Thursday, August 06, 2009

64 years ago today

History, it's said, is written by the victors, so in the United States we won our fight with Japan in 1945, and we like to tell our version of events. It's been told so often it seems correct; we were attacked by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941, and over a couple of years fought them island by island to get close enough to Japan to launch an assault. Thousands upon thousands of people from all sides died. The military government of Japan was obstinate, not in any mood to surrender. Indeed, it seemed they would have let their population disappear from the earth rather than give up. So, we dropped a couple of big bombs on them to convince them that total annihilation would indeed be their fate.

We weren't the first nation to target civilian populations; Japan had done it in China, Germany had done it to England, but we were first with the most awful weapon of all time. This Wikipedia article explains what the American government did to end the war.

I don't debate the rightness or wrongness. It happened two years before I was born, it's a fact and the world moves on. We just hope we all learned a lesson.

Americans were kept from the the most gruesome images of the bombings and their aftermath, because our government knew, and rightly so, we couldn't handle it. In movies at the time people were killed in wars and had clean deaths. A soldier got shot, clutched his chest and fell over. He didn't have half his head missing or his intestines on the outside of his body. Likewise we were shielded from pictures of Nagasaki and Hiroshima survivors looking like charred pieces of meat, or walking with flesh falling away from their bodies. We were also kept from pictures of radiation survivors, although they weren't any secrets to medical teams sent to study the effects.

If you've got the stomach go to Google, type in Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs, then click on images at the upper left. There are some pictures I wish I hadn't seen, but I looked at them anyway because I thought they were necessary to understand what these weapons can do.

The nuclear bombs now are so much more deadly than the bombs dropped on Japan that there's probably no comparison. My hope is that the reason they haven't been used, and won't be used, is because of what happened in Hiroshima, Japan, 64 years ago today.

In my morning paper there is a mention of the bombing of Hiroshima on page 2, buried with other international news The mayor of that city is asking that the world be nuke free by 2020. Nice goal, and unattainable.

The events of August 6 and August 9, 1945, are in the history books and have become just part of that vague and vast area of our past that we just don't think a lot about. In our attention-deficient society if it's not on our TV screens, in front of us every day, we tend to forget about it. The war is just something we see in old movies or documentaries. The footage is in black and white, boring to younger audiences, for whom everything nowadays has to be vivid, colorful and in their faces to get their attention. I'll bet you could talk to anyone under 40 and they couldn't tell you what city the bomb was dropped on, when it happened, why it happened. They heard about it in school, but it had no relevance to them now.

On this day I remember the day technology changed the world forever, not for better. The biggest war in the history of the human race spawned the biggest and most deadly weapon of all time.

No comments: