Fifty years ago this week the United States of
merica dropped the world's first atomic bomb on
e Japanese city of Hiroshima. Almost 80,000
ople died instantly from the blast, and almost
00,000 more in the preceding days and weeks
ied from radiation exposure and sickness.
Today, President Harry Truman's decision to
top the A-bomb is practically taken to granted as
necessity to end a bloody and brutal war that cost
e 40 million lives. True, it seems inevitable
at the bomb was going to be used by the first
ation to attain the capacity to do so. We happened
o be the first, and so we used it to ostensibly save
he lives of thousands of American G.I.'s and
apanese who would have perished in an all-out
round invasion of the Japanese mainland.
But why is this logic so taken for granted
oday? It would be silly for one to dispute the fact
at since the Spanish Civil War, prior to WWI, the
ools of war had become much more effective in
'Iling people and doing some scary stuff - like
e-bombing an entire city or gassing your enemy's
onscripts. By the time the "Great Patriotic War"
ame around, mechanized tanks, spitfire machine
uns, airborme Zeppelins, long-range bombers like
he B-52 and other forms of man-made mass
estruction became as well-known as cruise missile
nd smart bombs are today.
In this atmosphere of military-technological
dvancement and "innovation," along came the A-
mb. And by golly, we used it because geniuses
like Einstein and Oppenheimer were fortunate
ough to be in the United States at the time and
t in Germany to help us get to the core of an atom
first. So we - the leader of the free world, the
consummate democratic power - used the most
awesome weapon known to man. The rationale
(not to belabor this point) told to successive postwar
generations: to save lives. American lives and
even Japanese lives.
But is it not disturbing that when it came to
saving Eastern European Jewish lives in that same
World War we didn't use any of our new military
tools to save some hundreds of thousands of lives
its places with haunting names like Buchenwald,
Auschwitz, or Bergen-Belsen? The same War
Department and the same Secretary Stimson who
believed so religiously in the diligent prosecution
of the war to its final and complete ends (including
the absolute unconditional surrender of Japan) did
not choose to bomb Nazi concentration camps in
Poland and the Reich although he knew about
them their existence for over two years. We've
grown so accustomed to national proclamations
of certitude for our acts of August 1945, that
Onericans haven't much examined the selective
logic used to defend the bomb's use. It is unusual
o say the least that today a humanitarian-utilitarian
iscourse (saving lives) is the manner in which we
talk about the bomb, when scholars now suggest
that a deeper analysis of the Japanese people's
affinity for the throne may have yielded the same
result Stimson and Truman desired: a defeated
Japan in American, not Soviet, hands. No bomb
The point: If a military proposition not in our
geopolitical or national security interest (like say,
ing Polish reformers in 1980-81 or Bosnian
Muslims in 1995), we don't do it. And we have
istorically defined that interest to be primarily
economic or realpolitik in nature -like the balance
of power in Europe or maintaining hegemonic
control over the Western hemisphere (see Panama,
1989). We didn't bomb railways leading into the
camps in 1944 when over 400,000 Hungarian
Jews were deported to SS concentration camps
because eliminating these camps wouldn't help
Patton or Montgomery's march toward the Reich.
The same thing goes for the 3-year old war in
fthe Balkans and the savage civil war in Algeria.
Saving lives is hardly the guiding principle of
American foreign policy. Winning wars is and
defining the course of history is, and so it was in
1945, when the Enola Gay released its most top-
secret cargo onto a city full of civilians.
Wednesday, August 9, 1995 - The Michigan Daily - 5
By Mant W msat
A5 SEEN FRoM THE P5PECTIN1 OF
'(H4E NUJCLEAR NONpR~L-IFERAT'lQNS'TREATY
"Behold. I am become
Death, the destroyer of
-J. Robert Oppenheimer
upon the first atom bomb
explosion at the testing
sight in Los Elmos,
Hiroshima: 50 years of soul searching
Jack Coombes: Looking back ...
Studying the circumstances surrounding the
dropping of the bomb helps to better understand
why it wasdropped. Coombes isa navalhistorian
and veteran. He was a gunner aboard the USS
Pierce, an attack transport that was preparingfor
the invasion of Japan in August 1945.
"We had already invaded Iwo Jima, Saipan and
Okinawa and on all of those islands the Japanese
foughtvery,veryfanatically. Entireregiments would
hold down spots of no military significance.
We had a beach on Kyushu all picked out to land
our first wave of troops for the invasion. We were
warned that there would be tremendous resistance
and a tremendous loss of life.
We would be fighting not only elite troops but
also armed women and children. No soldier could
resist a little child, but they wouldcome with a hand
grenade in their pocket.The whole idea is that they
would send everything they had at us.
The damagethat afew hundredkamikazes did at
Okinawa was sink 30 ships. Imagine whattheir force
of 12,000 would have doner
We breathed a sigh of relief when the bomb hit.
A lot of us figured We wouldn't be around today.
There was alot ofjubilancy in the fleet. I could hear
them yelling and screaming because we all knew an
invasion was going to be a slaughter. That's why I feel
very strongly about the dropping of the bomb.
I think that time will erase most of the animosity
... A lot of the GIs I know talk about this and there
is actually quitean admiration for the Japanese for
what they have Accomplished since the war. They
are very industrious and I respect and admire that.
