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60 Years Since Hiroshima 806

Posted by Zonk
from the science-has-consequences dept.
cryptoz writes "Today is the 6th of August, 2005, exactly 60 years after the first nuclear device was used in a war. Japan remembers what happened, as do those around the world. Elswhere, we remember where the bomb hit, as well as how it worked." From the article about Japan's observation of the anniversary: "The anniversary comes as regional powers meet in Beijing to urge North Korea to give up its nuclear programme, seen by Tokyo as a threat and one of the reasons behind rising calls in Japan to strengthen its defence and seek closer military ties with the United States. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was among those attending the ceremony in Hiroshima, 690 km (430 miles) southwest of Tokyo." We've previously reported on the anniversary of the first nuclear explosion.
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60 Years Since Hiroshima

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  • by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:25PM (#13260607) Homepage Journal
    I think its extremely important that we remember these events, to ensure that the situations and attitudes that led to them can be remembered and the contribution of people who died on both sides to bringing the world to the way it is today. We can't change the past, but we can try to avoid the same situations and circumstances. A generation now are being raised where full scale war between first world countries is a thing of the past, and its important that they can come to respect the happenings of the past.
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:52PM (#13260743)
      and the contribution of people who died on both sides to bringing the world to the way it is today. We can't change the past, but we can try to avoid the same situations and circumstances.

      Hmm, I don't know what world you live in, but the lessons of the past have not been learned, and your "world the way it is today" is on the brink of war. And no, I'm not talking about the "war on terrorism", I'm talking about a constant, low-level, diffuse state of warfare as predicted by Georges Orwell, and as desired by neocons in order to maintain themselves in a position of power.

      As for the future, when energy resources start to dwindle (and some expert say they already are right now), you can bet your money on a full-scale war over control of what's left. If you think Hiroshima taught anything to today's world leaders, you're sadly mistaken.
    • by demachina (71715) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @10:27PM (#13261538)
      " We can't change the past, but we can try to avoid the same situations and circumstances."

      My biggest fear on this front is that the neocons in the Bush administration either learned to well or not well enough what nuclear weapons mean in tactical and strategic situations.

      The biggest problem with nukes are they are a weapon no one in their right mind will ever use so vast sums have been squandered on them and they are really useless. Sure they prevented a direct confrontation between the superpowers but there have been so many proxy wars between them that they really haven't stopped much in the way of wars.

      The neocons are actively working to solve this problem by developing new low yield tactical nukes that they apparently fully intend to use for cave and bunker busting, unless someone like Congress stops them. If they get their way they are going to build them and then they are going to test them at which point the nuclear test ban treaty is out the window and every country outside the U.S. will start abandoning non proliferation because the U.S. will at that point be returning to a proliferation track.

      The worst danger of these tactical nukes is they are being built to use, not to sit on the shelf as deterrents. They are low yield and the claim at least is they will only be used on cave complexes and deep underground bunkers. But once they let that genie out of the bottle, and step on the slippery slope we could easily see what was planned for nukes in the 50's, tactical use on the battlefield. Then its anyones guess if this will lead to escalations either small or massive. First the U.S. uses one on a cave complex in Afghanistan then maybe Russia uses one in Chechnya and we are back to a very dangerous world.

      "A generation now are being raised where full scale war between first world countries is a thing of the past"

      Not sure I would go that far. The people at the time thought World War I would be the war to end all wars and they were wrong.

      Nuclear weapons are proliferating at such a high rate its nearly inevitable they are going to end up in the hands of someone who will be willing to use them due to desperation or psychosis.

      After the psychotic neocons and their new tactical nukes, Pakistan is the country most likely in my book to use them. That country is extraordinarily unstable and you mix in nukes it is extraordinarily dangerous. There is a military dictator attempting to enforce stability, but he has been targeted by several assassination attempts. He has next to no control over his own secret service, the ISI, and they were instrumental in installing and keeping the Taliban in power in Afghanistan and may well be harboring the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. And there is a huge fundamentalist Islamic movement that may well gain power someday. Pakistan was also shopping nukes to the highest bidder until very recently. The ring was supposedly broken up but the ringleader A.Q. Khan went unpunished by Pakistan.

      We have not yet a seen a case where a country with nukes has undergone a violent coup. The Soviet Union and Russia came close once but the people controlling the nukes mostly kept their cool during that one.
  • CBC timeline (Score:4, Informative)

    by saskboy (600063) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:27PM (#13260614) Homepage Journal
    http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-71-1794/conflict_war/ hiroshima/ [archives.cbc.ca]

    It's a sad day in the history of humanity. The cruelty that we visit upon each other should never be forgotten.
    • Re:CBC timeline (Score:5, Informative)

      by interiot (50685) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:57PM (#13260777) Homepage
      The UN sanctions against Iraq [wikipedia.org] killed more civilians (500,000 to 1,200,000) than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (~350,000 [wikipedia.org]). Tens of thousands of civilians died during and after the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were undoubtedly one of the most prominent symbols of civilian casualties in the name of war, but war in general follows a close second. War is never kind to the citizens who happen to live in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      We must realize that war always has a large cost on everyone involved, and only resort to physical confrontation as an absolute last resort.

