8:15 AM, August 6th, 1945. Hiroshima, Japan.

August 6th, 2007

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

Here is a pocket watch, stopped at 8:15am.

This pocket watch belonged to Kengo Nikawa, a 59-year-old civilian worker living in Hiroshima, Japan. A gift from his son, Kazuo Nikawa, the watch was one of his most precious belongings. It is stopped at 8:15 A.M., the time at which an atomic bomb exploded about 200 yards over his home-town, Hiroshima, Japan.

This is one of the artifacts featured today at Dulce Et Decorum Est: 2007-08-06, in memory of the American government’s deliberate massacre of about 140,000 civilians in Hiroshima 62 years ago today. As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world.

Further reading:

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est (2007-08-06)...]

8:15 AM, August 6th, 1945. Hiroshima, Japan.

August 6th, 2007
Here is a pocket watch, stopped at 8:15am.

Donated by Kazuo Nikawa
1,600m from the hypocenter
Kan-on Bridge

Kengo Nikawa (then, 59) was exposed to the bomb crossing the Kan-on Bridge by bike going from his home to his assigned building demolition site in the center of the city. He suffered major burns on his right shoulder, back, and head and took refuge in Kochi-mura Saiki-gun. He died on August 22. Kengo was never without this precious watch given him by his son, Kazuo.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 in the morning, the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb over the center of the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima was the first target ever attacked with nuclear weapons in the history of the world.

The bomb exploded about 200 yards over the city, creating a 13 kiloton explosion, a fireball, a shock-wave, and a burst of radiation. When the bomb was dropped about 255,000 people lived in Hiroshima.

The explosion completely incinerated everything within a one mile radius of the city center. The shock-wave and the fires ignited by the explosion damaged or completely destroyed about nine-tenths of the buildings in the city. Somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 people–about one third of the population of the city–were killed immediately. The heat of the explosion vaporized or burned alive many of those closest to ground zero. Others were killed by the force of the shock-wave or crushed under collapsing buildings. Many more died from acute radiation poisoning–which is to say, from their internal organs being burned away in the intense radiation from the blast.

By December 1945, thousands more had died from their injuries, from radiation poisoning, or from cancers related to the radioactive burst or the fallout. It is estimated that the atomic bombing killed more than half of the population of Hiroshima, totaling about 140,000 people, and left thousands more with permanent disabilities.

Almost all of the people maimed and killed were civilians: although there were some minor military bases near Hiroshima, the bomb was dropped on the city center, several miles away from the military bases on the edge of town. Hiroshima was chosen as a target, even though it had little military importance, because It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage. 1. Hiroshima was also one of the largest Japanese cities not yet damaged by the American firebombing campaign. Military planners believed it strategically important to demonstrate as much destruction as possible from the blast.

Thomas Ferebee dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. His commanding officer was the pilot of the Enola Gay, Paul Tibbets. Tibbets and Ferebee were part of the XXI Bomber Command, directed by Curtis LeMay. LeMay planned and executed the atomic bombings at the behest of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and President Harry Truman.

Kengo Nikawa died on August 22nd, 1945 because of the bombing. This is his pocket watch.

We will never know the names of many of the 140,000 other residents of Hiroshima who were killed by the bombing. We have only estimates because the Japanese government was in a shambles by this point in the war, and countless records, of those that were successfully kept, were consumed by the flames, along with the people whose lives they recorded.

A day which will live in infamy

August 9th, 2006

This is a memorial originally posted to the Rad Geek People’s Daily, on August 9th, 2005.

The easiest way to begin is with the numbers.

Some 60 years ago today, at 11:02 in the morning, the American B-29 bomber dropped a 10,200 pound plutonium bomb (nicknamed Fat Man) over the city of Nagasaki, a tourist destination, industrial center and sea-port in southwestern Japan with a population of about 230,000. The bomb exploded about 500 yards above Nagasaki, creating a fireball, a shockwave, and a massive burst of radiation. Some 74,000 civilians — about 1/3 of the population of Nagasaki — were burned alive, crushed to death by the shockwave, or sickened and died over the next few months due to severe radiation poisoning (the burning away of their internal organs by intense radiation) and cancer.

