Hiroshima: what really happened?

2007-03-17

I knew this would be heavy. In fact, I was even afraid of being here due to ideas of persistent residual radiation... so I made a maximum stay in my head of 24 hours. In 2003 I had several premonitioninary dreams related to nuclear explosions, so it was odd - but someone perfectly natural - that here I now stood, at the center of a 'real' nuclear explosion - my subconscious willed this into being. Hiroshima was never a reason to come here, and yet - its an integral part to any trip to Japan in my book.

Our train ride took forever, cause we got on a local shinkansen instead of an express one. Paul had a friend here, but we never managed to meet him cause we ended up being 4 hours late!

That night we walked in "peace park" which was made near the exact spot where the bomb landed. Within the park is a building called the "A-Bomb dome". This is the only building they didn't demolish after the nuclear explosion, it has about half its walls standing and the top dome has all its metal beams intact, but no roof tiles. It was surrounded by a fence, and lit from below to bring it out at night - an eerie sight. This building has been declared one of the worlds protected heritage sites. From here the epicenter of the nuclear bomb was 120 meters south-east and 580 meters in the air. So it exploded nearly directly above. The only reason this building was not turned into dust is because the winds that the nuclear explosion creates are weakest near its center - like the eye of the storm. I took some photos, it looked dark, I could feel the vibe very clearly - there was a real horror story to be told in these walls.

The next day we woke up and went into the peace park museum. I started by looking at a panorama taken from ground zero, and then looking at the photo bank of some of the 120,000 people killed on that day: 8:15 am, August 6th 1946. Here they had a book of testimonials - stories told by the victims who survived this nightmare day - it was so moving, it was hard to resist getting water in the eyes.

The next area was informative, information on Hiroshima before the bomb, and the war[s] that japan was in leading up to the war with America in WWII.

They have copies of documents here, from the American archives - released as part of the freedom of information act, maps of troop locations, information on the development of the war etc. There was some startling information that I learned - here is an excerpt:

  • America spent 2.2 billion dollars developing the nuclear bomb; which at the time was a huge amount of money.
  • America had many discussions about whether to bomb Germany, or Japan.
  • America decided to bomb the Japanese because they would be less likely to understand the weapon [by recovering the bombs shell] than the Germans.

In 1945 it was already clear that Japan was loosing - only 1 year after Pearl Harbor was bombed - it took several more years to get to Japan's mainland - but it was inevitable.

Once they reached Japan's mainland, the Americans considered different ways of concluding the war:

  • Send in troops into Tokyo
  • Bomb the country into submission by conventional bombs
  • Nuclear attack
  • Let Russia declare war on Japan and let them fight the end game for them.

America started with the "carpet bomb" the country plan, and proceeded to carpet bomb civilians in over 70 cities, killing millions. But they decided to NOT bomb several "candidate" cities. The candidate cities were places they thought would be a good place to test the nuclear weapon on - and they didn't want to damage the 'target' in any way with conventional weapons so that they could monitor the impact of the nuclear weapon on the city in a 'pure' state. So in the end they narrowed it down to four candidates, Nagasaki and Hiroshima were in those four. And neither of them were bombed a single time during the 9 to 12 months that Japan's other cities were, in many cases, completely flattened.

After some more discussions between the British prime minester and American president discussed some important details:

  • America wanted to ensure post-WWII domination and didn't want Russia to declare war on Japan as this would complicate post-WWII ownership of Japan [and its pacific territories].
  • The US military was particularly scared that it wouldn't get to test the nuclear weapon. It states in letters how the entire cost of the program would be seriously questioned if it couldn't link the cost to the surrender of Japan.
  • The US states in one of their letters that they want to end the war soon because the death toll in Japan is so large, they are at risk of being seen as bad as hitler was in Europe.

There was talk of using the weapon without warning, the scientists who developed the weapon wrote a letter of protest, urging the American government to warn Japan that it had such a weapon [perhaps with a demonstration of its devastation on an uninhabited location].

America asked for Japan to surrender, but made no mention of its new weapon, nor did it say that the Japanese feudal system would be maintained. Japan would not surrender if it could not keep its feudal system - as this basically meant that the elite in Japan would be kicked out and replaced by "puppet" ruler-ship.

The Japanese government refused, hoping for a long war - perhaps a land one.

Within a short amount of time, America's fear came true: Russia declared war on Japan, America launched a small B52 squadron to A-Bomb Hiroshima. It chose Hiroshima in the end because they believed that it had no POW camps [it in fact did have some POWs, but not many].

One B52 launched scientific equipment, to study the effects, another had photographic equipment and the 3rd had the actual A-bomb.