    • A sad day? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nurb432 (527695)
      Just dont forget who STARTED the damned war. ( hint, it wasnt the US, who finished it )

      The way we finished the war saved a lot more lives then would have been lost if we all kept fighting.
    • "It's a sad day in the history of humanity. The cruelty that we visit upon each other should never be forgotten."

      Lots of people are going to reply to this statement by saying that it was justified that japan was bombed and so forth. What these people don't quite comprehend is that these two final large acts of massive distruction where the penultimate destructive act of WW2. The final massively destructive orgy of the war and the first deployment of a weapon that would dominate world affairs afterwards.

      If y
  • by Azadre (632442) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:28PM (#13260623)
    They were young men hoping to help end World War II. But to their mission's critics, the crews that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan were part of a war crime.

    Three men involved in the attack on Hiroshima shared with the BBC their memories of a day that has stayed with them for 60 years.

    Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk, 84
    The day before the mission we sat through briefings on Tinian island where they told us who was assigned to which plane, and we ran through what we were going to do.

    About 2pm we were told to get some sleep. But I don't know how they expected to tell us were we dropping the first atomic bomb on Japan and then expect us to sleep.

    I didn't get a wink. Nor did most of the others. But at 10pm we had to get up again because we were flying at 2.45am.

    They briefed us that the weather was good, but they were sending weather observation planes up so we would have the best information on targeting Hiroshima.

    We had a final breakfast and then went down to the plane shortly after midnight.

    There was a lot of picture-taking and interviewing going on - by the military - and it was a relief to get in the Enola Gay about an hour before we took off.

    We flew in low over Iwo Jima while the bomb crew checked and armed Little Boy (the uranium bomb) and once we cleared the island we began climbing to our bombing altitude of just over 30,000 feet.

    It was perfectly clear and I was just doing all the things I'd always done as a navigator - plotting our course, getting fixes to make sure we were on course and reading the drifts so we knew the wind speed.

    As we flew over an inland sea I could make out the city of Hiroshima from miles away - my first thought was 'That's the target, now let's bomb the damn thing'.

    But it was quiet in the sky. I'd flown 58 missions over Europe and Africa - and I said to one of the boys that if we'd sat in the sky for so long over there we'd have been blown out of the air.

    Once we verified the target, I went in the back and just sat down. The next thing I felt was 94,000lbs of bomb leaving the aircraft - there was a huge surge and we immediately banked into a right hand turn and lost about 2,000 feet.

    We'd been told that if we were eight miles away when the thing went off, we'd probably be ok - so we wanted to put as much distance as possible between us and the blast.

    All of us - except the pilot - were wearing dark goggles, but we still saw a flash - a bit like a camera bulb going off in the plane.

    There was a great jolt on the aircraft and we were thrown off the floor. Someone called out 'flak' but of course it was the shockwave from the bomb.

    The tail-gunner later said he saw it coming towards us - a bit like the haze you see over a car park on a hot day, but moving forwards a great speed.

    We turned to look back at Hiroshima and already there was a huge white cloud reaching up more than 42,000 feet. At the base you could see nothing but thick black dust and debris - it looked like a pot of hot oil down there.

    We were pleased that the bomb had exploded as planned and later we got to talking about what it meant for the war.

    We concluded that it would be over - that not even the most obstinate, uncaring leaders could refuse to surrender after this.

    In the weeks afterwards, I actually flew back to Japan with some US scientists and some Japanese from their atomic programme.

    We flew low over Hiroshima but could not land anywhere and eventually landed at Nagasaki.

    We didn't hide the fact that we were American and many people turned their faces away from us. But where we stayed we were made very welcome and I think people were glad that the war had ended.

    Morris "Dick" Jepson, 83
    I was a young second lieutenant in the US Air Force and was designated as the weapons test officer on the Enola Gay.

    Enola Gay returns after Hiroshima mission (photo: Smithsonian Institution)
    For Dick Jepson, the Enola Gay flight was his first combat mission
    • ...to their mission's critics, the crews that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan were part of a war crime.
      So far as I can tell, the main determiner of whether somebody ends up convicted of a war crime is whether they're on the losing side.
  • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:30PM (#13260632)
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_pr eview.asp?idArticle=5894&R=C62A29C91 [weeklystandard.com]

    This is a wonderful article from the Weekly Standard concerning Truman's choice.

    The most salient fact? About 10,000 people per day were dying per day in the Pacific theatre, mostly civilians in Japanese-occupied countries. Any alternative to the bombs that would have caused a one month delay would have wound up with more dead than the bombs themselves.

    Remember this before you rattle off about some alternative scheme to end the war.
    • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:38PM (#13260671) Journal
      Truman had another option to end the war -- Godzilla. Yes, Godzilla.

      We could have avoided the whole nuclear arms race if we'd only sent it Godzilla. Or giant robots. Ok, the robots wouldn't have worked without a nuclear power source, but still think of it -- Godzilla or giant robots!

