A Shadow of the Dead in the Concrete Wall: Hiroshima August 6th, 1945

At 8:15 AM on August 6th, 1945 the first ever atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” detonated above the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The blast ended up killing an estimated 100,000 people in the city either from direct force, indirect injuries, or radiation poisoning. In addition to the dead, over 100,000 were left injured and exposed to radiation which would wreak havoc on their life-long health. The book Hiroshima by John Hersey is a morose but real look on the effect of that fateful day for those in the city and their lives thereafter. The book is full of gruesome anecdotes about the aftermath of the bomb. One was about a group of officers who were looking towards the light created by the explosion-their faces burned instantly and the eyes melted leaving empty-bloody sockets. The light that was created from the reaction was so intense that it discolored the concrete in the city. This discoloration created the effect of preserving the shadows of certain individuals in the cement facades; shadows of people painting and riding horses at the very moment they were disintegrated. Holy cow! These facts truly scare me and make me realize how much I never wish to experience a nuclear bomb. 

The radiation sickness that resulted from “Little Boy” caused terrible scarring, infertility, cancer, malaise, decreased life span, decreased immunity, stomach pain, awful bouts of headaches, and countless other ailments. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were known as Hibakusha which literally means “explosion-affected people.” The Hibakusha were not given any health assistance by the government until 10 years after the bombings. Overall, it was not a great honor to be a Hibakusha. It was difficult to find a husband for female survivors and male survivors often were stricken with malaise that prevented them from steady work. The survivors, in a way, felt guilty for not dying because those, who did meet their demise, provided the greatest sacrifice for their country. 

The ultimate question is whether the atomic bombs were necessary and/or ethical? First off, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were major wartime manufacturing cities which were crucial for Japanese military production. The rationale by the United States was that bombing these cities was ethical because the civilians were involved in the advancement of war and hence were pseudo-military. If the atomic bomb did not work, the US would have to invade Japan which had an estimated soldier death toll of 5 to 10 million (between the Japanese and the Allies). The US also gave multiple opportunities for the Japanese to surrender-warning that complete destruction would come if they did not oblige. Furthermore, the long-term effects of radiation sickness were not well known at the time and President Truman was known to be a strong detractor of chemical warfare. The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in my opinion were the only way to psychologically kill the pride of the Japanese Empire. The Emperor would not surrender to the Allies through conventional warfare and that is why the complete threat of atomic destruction was necessary. Although I believe that the A-bomb was ethical, in this specific situation, I do disagree with war in general. War is fought by young men at the hands of old prideful politicians. I wish there were no bombs or guns. If only we used our brains and the knowledge of the past so the pursuit of power would not result in the deaths of millions of people. 

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