I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb… It is an awful responsibility which has come to us… We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.
—President Harry S Truman, August 9, 1945
On August 9, 1945 at 11:02 AM, American B-29 Superfortress Bockscar dropped Fat Man, an atomic bomb containing a core of 6.4 kilograms of plutonium, in an industrial valley in Nagasaki, Japan.
This was in relation to United States Potsdam Declaration – threatening Japan for “prompt and utter destruction” should the Axis power did not surrender. However, Japan brushed this off which led the US to go with the Manhattan project.
On August 6 of the same year, Little Boy was dropped in Hiroshima killing around 100-170 000 people.
After three days, Nagasaki was hit with the same weapon of mass destruction (WMD), resulting to 60-80 000 casualties.
On August 15, six days after the second atomic bomb was dropped, Japan surrendered.
Yesterday, August 9, 2012, Japan held a ceremony at Statue of Peace at Nagasaki Peace Park to mark the 67th year of the bombing.
around 6,000 people gathered at the Statue of Peace, a park near the epicenter of the 1945 atomic blast (Kyodo News)
Japan’s PM, Yoshihiko Noda, offered wreath in the ceremony
I have been to Japan last 2009 as a Filipino student ambassador. Unlike my friend, I was assigned mostly in Tokyo and Ishikawa prefecture while she was in Nagasaki prefecture.
During our post-Japan meeting, she relayed to me what she had experienced in that beautiful region. She mentioned how, until this moment, people from the prefecture continue to remember the devastating attack and its lifetime effects. Many were slaughtered and those who have survived are suffering from different mental, emotional, and physical scars brought by radiation. Not only the survivors, but their children were also affected by the deadly emission. My friend even related a story how people from Nagasaki were discouraged to marry folks from other prefectures or countries so as to contain the awful radiation effects, which could be transferred from one generation to the next.
I have also seen photographs and short films regarding the bombing, and I was really shocked how people behind the attack stomached killing innocent people. Was the dropping of atomic bombs to Japan just? Did the end justify the means? Was it the only way to make Japan surrender? The then Soviet forces were already advancing to the country and Japan could’ve surrendered then with the thought that it was really outnumbered. However, it seemed that United States wanted to show off and impressed USSR of its new weapon. Why targeted a civilian province? Why didn’t they settle with only one bomb; why did they have to drop a second?
IS ATOMIC BOMBING NECESSARY FOR JAPANESE SURRENDER?
Harry Truman was told by his army generals, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower, that there was no military need to use the bomb. Also, naval chief Admiral William Leachy offered that, “The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
In addition, fleet admiral Chester Nimitz, also said: “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.”
Some research conclude that the bombings were not the principal reason for Japanese surrender. Instead, it was the Soviet’s victories over Manchuria which forced Japan to surrender on August 15.
VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
The debate whether US is guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and state terrorism has been going on for years and subject to scholarly argument.
The director of Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University, Peter Kurznick, talked about Truman: “He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species. It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity.”
The mayor of Nagasaki, Iccho Ito, declared that, “It is said that the descendants of the atomic bomb survivors will have to be monitored for several generations to clarify the genetic impact, which means that the descendants will live in anxiety for decades to come. … with their colossal power and capacity for slaughter and destruction, nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants or between military installations and civilian communities … The use of nuclear weapons … therefore is a manifest infraction of international law.”
THE WORLD TODAY
Currently, there are thousands of nuclear weapons present in the world. Humanity is threatened by a nuclear war that could happen anytime. These WMDs may be a lot stronger than those a-bombs used in Japan and could have more lethal effects that could easily annihilate an entire population. With the rise of states eager to possess nukes, will we ever be safe? Will Nagasaki be the last city to be attacked?