      Only problem is finding enough butterscotch pudding to control Gozilla. It's his favorite, by the way.
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:41PM (#13260682)
      Precisely. The battle leading up to Aug 6, centering on Okinowa between April and July, had 50,000 Americans killed, and an estimated 200,000 Japanese.

      In hindsight, it's easy to say the bombs shouldn't have been dropped. But at the time, things were very, very different.

      • by sploxx (622853) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:19PM (#13260913)
        In hindsight, it's easy to say the bombs shouldn't have been dropped. But at the time, things were very, very different.

        Maybe true. There probably as many versions as there are history schoolbooks - in the end, noone knows, history does not repeat and this is clearly an unique event!

        But I think this is not, in any way, the point of this slashdot story. It is not about whoever was 'right' in this conflict some 60 years ago.

        It is there to show the atrocities of weapons, certain bombs - weapons of mass destruction - against civilian targets.

        These anniversaries are there to reflect on whether it is wise to point 1000s of these with a much higher capacity against each other, in 'alert' mode.
      • by DABANSHEE (154661) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:12PM (#13261195)
        Lets be honest, if the nukes had not existed there still would've been no invasion of the 'home islands' (especially after Okinawa), no matter what hypothetical plans were drawn up. All that would've happened have been a continued blockade & air campaign till Japan met terms, IE a negotiated ceasefire instead of a unconditional surrender (historically relatively rare in war). Really if the allies weren't so hell bent on unconditional surrender (for political reasons) its pretty well considered by many experts the the Japanese would have met surrender terms not long after Germany's exit from the war.

        The Japs knew they well 'n truelly beat by Saipan (just read any of the Japanese War ministry papers that were released about 10 years ago), gez by then their war production wasn't even replacing loses by 15% or something, let alone matching war loses, or matching the allies. Even us Aussies alone were almost matching the Japanese in many aspects of war production by then (of course that excludes such things as capital ships 'n subs. Mind you by the last year of the war Japanese aircraft production was abysmal, while such aircraft as Beaufighters, Mustangs & Mosquitoes were being made in Oz). The Japanese only kept fighting because unconditional surrender was unacceptable (which is why unconditional surrender's so rare) as they saw it as a risk to their monarchy.

        Actually, the Japs knew they were beat by Midway - they knew the realities of US industrial production (the fact that only 17% of America's war effort was directed at Japan, yet the Americans were more than matching them. These figures become even more spectacular when one realises that Germany was directing arguably 80+% of it's war effort against the Russians) meant they had to force the US to meet it's terms with 6 months of Pearl Harbour or the war was lost. A such Japan had no intention of ever invading Australia, India or the US - their plan was to run amoke, quickly inflicting a number of knockout blows, there-by forcing the allies to accept their terms for peace - recognise the Japanese conquests in China & accept Japanese puppet regimes in the Philipines, Indochina, Malaya & the East Indies. (Going by a doco I saw) by Midway they had given up on the allies accepting terms on the puppet states & just wanted the China conquests recognised, which was still quite rightly unacceptable to the allies. By Saipan their hoped for terms were that the allies would be willing to accept some sort of Japanese hegamony/sphere in Formosa, Manchuria & Korea. By the fall of Germany the Japanese only had 2 conditions left - the monarchy must remain & on paper the surrender must be referred to as a 'negotiated ceasefire' (the Japanese obsession with 'face' is obvious here).

        From what I understand the whole 'unconditional surrender' thing started as a policy of faith by Roosevelt & Churchill to Stalin. It became policy in regards to the Nazi regime as an attempt to relieve Stalin's concern/worries/paranoia about the West unilaterally negotiating terms with Hitler. The unconditional surrender policy was only extended to include the Japanese to satisfy American voters, who would otherwise ask 'why are the Germans expected to surrender unconditionally & not the Japs when it was the Japs that attacked us'.

        Now lets see what some of America's great war-time leaders thought:-
        GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR

        MacArthur biographer William Manchester has described MacArthur's reaction to the issuance by the Allies of the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan:

        "...the Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face 'prompt and utter destruction.' MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, an

    • The US forces were not planning an invasion until October-November anyway. Those peole would have died had the bombs not worked or Japan not surrendered. The bomb was first an effort to save the lives of American soldiers, and second an effort to forestall serious Russian incursions into Japanese territory. The Russians were our allies, but we knew they wanted parts of the Japanese islands back from losses in the Russo-Japanese War.

      Saving the lives of civilians was a poor third at best. The war was alre
      • What you refer to as "the US" or "US forces" was a group of people, and it was not entirely homogeneous. Some had good motives, some had bad motives, and most (I think) had mixed motives.

        Trying to put the priorities of an inhomogeneous group of people in some kind of order isn't necessarily helpful, even if it is accurate at some level of abstraction.

    • by grungebox (578982) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:49PM (#13260727) Homepage
      It's also worth remembering that the Weekly Standard is a conservative rag. Not to say the author is right or wrong, just that the article has a built-in bias in favor of certain views of foreign policy. An FYI.