Three days before, with no prior warning, a B-29 bomber had dropped an enriched uranium bomb over Hiroshima, an industrial center in western Japan, with a population of about 255,000. The bomb had exploded about 670 yards above the city. 80,000 civilians were burned alive or crushed to death by the explosion. By the end of 1945, another 60,000 people died due to severe radiation poisoning and cancer, raising the death toll to about 140,000–about 55% of the city’s population.

One of the reasons that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets is that they were considered to be good sites to demonstrate the killing power of the Bomb: they had been mostly untouched during the six months of low-altitude firebombing of Japanese cities. The first major raid of that campaign was the firebombing of Tokyo in the middle of the night on March 9-10, 1945. 334 American B-29 bombers raced over the city at about 7,000 feet, and dropped about 1,700 tons of napalm bombs. It is estimated that about 100,000 civilians were burned to death in one (1) night. Over the next 6 months, from March 10 to Japan’s surrender on August 15, over 100 Japanese cities were firebombed; about 500,000 civilians were burned to death.

All told, the firebombing and nuclear attacks and conventional air raids on Japan killed somewhere between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Japanese civilians over the course of half a year.

Then there are the names.

portrait: LeMay

Curtis LeMay

portrait: Stimson

Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War

press photo: Truman

Harry Truman, President

The B-29 Bockscar, which incinerated one third of the people of Nagasaki, was piloted by Major Charles Sweeney. The actual dropping of the bomb was carried out by the plane’s bombadier, Captain Kermit Beahan.

The B-29 Enola Gay, which incinerated over half of the people of Hiroshima, was piloted and commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets. The plane’s bombadier, Major Thomas Ferebee, dropped the bomb over Hiroshima.

Sweeney, Beahan, Tibbets, and Ferebee were members of the XXI Bomber Command, directed General Curtis LeMay. LeMay opposed the nuclear attacks, but he directed it under orders from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and President Harry S. Truman, who had made the decision to use atomic weapons in order to terrorize Japan into unconditional surrender. LeMay was also the architect of the low-altitude firebombing campaign, acting on advice and research from his subordinate, Lt. Col. Robert McNamara.

We will never know the names of most of the 1,000,000 or so civilians who were killed in the onslaught. The Japanese government was in disarray in the closing months of the war, and many of the records were consumed by the flames along with the lives of the victims.

Then there are the statements of intent.

The purposes of the bombing was to achieve victory through catastrophic bloodshed and terror. LeMay, when asked about his bombing campaigns, stated There are no innocent civilians, so it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing innocent bystanders. (He also mused, later, I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.) The interim committee deciding to drop the bomb stated, on May 31, 1945, that we could not give the Japanese any warning before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. About 24 hours before the incineration of Nagasaki, U.S. planes began dropping leaflets all over Japan, threatening more destruction but naming no targets that could be evacuated. The leaflets did not reach Nagasaki at all until August 10, the day after it was destroyed. The leaflets read:

TO THE JAPANESE PEOPLE:

America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.

We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.

We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.

Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.

You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.

Shortly before the leaflets were dropped, Harry Truman also publicly declared his aims: It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen on this earth.

Of course, no specific warning was given to the civilians of Nagasaki, at any point.

After the war, Truman defended his decision to burn nearly 1,000,000 civilians to death on the grounds that it was necessary to secure the unconditional submission of Japan to surrender and occupation without a costly marine invasion of the home islands.

Then there are the effects. For most of these there are no words.

photo: burnt corpses lie in a ruined street

Aftermath of the Tokyo firebombing, 10 March 1945

photo: an aerial view of Hiroshima, leveled

Aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 6 August 1945

photo: body of a burn victim

A boy caught by the bombing in Hiroshima

photo: a photo of the mushroom cloud rising over Nagasaki, taken from ground level in the city

The explosion and mushroom cloud, seen from ground level in Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

photo: leveled houses around the Nagasaki railroad station

Nagasaki railroad station

photo: a shattered clock, stopped at 11:02 AM

A clock from Nagasaki, stopped at 11:02 AM

photo: a woman with the pattern of her kimono burnt into her back

A woman caught by the bombing in Nagasaki

photo: a ruined residential neighborhood, with all the homes burnt or toppled

Iwakawa-machi residential neighborhood, Nagasaki

Here are some facts you do not need to remind me of today: that the government of the Empire of Japan launched a war of aggression against American territory and killed both American military and civilians; that they conducted a brutal war of conquest against China in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were mercilessly tortured and killed; that some fanatical elements of the military regime wanted to fight the United States down to the last man. That’s all true, but it’s quite beyond the point. None of these vicious acts by a vicious government justifies doing this to people, to civilians who had no meaningful role in either the decision-making or in the fighting. Nothing could. If you want to make a plea on behalf of terror-bombing, fine; do so. But not here. I’ll post again tomorrow or in a couple days, and we can argue there about the merits and demerits of burning 1,000,000 innocent people alive when you think you can get good results from it. But for now, the dead deserve at least a day of quiet mourning.

Today there’s a memorial for the victims standing in the Hiroshima Peace Park, with an inscription that reads Rest in peace, for this mistake will not be repeated. Let us remember the dead, and pray that those words are true.

Further reading

Richard Russell and Harry Truman exchange greetings after Hiroshima

August 7th, 2006

This is a telegram that Richard B. Russell, then a powerful U.S. Senator for the state of Georgia, sent to Harry S. Truman the evening after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Winder, GA Aug 7 42 7P

The President
(Personal Delivery) The White House

Permit me to respectfully suggest that we cease our efforts to cajole Japan into surrendering in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration. Let us carry the war to them until they beg us to accept the unconditional surrender. The foul attack on Pearl Harbor brought us into war and I am unable to see any valid reason why we should be so much more considerate and lenient in dealing with Japan than with Germany. I earnestly insist Japan should be dealt with as harshly as Germany and that she should not be the beneficiary of soft peace. The vast majority of the American people, including many sound thinkers who have intimate knowledge of the Orient [sic], do not agree with Mr. Grew in his attitude that there is any thing sacrosanct about Hirohito. He should go. We have no obligation to Shintoism. The contemptuous answer of the Japs [sic] to the Potsdam Ultimatum justifies a revision of that document and sterner peace terms.

If we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them.

I also hope that you will issue orders forbidding the officers in command of our air forces from warning Jap cities that they will be attacked. These Generals do not fly over Japan and this showmanship can only result in the unnecessary loss of many fine boys in our Air Force as well as our helpless prisoners in the hands of the Japanese, including the survivors of the March of Death on Bataan who are certain to be brought into the cities that have been warned.

This was a total war as long as our enemies held all the cards. Why should we change the rules now, after the blood, treasure and enterprise of the American people have given us the upper hand. Our people have not forgotten that the Japanese struck us the first blow in this war without the slightest warning. They believe that we should continue to strike the Japanese until they are brought groveling to their knees. We should cease our appeals to Japan to sue for peace. The next plea for peace should come from an utterly destroyed Tokyo. Welcome back home. With assurances of esteem

Richard B. Russell, US Senator

Two days later, Truman replied with a one page letter:

Dear Dick:

I read your telegram of August seventh with a lot of interest.

I know that Japan is a terribly cruel and uncivilized nation in warfare but I can’t bring myself to believe that, because they are beasts, we should ourselves act in the same manner.

For myself, I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the pigheadedness of the leaders of a nation and for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary. It is my opinion that after the Russians enter into war the Japanese will very shortly fold up.

My object is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children in Japan.

Sincerely yours,
Harry S. Truman

Truman sent this letter to Dick Russell on August 9th, 1945 — the very same day that Truman’s humane feeling for the women and children in Japan were demonstrated by an American B-29 bomber, acting on his orders, dropping a second atomic bomb, without warning, on the city of Nagasaki, destroying the city and burning alive about one-third of the civilian population.

