We did a two day trip to Hiroshima a couple of weeks ago. Although we loved Hiroshima and the surrounding area, it was an upsetting experience, not only for my husband and I, but also for our children. Pretty much daily, my 4-year old daughter still spontaneously states: ‘It was a bad, bad bomb’.
And it was a bad bad bomb. The World’s first ever Atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima at 8.15am on the 6th August 1945, instantaneously killing approx. 70 000 people, mostly civilians. Due to extremely bad burns and radiation, during the days, weeks or months following that moment, a further 140 000 people died. Furthermore, the radiation made sure that many people who were not even born at the time of the bomb, people who had no part in the WWII, other than of course being ethnically Japanese, died before their time.
The only building that was not completely demolished in the Hiroshima city centre when the bomb detonated was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Dome, the reason being that the dome was located underneath the epicenter of the bomb, and thus spared from the full blow. See photos below.
The area surrounding the dome is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park with several memorials and the Atomic bomb museum.
Visiting the Atomic bomb museum was the most upsetting part of our weekend in Hiroshima. I (and many other people) were in tears seeing photos of the city before and after. Seeing the stopped watches at 8.15am, the glass bottles and roof tiles that had melted and bubbled in the extreme heat of the A-bomb, and the list of approx. 200 000 names of the people who were killed, seeing the displays of (wax) children whose clothes had burned off, and their skin and flesh melted to the point that it was hanging off their bones, yet still conscious, in a state of shock and confusion, trying to find they way back home in the chaos and destruction, and seeing the photos of dying people either due to severe burns or radiation, and reading about the thousands of people who instantaneously burned into ash for having been in close proximity to the epicentre.
It was heartbreaking reading the stories of parents’ relentless and desperate attempts to find their children, who never returned home from the city centre (where many school children worked during the war). Tragically, the children or their bodies were often never found. Worse yet, the parents were unaware of the fact that going into to the city centre to look for their children was not a good idea because of the radiation. Although, knowing about the radiation would probably not have stopped any parent from going and trying to find their child.
The fact that people (in Japan or elsewhere) were not made aware as to the kind of a bomb it was that exploded in Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) for about 10 years is pretty upsetting. Apparently, America didn’t want to face the anger – and the consequent resistance – from the Japanese (or the rest of the world) so they kept it as a secret until the 1950s.
Surprisingly, the Japanese do not seem to hold a grudge – at least not the young people – even the ones that are from Hiroshima. Most Japanese people seem to think that Japan was cruel and out or order, and that America did what they had to do to stop the war – that the Japanese somehow deserved it. However, what the nowadays more open (and critical) history books seem to suggest is that America knew that Japan was on the verge of surrendering and no disproportionate acts of force were needed to end the war, but that America had used a lot of money in developing the Atomic bomb, and so, it had to justify the big spend.
I can’t help but thinking that the person who writes the Japanese primary and secondary school history books works for the American government’s division for propaganda, given that, if anything, the Japanese (counterintuitively) seem to glorify America.
The destruction power of the atomic bombs that were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a fraction of the modern nuclear warheads – warheads that are used as deterrent, threat and negotiation leverage by countries like Russia and the US while the rest of us, helpless bystanders, watch and hope that there will never be World War III.
At the eve of the 70-year anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb I feel deep sadness by it all and all I can think is:
Nobody deserves that.