      On a side note, perhaps the worst implication of the a-bomb dropping was what's called the "genocidal mentality." The idea is that now that the idea of an ultimate weapon to wipe out so many people at once has entered our consciousness, humans have developed an inherent mental threshold that is much lower than that of leaders in previous centuries, termed "psychic numbing." A good article on the subject is here [himalmag.com]. Here's a choice quote: "Nuclearism does not remain confined to the nuclear establishment or the nuclear community. It introduces other psychopathologies in a society. For instance, as it seeps into public consciousness, it creates a new awareness of the transience of life. It forces people to live with the constant fear that, one day, a sudden war or accident might kill not only them, but also their children and grandchildren, and everybody they love. This awareness gradually creates a sense of the hollowness of life. For many, life is denuded of substantive meaning. The psychological numbing I have mentioned completes the picture. While the ordinary citizen leads an apparently normal life, he or she is constantly aware of the transience of such life and the risk of mega-death for the entire society. Often this finds expression in unnecessary or inexplicable violence in social life or in a more general, high state of anxiety and a variety of psychosomatic ailments. In other words, nuclearism begins to brutalise ordinary people and vitiates everyday life."

      So whether or not the bomb was good at ending the war, it may have had more deadly consequences decades later. It's something worth thinking about that isn't typically brought up in pragmatic discussions about war-termination scenarios for the pacific theater in WWII.
      • This line of thought might have been plausible in 1945, but history since that date has proven it spectacularly wrong.

        In fact, the only large-scale genocides took place before the advent of nuclear weapons. In fact, since nuclear weapons were developed and used, and their terrible destructiveness has seeped into every rational and halfway rational mind on the planet, we have become more and not less sensitized to the ugly destruction of total national warfare, and, arguably, this is exactly why there have
    • I believe Eisenhower's "alternative scheme" was to accept their existing motions of conditional surrender. Their only condition was the continuation of the monarchy, and after unconditional surrender the US decided that the monarchy should be allowed to continue anyway, so there had been no actual point.

      MacArthur made similar arguments at the time.
    • Not to mention that Japan killed literally millions of Chinese. 370,000 dead in the Rape of Nanking? Where is the "Rape of Nanking" remembrance day? Or is that somehow better, since those people were murdered individually with bullets instead of with a pair of bombings that ended a bloody war?
    • While many people were disturbed by the dropping of the A-bombs, the Allied soldiers (not all American, by the way) were hugely relieved.

      The Japanese soldiers were fanatical beyond belief. The banzai (basically suicidal) charges, the Kamikaze pilots, and so on, gave the Americans a healthy respect for the Japanese commitment to avoid defeat at all costs.

      When Truman made the Decision, he put the lives of Allied troops as his first priority. He was right to do so.

  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:38PM (#13260669) Journal
    from wikipedia.

    The Japanese also engaged in mass killings; millions of Asian civilians and Allied POWs were killed by its military and/or used as forced labour. The most notorious atrocities occurred in China, including the slaughter of almost half a million Chinese during the Nanjing Massacre and Unit 731's experiments with biological warfare in Manchuria, with a view to killing a large part of the Chinese population. Japanese war crimes also included rape, pillage, murder, cannibalism and forcing female civilians to become sex slaves, known as "comfort women" .
    • This is a great /. article!

      I get to spot people with disgusting attitudes like this and mark them 'foe'!

      Thanks for standing out in the crowd!

      Most of the people who died as a result of being nuked by 'The Americans' were not 'The Japanese' who commited the atrocities.

      Grow up.
      • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:58PM (#13260781) Homepage Journal
        Last I checked, most of the Americans being pillored as evil for dropping the bomb weren't even alive at the time.
        • Last I checked, most of the Americans being pillored as evil for dropping the bomb weren't even alive at the time.

          Yes, but those people, you and I, also bear the responsability for one simple reason: we choose to identify ourselves with our country (patriotism) and take pride in whatever great the country has done in the past, so we can't disassociate ourselves with the wrongs it did too.

          Young Germans should feel ashamed about what Nazis did, as much as they feel pride about their culture, young Americans s
          • The bomb was bad. But there are darker items in America's past to rightfully be ashamed of.

            The dropping of the bombs ended war as the World had known it until then. It's been 60 years, and the world has not been thrown into conflict.

      • I have to second this. Claiming that A-bomb stopped everything is ridiculous - overhyped historical reality. Most of victims was common crowd - I would say that if Germany had done something like this over for example Seatle, US would be claimed it biggest war crime in the history.

        Nukes are NOT usable even in modern warfare, PERIOD. It is just useful for someone who sees everything like chess board (not alive people) like military in every country. They don't see people.