Even in the war I respected their ships, commitment
due. Secretly and begrugingly you admire the
enemy's technical ability. I could not develop a
pathological hatred for them.
I'mhoping that we as humans advace to the point symbolism of visting the peace park.
of avoiding war. As a Civil War general put it, 'War When you go to Hiroshima and get past the horror
is hell.' It is an insanity." of it, what you feel is that this must never happen to
anyone anyhere again, and that is the point of the peace
Jack Hullet: Japan's reaction to war park. It is part of the world, not just Japan."
1995 has seen a renewal of the pain the war
inflicted on millions. The question of whether Amy Strack: Looking forward...
Japan should apologize to its Asian neighbors is In the next 50 years, the debate will turn to
brought upfrequently in both Japan ad the United what the next generation has done to ensure that
States. Hullet is dean of enrollment atAugustana Hiroshima has not been repeated. Strack is a
College in Illinois and teaches Japanese Social magazineeditorin Chicagoandhas workedabroad
Psychology. He is also co-directorofthe college's as a newspaper columnist and reporter.
Asian Quarter program. "Going to Hiroshima as a student on Japan I
"To say that Japan should apolgize for its role in anticipated feelings I had felt when I had been to a
the war like Germany is not culturally aware. concentration camp inGermany. Iexpected adreadful
Western cultures are guilt cultures. They feel feeling of sickness, but I wanted to go there. I felt it
guilt orembarassment not only for what they do but was my duty and that I couldn't ignore something of
for what their intent was. Japan if a shame culture. that magnitude.
They feel shame for the outcome regardless of Although it's a cliche, the Peace Park is very
intent. If you and I did something wrong and peaceful as wellas sobering. People are very friendly
apologized, we would say 'We didn't meant to do and open to Japanese and American visitors alike.
that,' and it would make it ok. Kids came flocking up to me at in even the worst
The Japanese feelshameforwhatbadhappened, situations. Girgave us these cards, which each one
but not a residual feeling of discomfort based on of them had wtn, colored and signed themselves:
intent. If you were to go to Hiroshima, you would 'Dear Friend We are second-year students at
find that it is a very nonpolitical place. ltis very much Naganuma Se'r High School in Fukushima. We
focused on the idea that there should not be another studied W11"Y know the first nuclear bomb was
nuclear attack. dropped ins H itma. We don't want wars and
If Hiroshima teaches us anything, it is that we are nuclear p t's work for world peace.' ... If
playing with very devastating things here. We may you look ugthe thousands of paper cranes
have learned that lesson as a world about as cheaply placed atthepea ememorial, many of them are from
as we could have, as horrible as that may be. I think Kansas-or Foods We are all very much the same.
that once the bomb was developed, its use was At the 'Uni sty of Chicago last week Kurt
inevitable. It may be lucky that we learned alcuits spone s and said that for those who think
destruction when we did, before the megats ent haitliiadncracy and that Hiroshima could not
up. gain4saidhe had one word: 'Nagasaki.'
What I find unconsc iable J ' sitsettu 'nk6was'saying nottobe naivethat it will never
president has vistited Hirsht sa om ways appenagai'becauseweaponsarestilllyingaround.
Japanese feel that workIead(ershay abndosed'he e cse touse it not once but twice."
Sadako and the tho sand& aj er cranes
An excerpt from Sadako and the Thousand tests - that's all.. Djs,;. you remember that old story about the
Paper Cranes, written by Eleanor Coerr, Mr. Sasaki'c hid his /t. "Is ... is there crane?. Chizuko asked. "It's supposed to live for a
copyright 1977, Dell Yearling, New York anything you w 'he asked thousand years. If a sick person folds one thousand
Artwork by Dawn Marie Verbrigghe Sadako shook hem&. All she really wanted papercraes, the gods will grant her wish and make
A the signal to start, Sadako forgot everything was to go home. &dwhen?A cold lump offfargrew herheolthyagain." She handed the crane to the crane
utthe race. When ittwas hertum, she ran withall inherstomach..Wha*a*n'thatmany peo le otoo Sadako. "Here's yourflrst one."
the strenth she had. Sadako's heart was stillthumping went into this haspq)Winerw e out. rite leaves on the maple tree were turning rust
painfully against her ribs when the race was over. When she was 1 ko buried her face in and gold when the family came for one last visit.
Shetriedtoconvince herselfthatitmeantnothing, the pillow andcriedfor long time. She had never For a little while it was almost like good times
that the dizziness would go away. But it didn't. It got before felt so lonely and thiserable. when they were at home. Meanshile, she sat stiffly in
worse. Frightened, Sadako carried the secret inside hizuko was pleased witt herself "I'vefigured thecair, trying not to show the pain it caused her. It
of her. She didn't even tell, Chizuko, her bestfriend. outa wayforyou to get well, "shesaidproudly. wsworth the pain.
"Do I really have the atom bomb disease?" She cut apiece of gold paper intoa I iruae. In,. Before she went to sleep, Sadako managed tofold
Sadako asked her father. a short time she had folded it over at tieri nly one more paper crane.
There was a troubled look in Mr. Sasaki's eyes, beautiful crane. ~ - Six hundred and forty-four ...
but he only said, "The doctors want to make some "But how can that paper bird make me well?" It was the last one she ever made.