August 6, 1945 Hiroshima Anniversary

Each year anniversary memorial activities take place in Hiroshima at the time the US dropped the first atomic bomb. 90,000–166,000 people died after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, about half of those died the day the bomb was dropped, the remaining died in the weeks and months after. On August 9th another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki causing the same death and destruction.

As Japan tried to deal with the aftermath of an unthinkable attack, Japanese radio described Hiroshima  “Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death“. Much of the reality and photos of what actually happened at Hiroshima were suppressed in the US. Small collections of photos were released in the 1950’s and caused considerable public backlash against the bomb. Yet even those photos were only a small heavily censored sampling of the horrible destruction unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Time.com has 3 photo collections online.
http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2012653,00.html
http://lightbox.time.com/2011/05/19/hiroshima-ground-zero-1945/#1
http://life.time.com/history/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-unpublished-photos/#1

Much of the more telling photos and film remained classified, some hidden away by photographers so it wouldn’t be seized by the US. Short clips of one of the films can be viewed here (warning graphic images) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZYvodtZDTc   Most of the imagery that showed the human toll and injuries to the people of Hiroshima was what the US government did not want out. Images of what happened to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were suppressed in Japan during the US occupation as well as in the US. Yet pictures of the barren landscape were acceptable for release. The unbelievable graphic images of the human toll from the bomb and the horrible injuries inflicted remained suppressed for decades.

Of those who survived their injuries, many died over the next decade and many who survived their initial injuries died of cancers related to their exposures. Adding to the struggle of those who survived, was discrimination. Those who survived the bombings were dubbed Hibakusha (explosion affected people). A lack of understanding of radiation effects on people caused others to worry they were somehow contagious. This resulted in all manners of discrimination from jobs, to relationships to social dynamics.

The US created the ABCC to document the health impact on the survivors. People still struggle today to be officially recognized as Hibakusha and the ABCC has only declared a small fraction of the cancers caused as being due to radiation exposure though most experts realize the numbers are far higher. The ABCC’s purpose was to gather information, not to save people’s lives and health. The ABCC turned into RERF but is still doing the same work, staffed by the same people and the same objective.

What makes all of this even more senseless is the growing sentiment among historians that the US a-bombs used on Japan were not needed to end the war. Japan had already approached the Soviets seeking out beneficial surrender terms. Though prospects with the Soviets had not worked out as Japan had hoped. The day before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima Japan’s ambassador to Moscow said the USSR was two days away from declaring war on Japan. Truman knew the Japanese were looking for surrender terms.  Three days earlier Truman and his advisers discussed that Japan was looking to surrender and that Truman was unhappy that surrender terms might be done through the USSR. Days before the bombings, the Soviets were doing a military buildup in the far east. Both the US & Japan knew this.

Truman originally declared in his non-public writings that the bomb would only be used on military targets and never on civilians, it is unclear when or why that changed. The week leading up to the bombings, cities full of people were the discussed targets. Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Lehey wrote this after the bombings.

[T]he 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…. [I]n being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

US schools still largely teach the history of the bombings as being necessary to end WWII and avoid a land invasion of Japan. This is still regularly cited in most media accounts of the war in the US, that the bombing was needed to end the war. No US president has attended the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombing memorial observances.

The US government only sent a representative for the first time to attend the ceremonies two years ago. Then sending the US ambassador to Japan, John Roos. He will be in attendance again this year.

The grandson of president Truman who authorized the bombings, is in attendance this year. Clifton Truman Daniels, a former journalist met Hiroshima survivor Masahiro Sasaki at a peace event in  New York City in 2010 and they agreed to work together to deepen understanding between the two countries about the bombings.

From the Asahi Shimbun

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