        I know, i know...emotional rant and a
        • Go read a damn history book before you open your trap. It was Germany and Japan that launched aggressive wars of conquest against their neighbors, not the US. If Germany had done that it *would* have been a war crime.
      • by Sc00ter (99550) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:10PM (#13260856) Homepage
        The problem was this was during a time of carpet bombing. There were no smart bombs. Planes would fly over and just drop bombs over everybody. Also, Japan would NOT give up.. it took -TWO- atomic bombs to get them to give up. Without them the war probably would have went on for a LOT longer. This probably would have created more deaths/casualties on both sides in the long run.
    • dehumanizing the enemy. the ploy of a monsterous and diseased philosophy.
    • Ah, the old "two wrongs make a right" argument. Lot of that about these days.
      • Japan's offensive into China wasn't a small action. Japan's army was the third largest at the time. 1,100,000 japanese soldiers died and 3,220,000 chinese soliders during the war. The war created 95 million refugees. It wasn't just some small war, the entire region was already destabilized. The US knew the region was being destabilized, they started trade embargos against japan [wikipedia.org]. Japan knew the US was worried about the region, so they attacked Pearl Harbor because they thought that might pre-empt our i
    • We didn't give two shits about that, we just wanted to end the war quickly, and the bombs were the two final blows. We had been firebombing the majority of Japan for months, burning to death hundreds of thousands of civilians in a night over Tokyo.

      It wasn't necessary. Neither was a hypothetical invasion. We had them surrounded from all sides, their Navy was destroyed, Air Force crushed, foreign supplies entire blockaded. We could have laid seige and they would have eventually surrendered. Their infrastru

    • Japanese war crimes also included rape, pillage, murder, cannibalism and forcing female civilians to become sex slaves, known as "comfort women".

      If you think that these acts are specific to the Japanese under Hirohito, then you're hopelessly naive about the nature of war.

      The expression "War is Hell" didn't come out of nowhere, and it sure as anything is not the name of an upcoming X-Box game.
    • Tell it like it is. Japan's aggression against its neighbors was unprovoked and vicious. They basically enslaved all of Korea.

      You can make a good case that we could have handled it better. Perhaps we could have made the first bomb a demonstrative drop, off Tokyo Bay or something like that, preceded by leaflets saying "Look at what we can do." But we had only the two bombs we dropped (3 including the first test shot) and very little capacity to manufacture more. I think by 1949 we only had about 15 bombs. We
  • important to note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:40PM (#13260675)
    1) more people died previously in (single) conventional bomb strikes (firebombings);
    2) Japan had, at that point, lost control of air and sea (over and around) their nation;
    3) Japan was starving it's people and urging them to prepare for "millions of honorable deaths";
    4) The Emperor wanted to surrender, but the Japanese military leadership refused to allow it;
    5) Japan was warned repeatedly by the USA that refusing to surrender would exact a terrible toll;
    6) Japan was seriously dragging their heels, taking weeks to decide, preparing for a defensive land war.

    Finally, the US ended the stalemate, without a gruesome land war.

    No one in the USA wanted to fight an "Iwo Jima" style battle, one in which hundreds of lives were lost just gaining or losing a couple of yards.

    Fought on their home islands, the Japanese would have fought terribly, to the last man woman or child, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost on each side to starvation or this hellish land war.

    The bomb, in many ways, was a gift for both sides.
    • The strategic situation in 1945 may indeed have been such that Truman's decision to drop the bomb saved more lives than it cost. But whenever the world stops to remember Hiroshima and reflect on the destruction that nuclear weapons can inflict on civilian populations, Americans get all thin-skinned and start huffing and puffing about what the Japanese did before the bombings.

      These are valid points, but they're largely irrelevant. Nuclear weapons have not been used since, so when we reflect on their actual u
      • Any time a two-bit tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood considers pushing the USA around, he's got to remember not only do we have nuclear weapons, we've used them before. Using them the first time is the hardest; it's easier to do it again. I wonder how many times various "strong men" have backed down rather than take that chance. I do know from things I've read over the years, that it was a chance Krushchev never wanted to take. He was at least as worried that we'd start a nuclear exchange as
    • Re:important to note (Score:5, Interesting)

      by identity0 (77976) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:37PM (#13261019) Journal
      1) more people died previously in (single) conventional bomb strikes (firebombings);

      My grandpa actually survived the Tokyo firebombing, but I don't have time to go into details...

      Some people seem to be wondering why there is so much attention given to the bombs, and not to other bombings or battles, in Japan.

      I think there is a similarity between the effects of the nuclear bomb and the attacks on 9-11. Before someone flames me for comparing the two attack's victims, let me explain. The reason the Japanese still talk about those particular attacks more than the Tokyo firebombings is largly psychological. Before the a-bomb, Japan had thought of itself as largly protected from invasion, much as America thought itself far removed from the mideast's politics. The a-bomb is what finally shattered that illusion, and it is because of this shock that it is still remembered. The Tokyo bombings were probobly more significant militarily and casualty-wise, but the a-bombs had a cultural significance far beyond firebombs. It's somewhat like how 9-11 is symbolized by the twin towers being hit, but the Pentagon attack is overlooked because there is no footage of it for the media to display.

      The point of the bombs was to show American might and that it would be impossible to resist them; Japan had thought of itself as a 'holy nation' that could withstand any storm, but the Americans unleashed god-like powers with the a-bomb and showed that Japan's nationalist superstitions were no match for American science.

      It's for that and other cultural reasons having to do with the surrender that the A-bombs are remembered, though of course the regular bombings are too.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:21PM (#13261239)
        And that's one of the major reasons the US chose to drop it's two atomic bombs on Japan. The US was convinced that the Japanese would not surrender, at least under any terms the US found acceptable. They were further convinced (probably correctly) that a full scale invasion of Japan was cause an extreme number of casualites on both sides.

        The hope, thus, was to convince Japan that they had a new irresistable superweapon. Every effort was made to give the impression that the US possessed a vast aresenal of these bombs, and that they'd just keep dropping them on cities until Japan surrendered unconditonally.

        It was such an unprecidented amount of force that it was just totally shocking. Sure, cities were leveled all the time, but it took thousands of bombers with many bombs each to do it, and that's somethign fighter planes could mount a defence against. But here ONE plane with ONE bomb effectively leveled a city. No one had ever seen any power like it, and had the US been telling the truth (in reality those two bombs were all they had at the time), there could be no defence.

        Then, of course, there were the after effects which were unknown before that. People who had survived the bomb unscathed, so it seemed, began dying from mysterious problems, later revealed to be from the radiation that was released. So the bomb didn't just kill when it was dropped, it kept on killing even afterwards.

        I personally think it is an event to be remembered because it's a demonstration of just how dangerous nuclear weapons are. Those bombs are tame compared to what we have today, and the destruction they unleashed is amazing.
  • Today is the 6th of August, 2005, exactly 60 years after the first nuclear device was used in a war.

    yet slashdot missed this immensely important anniversary in a day.

  • Film (Score:4, Informative)

    by Knacklappen (526643) <knacklappen@gmx.net> on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:58PM (#13260780) Journal
    Here's a film from the Internet Archive:
    A Tale of Two Cities" (1946) [archive.org]

    There is be more [archive.org] ...
  • by dominion (3153) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:01PM (#13260795) Homepage

    I already know that there's going to be people arguing back and forth that a) Hiroshima was a tragedy that never should have happened, or b) Hiroshima was necessary because it ended the war/punished the Japanese/etc.

    Well, you know what? I don't care about either of those perspectives. Maybe it was necessary, maybe it wasn't, it's history now, and let's treat it as such. But there's one thing about the bomb that nobody in the US seems to realize:

    Any country, *any* country, that uses nuclear weapons against another country had better let it weigh on their soul for as long as that country exists. The discussion should be constant, and permanent, and without end. The empathy of the pain that the Japanese people went through should be part and parcel of every conversation about World War II. People should go to sleep every night knowing exactly how serious of a decision that was.

    And that's the problem: For every other country whose government's have committed mass murder, whether justifiable or not, there is a sense of history, of ownership of the bad as well as the good, there is a conceivability that they are as much responsible for the past as they are for the present and future.

    In the US, we don't have that sense. It's all abstract and textbook, it's all justifications and wartime terminoligy. It's all disconnected and abstracted to the point of science fiction.

    So argue all you want about whether it was right, or wrong, or good, or bad, or justifiable, or unjustifiable. To me, I can understand both sides of that debate.

    What I can't understand is how most Americans seem to care much about what it means that we sent two Japenese cities into a nuclear hell. Using the bomb was a horrible act, whether or not it was justifiable, and the real tragedy is that the Japanese people were forced to understand that, while we read the headlines, added some notes to the next year's schoolbooks, and then continued on with our lives.
  • Sympathy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532)
    Ask the Chinese survivors of Nanking [wikipedia.org] how many tears they shed for the Japanese after Hiroshima.

    Ask the survivors of the Bataan Death March [wikipedia.org] how many tears they shed for Japan.

    Ask the Philipinos that survived the Manila Massacre [wikipedia.org] how many tears they shed for Japan.

    I bet all of the people that carried up pieces of human remains from Pearl Harbor don't give a shit. I bet the veterans of the Pacific island hopping campaign don't give a shit. Nor the prisoners of war all over Asia.
  • by sakusha (441986) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:02PM (#13260807)
    I always thought Nagasaki gets less attention than it deserves. You always hear about the Hiroshima anniversary, but rarely hear about the Nagasaki anniversary.

    So let me remedy that with a link to the San Francisco Exploratorium's exhibition of restored photos taken shortly after the attack, Remembering Nagasaki. [exploratorium.edu]
  • I keep reading posts from proud Americans how the bombs were justified, saved x lives and the world should be thankful for the guardian angel that US is.

    Yet no word on the point of view (that I assume was never taught in US schools) that the bombing was unnecessary, as Japan was about to surrender, the wheels were in motion but accidental/intentional communication problems prevented that from happening before the bombs were dropped.

    I also cannot discount the point of view that US had used this opportunity t
  • Paul Fussell [wikipedia.org]'s essay, Thank God for the Atom Bomb [journeythroughjapan.org], should be required reading for those who want to understand the decision to drop the bomb and its historical context.
  • by voss (52565) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:12PM (#13260870)
    and feel fine about the stuff they should feel guilty over.

      If truman had the atomic bomb and reasonably believed using this weapon would end the war and would save a million lives he had a DUTY to use it even if the civilian cost was terrible.

    If the critics can play monday morning quarterback then so can I. The use of the atomic bomb in the real world as opposed to just tests allowed the world to see how horrible it was and so far has ensured only two have been used in the last 60 years.

    If Americans want to feel guilty over something, feel guilty about your SUV's helping to fund terrorism through oil money. we should feel guilty that we have allowed our constitution to be gutted in the name of safety. We should feel guilty that we sent american soldiers over to die in iraq without demanding verifiable proof from their commander in chief for the reasons for going. Theres plenty of things we can feel guilty about without accepting undesserved blame

  • Or do most news stories relating to this fail to mention that it was the U.S. that dropped the bomb, often referring to it as 'when the bombs hit Japan' and not as 'when the US dropped the bombs on Japan'?
  • by shanen (462549) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:36PM (#13261012) Homepage Journal
    I've thought a lot about this, and I've concluded that we could have achieved the same results just as quickly without killing so many people in the blasts. We could have put the first bomb on the tip of Mount Fuji. In the actual case, it took a while before anyone had any actual idea what was going on. In my reading on this topic, it seems there was only one survivor (a physicist) who actually understood what he had witnessed (an atomic bomb), and he could not manage to deliver any report for a while, but if America had hit Mount Fuji, many Japanese would have understood immediately. We possibly would have had to drop the second on a city to make it clear that we had more of them and how bad it was, but the days of confusion would have been reduced, and the surrender might have been quicker.

    I'm basically convinced that we wanted to study the effects on real targets, and also implicitly threaten Stalin, and those factors were used to justify the targeting. We hated the Japanese enough to consider their use as human Guinnea pigs to be a trivial aspect.

    Not sure how to file this aspect, though it's surely not amusing, but we might well have killed more Japanese and learned more about nuclear war by "humanely" hitting Mount Fuji first. A low-level blast planned to create the maximum visual scarring of Mount Fuji would have also kicked up an enormous amount of fallout, and the long-term fatalities would probably have been very high, though the immediate deaths would have been reduced. Of course, part of our ignorance at that time included ignorance of radiation sickness and fallout.

    However, looking at the state of the world today, it doesn't seem like we learned much by it. At least nothing important.

    By the way, I've lived in Japan for many years. On a clear day, I can see Mount Fuji from my train station.

    • by Riktov (632)

      I could hardly imagine a worse idea. For two reasons: first, it would risks the demonstrative effects of the bomb, and second, it would be the ugliest, most barbaric act comitted by mankind against the planet.

      Suppose the bomb had blown the top off the mountain. Impressive in terms of explosive power, but it would not have had the horrible effects of human destruction - burning skin, instant vaporization - that served to shock the nation into surrender. For a "non-destructive" demonstration, Tokyo Bay, a

    • In my reading on this topic, it seems there was only one survivor (a physicist) who actually understood what he had witnessed (an atomic bomb), and he could not manage to deliver any report for a while,

      The entire world understood what had happened - Truman announced it in a public address 16 hours afterwards. The Japanese got a first-hand report when they sent an official by plane to see why the telegraph signals from Hiroshima had stopped. Combine that with the radar reports which showed just 1-3 plane

  • by krisamico (452786) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:02PM (#13261144)
    The destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were likely caused by communication problems, nothing more. When approached with proposals for surrender, Japan's leadership replied with "mokusatsu" -- a typically Japanese response when confronted with an unappealing offer -- "I hear you, but I choose to say nothing". The purpose of this sort of communication is to respond to an offensive offer respectfully whilst saving face, and it usually elicits a better offer. Of course, Americans don't understand that sort of crap, so along came a typically American response -- really bad sunburn for tens of thousands of Japanese. Had these two countries appointed some better diplomats, perhaps it would never have happened. But who cares about diplomacy when you've already decided you are going to annihilate one another?

    20/20 hindsight notwithstanding, I have always wondered what would have occurred had we never dropped the bombs. It would be hard for me to believe that the Japanese would ever have surrendered otherwise. At the time, it was seen as a fate worse than death (the "unendurable"), and they were teaching women and children in just about every prefecture to fight with bamboo spears. This seems like determination that could only be broken by a weapon so powerful, awe-inspiring, and magical as an atomic bomb would seem in 1945.

    Move beyond the war with Japan's rather explosive resolution and you have more to speculate about that leads back to it. Without our demonstration of the power of atomic weapons in Asia, would the U.S. and Soviets really not have blown the shit out of each other during the cold war? It seems to me that deterrence only works when there has been a demonstration of the consequences of unchecked aggression. This may be reductio ad absurdum, but I did not start caring about my parking tickets until I got a boot [clamp] on my car. The atomic bomb's use brought the power of nuclear weapons out of the abstract, and I for one am very thankful for the success of nuclear weapons today. They have put an end to war between developed nations, leaving our leaders to their inane intrigues and bullying (at least it's not World War III).

