66 years ago, U.S. military action brought a quick close to hostilities without an invasion of Japan, with the detonation of two atomic bombs, one over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and one over Nagasaki on August 9.
Events marking the anniversary this year carry the spectre of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which experienced core meltdowns in reactors as a result of a tsunami earlier in 2011. Anti-nuclear activists in Australia note similarities between the bombs ending the war, and the disaster at Fukushima.
Daily Yomiuri Online carried a description of memorial events in Hiroshima in 2008, from Yomiuri Shimbun:
NAGASAKI–The Nagasaki municipal government held a ceremony Saturday marking the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, at which participants called for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
A total of 5,650 A-bomb survivors, representatives of victims’ families from around the nation and Nagasaki citizens participated in the ceremony. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda also attended the ceremony, which was held in Nagasaki Peace Park near ground zero.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue read out the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, which urges the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons.
“Human beings have no future unless nuclear weapons are eliminated. We shall clearly say no to nuclear weapons,” Taue said.
The ceremony started at 10:40 a.m. Three books listing the names of 3,058 people confirmed to have died as a result of the bombing in the past year were placed inside a memorial box in front of the Peace Statue.
The total number of books listing the names of the deceased is 147, and the number of names is 145,984.
Representatives of surviving victims, bereaved families, the prime minister and Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba placed flowers at the site.
At 11:02 a.m., the time the atomic bomb struck, ceremony participants offered a silent prayer. At the same time, local high school students rang the Bells of Nagasaki.
In the peace declaration, Taue read from an academic paper written by four people, including a former U.S. secretary of state, which promoted a new policy for developing nuclear weapons. The proposal encouraged countries to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The mayor said world nuclear powers “should sincerely fulfill their responsibility of nuclear disarmament,” and urged the government to pass the three nonnuclear principles into law.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Takashi Nagai, a medical doctor who helped rescue of victims after the bombing.
The mayor referenced one of the doctor’s remarks, saying: “There are no winners or losers in a war. There is only destruction.”
Shigeko Mori, 72, representing survivors of the bombing, read out an oath for peace that said Japan should promote its Constitution and the three nonnuclear principles to the rest of the world to prevent nuclear proliferation.
Fukuda gave a speech, saying, “Japan should play a responsible role in the international community as a nation cooperating for peace.”(Aug. 10, 2008)
- Hanford nuclear reservation manager visits Nagasaki on anniversary, Tricity Herald
- Irish Times (Dublin), testimonies of atomic bomb survivors
- Calgary Herald, Canadian former POW remembers Nagasaki bomb and aftermath;
Still, Ford said, if Nagasaki had not not been bombed, he likely would not have survived much longer. His citation called him a “man who recognizes the incongruity of having welcomed the Nagasaki bomb while condemning nuclear warfare.”
It said that “paradox reflects our collective failure to understand warfare, which has, like Job’s torment, an illogic that is purposefully inexplicable.”
- Truman Library, “The Decision to Drop the Bomb”
- New York Times op-ed on Russians living in Hiroshima at the time — interesting chapter
- Voice of America blog on the 2011 commemorations
- An “alternative” reflection on Hiroshima, from the National Catholic Reporter, 2011
- Hiroshima Peace Media Centre
- Hiroshima Peace Museum (note the touching introductory video in 2011) (see video below)
Other related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:
- July 16, marking the anniversary of the Trinity test in new Mexico
- December 7, commemorating the memory of the Pearl Harbor attack
- Anniversary of VJ Day (Victory Japan), August 15
- Anniversary of the Nagasaki bomb (2007)
- Anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb (2007)
Remembering that U.S. involvement in World War II as a combatant came after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, one may respect and appreciate the Japanese national desire to commemorate the brutal end of the war with conversations about peace and how to achieve it. The film below is a short, touching introduction to the Hiroshima Peace Museum website: