Seventy-Five

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

I had to specify “Japan” because so many Americans have a desparingly lack of historical knowledge and appreciation. Just for additional clarification, we dropped the bomb on Japan during World War II. (In another post I recounted the experience of a WW ll veteran who was introduced by a teacher to her grammar school class as a “Veteran of World War ELEVEN!)

As a kid growing up the dropping of the bomb was a curiosity as much as a source of dread. Everyone loves fireworks and the atomic bomb represented the ultimate magnificence of pyrotechnics.

Through the window of the Enola Gay shortly after the bomb was released from its bay, we witnessed a flash and a glorious cloud that rose ever higher. Of course, the view from the ground was much different. It was not until I read, Hiroshima by John Hersey that I understood just how destructive the bomb had been.

I remember reading that for some of its victims all that remained was a shadow etched into the ground by the ferocious light emanating from the core of the blast. It is no wonder that no sooner had the war ended that America feared the bomb.

As children hid under their desks during drills in school and as Air Raid Shelter signs were put on buildings in our neighborhood, nuclear energy was being promoted as a cheap, efficient, and clean source of electricity.

The Nuclear Age was upon us.

A source of controversy in its own right, nuclear energy pales in the utter destruction housed in one nuclear warhead. But, here we are seventy-five years later, and more Americans have been killed by a virus than Japanese killed in Hiroshima. A total ranging from 129,000 to 226,000 people, were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the second city to suffer a nuclear attack days after Hiroshima.

Sadly we are still in the throes of the pandemic and no end in sight.

Harry S. Truman was the wartime American President who gave the order to drop both bombs. The decision has been defended on the basis that the bomb ended the war where a protracted battle would have cost over a million lives. It’s easy to criticize when your 2020 vision is blurred by seventy-five years.

Still, maybe we can better understand the logic of that day as we shelter in place and wear masks and live in our own dread.

 

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