    This fact leads me to a paradox that I find interesting. Targeting non combatants with nuclear weapons was definitely the wrong thing to do. It is terrorism. But in this case, considering all that could have been, I feel that it was right to do the wrong thing, even if for the wrong reasons.
  • by Frangible (881728) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:12PM (#13261196)
    While Japan was an aggressive nation at that time, and while Japanese troops committed many atrocities, especially in China, keep in mind most of the people killed by the nukes were civilians who had committed no crime. Perhaps their deaths were justified to end the war, but they were innocent people and it was pure horror for them. I see so many people getting caught up in nation vs. nation debates on this I think we lose sight of the individual.

    There is nothing wrong with feeling empathy for those whose lives were harmed by this, regardless if they were on the "good" or "bad" side. They were still human.

    There are always many pointless deaths of good people on either side of a war.

  • by RagingChipmunk (646664) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:22PM (#13261242) Homepage
    The decision to nuke Hiroshima was appropriate given the circumstances of war. For anyone who seems so 'horrified' at this atrocity, recall that the Japan and Germany initiated the war. Recall that Japan and Germany created a war against humanity with INDUSTRIAL genocide.

    Recall that Germany was furiously working on the nuke - if things had been differently, London and Moscow would have been targeted.

    Recall that millions of civillians and millitary personel were killed as part of the axis war plans .

    I would have been angry if the allied powers had a means to immediately end the war, even at great civillian loss, and chose not to use it for fear of later slashdot-weenies whinning about being "nice" during a war.

    I've been to the countries occupied by Japan during the 30s and 40s, and the people to this day go out of their way to say "thanks" for the US millitary efforts sixty years ago. Phillipines, China, Indonesia, Australia...

    • >For anyone who seems so 'horrified' at this atrocity, recall that the Japan and Germany initiated the war.
      Japan initiated war against Korea and China. After certain atrocities became apparent in American media, the American government decided to stop selling to the Japanese items that were critical to their war effort and occupation, including, I believe, oil and scrap metal. Although this was certainly the right thing to do morally, it was an act of economic war. As a highly predictable consequence,
  • Necessary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:58PM (#13261408) Journal
    It's inevitable that someone will talk about how these bombings (along with Dresden) were basically wholesale slaughterings of civilians, by today's definitions tantamount to terrorism and thus (presumably) inherently evil. The other side will always bring up XYZ reasons why the bombings were absolutely necessary, usually saying that they saved more lives in the long run, etc.

    Frankly, I think both sides are full of shit.

    First, NOTHING was necessary. Even if Japan was never going to surrender, we did not have to invade Japan--by that point in the war, they certainly weren't going to invade us anytime soon. We could have precision-bombed (or whatever passed for precision bombing in 1945) their major factories, blockaded their harbors, and they wouldn't have been a threat to anyone anymore.

    On the other hand, in a major conflict that will decide the fate of the world, "terrorism" in any conventional sense of the word is not inherently evil. If you cannot stand against the planes that bomb your cities and ships, targeting the civilians that are making the planes that bomb your cities and ships is perfectly reasonable. Additionally, causing "terror" in your enemy and thus compelling them to surrender is a valid and can SAVES LIVES ON BOTH SIDES.

    In a nutshell, no we weren't saints when we vaporized and poisoned hundreds of thousands of civilians (and then invaded them and destroyed much of their culture.) But you don't win wars by being saint-like. In a more one-sided war (like Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan), it is the moral duty of the much superior force to be humane, but in the middle of WWII the victor was anything but assured.

    Concepts like "rules of war" and "terrorism" are shams. There is no line in the sand you can draw, no action that is absolutely unjustified if we're talking about the fate of millions or billions of lives. That doesn't mean we're no better than the terrorists, or that there is no right or wrong. Far from it, it means that we simply need to hate and fight them for what they are--closed minded religious bigots whom cannot peacefully co-exist with other ideologies. That is all.

    On September 11, they attacked our financial infrastructure and our military headquarters. Considering that they are by far the underdogs, this is (and I urge mods to wait and read and think before doing anything rash) a perfectly acceptable guerrilla tactic for a group so hopelessly out-gunned.

    The TACTIC is valid; their REASONS are utter bullshit and that is why we should wipe them off the face of the Earth.

    (To even come close to justifying that level of extreme violence, we'd need to do something insanely evil, not just stick up for Israel in the UN and maintain a military base in Saudi Arabia.)

    I worry desperately when people say that killing civilians or causing terror is wrong 100% of the time, except for when we vaporize a few hundred thousand civilians but that's ok because of reasons XYZ. It's ok to admit that anything goes in war. Doing so does not legitimize your opponent in the least, because at the end of the day you are fighting for the rights and ideologies and ways of life that will live long after the dead are put in ground. You must always seek to justify your actions (or rather, you must always seek to act justly) , but no single action is inherently unjustifiable.

    Just so you know, I happen to think that Hiroshima was justified, Nagasaki wasn't, Afghanistan was justified, and Iraq wasn't, but the point is the criteria you use, not the judgment itself. If you're not consistent in your criteria, don't be surprised when no one takes your own personal "axis of evil" seriously.

    Anyway, sorry for the interruption, you may now resume dredging up every questionable action from the United States' and Japan's history.

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