The next day, america bombed Nagasaki. Its very important to note that both bombs were not the same: one was plutonium, the other uranium based. America wanted to see if both were viable, and measure the differences.

Also of note, though it may mean nothing, most of the letters written by the US military scientific branch refer to a man by the name of "Dr. Bush".

Japan surrendered, and for the following 6 years the media was not allowed to write anything on the nuclear bombs, it was completely censored, all photographs taken by japanese were confiscated - most japanese never knew they were bombed by a nuclear bomb, let alone what a nuclear bomb was [radiation was a word no one knew] - it was only 6 years after the bombing that Japanese press was allowed to report on it, and even then it was terribly controlled by US and Biritish occupying forces.

For decades US and British control was utterly extensive: education system, movies, press, government system etc. etc.

America had its cake: Nuclear program justified, effects of bomb tested on actual cities, war ended before Russia could take parts of Japan for its self, Japanese feudal system eliminated: ensuring US and British infiltration into ensuing government system.

Nuclear effect:

So what happened at Hiroshima? Well, I can't really describe in gruesome detail to you what happened to the people, its too hardcore. The bomb exploded on a day when [i think about] 16,000 school children were working outside to bring down houses around potential bombing targets, to prevent the risk of fire spreading in an eventual attack.

The bomb exploded over head and the initial temperatures were in the tens of thousands of degrees Celsius. The heat area of the bomb was about 2 km, but out to about 5 km the radiation levels were extremely high [lethal dose].

It exploded into a ball of flame, rained down pluming heat, set the earth on fire in the entire city with an outward wind force of ±500m per second. Then it contracted, sucking the air back in at 500m / second after a a few seconds. The center became a black cloud of expanding death and the ash surrounded everyone in a moving tidal wave. After 30 minutes the soot mixed in the air and radioactive black rain fell from the sky for a couple days.

Some people were vaporized and left only a color hue on the floor where they sat. Others were turned into match sticks, while others were stripped to white bone. But many-many people did not die immediately. The city was full of walking zombies, people were suffering from the heat, crying for water, running into the rivers, or drinking the black water that rained upon them in desperation. The survivors would often die in the following hours, or months, years later from cancers, though miraculously some have lived until this day [69 years old or more].

The description everyone gave was "hell on earth". Everywhere they could see, there was flame. Every house for as far as the eye could see, was demolished [save a small few]. The survivor stories were the most hardcore of all, stories from children, loosing parents, watching loved ones die, not being able to save people etc. etc. truly horrific and unsettling to say the least.

Vegetables and people were often deformed for years, people thought nothing would grow for 75 years - but that very next spring plants began to make a recovery and grow. It was a happy time of hope.

Nuclear weapons post WWII:

The next area was all about nuclear weapons from then till today. I'm sure you all know that the 5 nations in the permanent United Nations are also the 5 countries that poses Nuclear weapons, and also the 5 biggest arms traders on earth: France, USA, UK, China and Russia. India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons - and Israel is suspected of having them too, but remains denied by the Israeli government.

No one has as many nukes though as Russia and America, these two countries went ape-shit, some hundreds of thousands of nukes, some at least 1,500 times more powerful than the one that hit Hiroshima, have been stockpiled.

Since WWII there have been at least 80 known 'accidents' in nearly all places you can think of... nuclear bomb that landed by mistake off China, bomber with nukes that crashed in Spain [radiation damage recorded], nukes that went off 'by mistake' in several states in the US... nuclear subs with nuclear warheads that just sink and are never recovered off different coasts... its quite a long list.

Then there is a list with all the nuclear tests done by different countries. No one is protesting like they did against the french in the 90's; but president Clinton did 12 Nuclear tests in his 4 year term, and the two Bush's have done 9 nuclear tests, 4 of which were in 2006. China and Russia are also prolific, and both nations tested nukes in 2006 as well.

Conclusions:

After a while, it was hard to continue; this was all really stark material.

What I found the most astonishing though, was that here I was, in a mega city of huge proportions, and you could hardly imagine that it was completely destroyed just 60 years ago. I felt the suffering of the people, and a part of me longed now to have some happy times to counter act this glumness. History is written by the experiences of the people within it, and I thought it would be great to meet someone from Hiroshima who could show me how happiness lives on, and hard times come - but you know - in the end, no matter how horrible things are, good times return faster than we think - and life goes on. Such a strong testament. A really rewarding experience.

Paul and I had a little snack and headed for a suburb of Hiroshima, to an island that is off the coast and one of the top 3 photographed sites of Japan lies.