residents. The report from the flight crew that delivered the devastating weapon was a simple, “Good Results.”

Just three days before, Hiroshima, Japan was the target of another atomic weapon, destroying 60% of that city and killing nearly every human being in that city. When the fireball erupted, those who were caught outside were immediately vaporized by the intense heat and concussion of the blast. Those who were indoors at the time of the blast were crushed by the collapsing buildings and debris.

The Fallout

I’m not referring to the fall out of radiation that would continue the death toll for decades to come. I’m referring to the world opinion of the United States at the time. Just seven hours before the second bomb was dropped the Soviet Union declared war on the Empire of Japan. The entire world was truly at war with Germany and Japan.

Tokyo radio denounced the two attacks claiming that the use of Atomic Weapons was a violation of international law. They described Hiroshima as, “a city in ruins and dead too numerous to be counted.”

According to Article 22 of The Hague Convention of 1907 Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, “International law lays down the principle that belligerent nations are not entitled to unlimited choice in the means by which to destroy their opponents.”

A Japanese broadcast sent to the US asked, How will the United States war leaders justify their degradation, not only in the eyes of the other peoples but also in the eyes of the American people? How will these righteous-thinking American people feel about the way their war leaders are perpetuating this crime against man and God?”

Although I was only two years old when this event took place I remember friends, neighbors and families reliving that time as I was growing up. Their answer to the question the Japanese broadcast asked was answered with, “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

The Targets

Why did the US pick these two cities instead of Tokyo where the leaders could have been eliminated? Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected because of their military importance to the Japanese war effort.

  • Hiroshima: The city was a troop garrison and a quartermaster depot where war supplies were stored and dispensed to Japanese troops.
  • Nagasaki: This was actually a more important military target than Hiroshima. You could compare it to the San Diego Navel Base perhaps. Military supplies, troops, shipbuilding and repair center made it very important. It has been referred to as the “sea of roofs” due to the 258,000 people crammed into 12 square miles.

Some Final Thoughts

During those times it was thought that nuclear weapons were so destructive that they would end wars forever. Anyone who used one would face certain annihilation at the hands of their enemy and their nuclear weapons.

Will nuclear weapons be used in the future? I would guess, sadly, yes they probably will. As more and more elements around the world seek more powerful weapons to force their beliefs on others — it’s almost inevitable.

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