Today Truman is often counted as one of the greatest Presidents by American presidential historians. Russell served as a senator until he died of ephysema in 1971. The Russell Senate Office Building was named in his honor and a statue of Russell stands in the rotunda.

Prayers and lights near ground zero. Hiroshima, August 6th, 2006.

August 6th, 2006

Here is a photograph of a woman kneeling beside a river, over a glowing paper lantern. The edge of the river is filled with floating lights.

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

A woman offers prayers as she releases a paper lantern in the Motoyasu River with the backdrop of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, western Japan, Sunday.

Canadian Press (2006-08-06): Japan marks 61st anniversary of U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima

Read the rest of this entry »

1,000-Person Mound in Ninoshima Quarantine Facility near Hiroshima

August 6th, 2006

Here is a column, on top of a large mound of earth, with Japanese writing.

Grave marker with 1000-Person Mound written in India ink

Photo / Shunkichi Kikuchi Courtesy / Tokuko Kikuchi
October 17, 1945, Aza Majidomari, Ninoshima-cho

This mound was by the sea in Majidomari near the Horse Quarantine Station. About August 25, 1945, the marker was placed there by quarantine staff during a memorial service. In those days, burial sites were everywhere.

#28. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Special Exhibit on the Island of Final Rest (2003).

As a sort of virtual tour guide, the Special Exhibit includes these manga drawings of a grandmother, who had been a nurse during the war, showing her grandchildren through the exhibit.

In front of this photograph, the granddaughter asks "Are these all graves?" while the grandson stares. The grandmother replies, "Because so many died at once, it was impossible to bury them all in individual graves."

A survivor’s drawing: Hiroshima city center in flames.

August 6th, 2006

Here is a drawing of raging flames and corpses scattered everywhere

Kenichi Nakano was 47 at the time of the atomic bombing. He witnessed this scene in the city center, near ground zero, on the afternoon of August 6th, 1945. He was 76 when he drew this picture. The words on the drawing read:

Whole city a sea of fire. Hell. Hell on Earth.

Kenichi Nakano (1975)

Koharu Hirakawa’s eyeglasses

August 6th, 2006

Here are an old pair of eyeglasses with circular frames.

Donated by Mihoko Naito, Akira Hirakawa
1,350m from the hypocenter
Sumiyoshi Bridge

Koharu Hirakawa (then, 50) was a teacher at Hijiyama Elementary School. She was exposed to the bomb in front of the Sumiyoshi Bridge in a truck carrying bags for her pupils who were leaving for their evacuation locations. When the bomb detonated, the bags ignited, and the head teacher instructed everyone to flee. He thought Koharu had fled with the others, but she was never seen again. In December 1945, her brother Akira (then, 21), when he attended her father’s memorial service, put a bowl he found in her totally destroyed house into a box of pawlonia wood in place of her remains. At that time, it was reported that Koharu’s bag had been found. In it were these glases, savings bonds and other valuables and the business cards of her two sons.

Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park

A cistern near ground zero. Hiroshima, August 7th, 1945. A drawing by a survivor.

August 6th, 2006

Corpses of people that had tried to plunge the upper halves of their bodies into a fire-fighting cistern were draped over the side in layers.

Kikue Komatsu was 37 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She witnessed this scene on the morning of August 7th, 1945, about 550 meters from ground zero. She was 67 when she drew the picture. The words written on the drawing explain:

While searching for my daughter, I came across a mountain of corpses in a street of carnage. People had evidently rushed to plunge their faces in the water of a cistern, where they died with their arms around each other, clinging to the side. How they must have screamed for water. My heart aches for them. I clasp my hands in prayer.

Kikue Komatsu (1975)

Hiroshima seen from the air

August 6th, 2006

Here is a city, completely flattened.

from WikiPedia

About nine-tenths of all buildings in Hiroshima were damaged or completely destroyed by the atomic bombing and the fires that it ignited.

This aerial photograph is signed by Paul W. Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay and the commanding officer of the mission that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.