Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Life After the Bombing of Hiroshima

Second World War

Hiroshima Ruins (October 1945), two months after an atomic bomb was dropped on it. This is a view from the top of the Red Cross Hospital looking northwest. Most of the land is bleak and desolate, and yet some wooden houses are still standing, as well as some infrastructure and trees, a reminder of the life that existed before. 
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

It was on August 6th, 1945, early in the morning around 8:15 a.m. when the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb—the first nuclear weapon—on Japan, a country which it was at war. The residents of Hiroshima were its first victims. An estimated 150,000 died or were wounded as a result; this is a conservative estimate; other atomic scientists say it might be as high as 240,000 dead and wounded.

The U.S. would drop another atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later, with another estimated 75,000 deaths or wounded; or as high as 149,00 dead and wounded. Accurate numbers are not possible to ascertain, but these give a good idea of the results of atomic warfare. These are the only two cases when atomic weapons were used, and I can confidently say that all sane humans hope it is also the last.

The first was Hiroshima, a name that will always be synonymous with the first atomic bomb and what it did to a nation and its people. The stories have been written down and published, as they ought to be. Not to be forgotten. Not to be minimized. Not to be misunderstood.

Towards that effort, there is a fine piece of reportage by John Hersey [1914–1993], published in The New Yorker on August 31, 1946, a year after. It looks at the lives of six survivors. It looks at the human cost of war, which bears repeating. The article was then turned into a slim 160-page book of 31,000 words. If any book will change your mind about war, it is Hiroshima  (1946).

Get your hands on it and read it. You will not be the same person. You will be a better person for it, I think. Or at the very least I presume to hope, because this (knowing and understanding our shared humanity) seems the better way, the way of sustaining and nourishing life for all on the planet that we all humans share. War is the antithesis of life; one day of war is one day too much.

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