Monday, August 9, 2010

Remembering Nagasaki

Summer sun rising,
Phoenix in mid-flight…white light,
Only ash remains.

Nagasaki Hypocenter Monument
(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left behind heartbreaking records of what it felt like to be subjected to a nuclear attack. The survivors never forgot that feeling, and so, too, must we never forget what was done in the name of war, no matter the justifications and rationalizations. Each new generation needs to look at the images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and read the stories told by those who lived through these attacks, as surely as we need to read and study the long, bloody road, marked by myriad atrocities, that led to the use of the atomic bomb to destroy these cities. We must do this in order to understand that when one wages war there are horrific consequences. Surely the Japanese people understand this reality, but do we here in America? Real people, soldiers, civilians, factory workers, farmers, mothers, children, all die in wars, even as scientists race to develop means to kill more efficiently, sometimes deluding themselves that, via technology, war may eventually become so horrific that we will stop waging it. Civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki died by the tens of thousands, many in the blink of an eye, some in prolonged agony months, years, even decades after the initial attacks, at the hands of just such a technological innovation. It is my fervent prayer that future historians will continue to note today's date on the calendar, and that they will be able to say that Nagasaki was the second and last city on Earth to be destroyed by a nuclear attack.  Still, the more than 40 million who have died in the name of war since August 9, 1945, bear silent witness to the grim reality that, though the face of war has changed in the Nuclear Age, war itself marches ever on.  How long, oh Lord?

(Regarding the almost incomprehensible human cost of war in the twentieth century, please see


Jayne said...

Welcome to the addiction that is blogging!

Indeed, as we go years and years into this current "war on terror," I often wonder what history will have to say about the loss of life and cost to the people and culture.

DUTA said...

It's very sad, but as long as people live there will probably always be war. "How long, oh Lord?" Indeed , He's the one who has the answer, all the answers.

altar ego said...

As long as human beings yearn for power and control there will be war. Sometimes it's between individuals, neighborhoods, cultures, countries... It will continue unabated until we finally destroy each other, I fear.

And yet, I am a person of hope. In spite of feeling a tug of resentment toward that Lord who allows us to yield to our primal fears and natures at the expense of what is best in us, I dig deep within to counter that tendency, to believe in what is good, to advocate for its dominance against the apparent odds.

Glad you've joined the blog world. I appreciate having some substance to read out there.

Argent said...

I'm pretty much with alter ego, humans will make war forever I think, given the chance but we can but hope that the likes of the internet will ensure that people know about war and its effects and maybe if enough people really know it, there will be less incliniation to do it.

Carolina Linthead said...

Historian John Lewis Gaddis calls the era following the end of WWII "the long peace," primarily because we have not experienced a third world war. He is quite correct in one sense: the advent of nuclear weapons and the threat of mutually assured destruction, etc., did lead to an uneasy "peace" between the US (and our major allies) and the USSR (and their major allies). But in another sense, his phrase is woefully misleading. The Cold War and other ramifications of WWII unleashed hell on the so-called Third World, where most of the 40+ million deaths, either from war or by "human decision," have occurred. So today, while we are thankful there have been no more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis, we still forlornly hope for peace...and mourn the casualties of war.

Thanks for stopping by.
Tomorrow's subject: hummingbirds!

Ann T. said...

Dear C.L.,
I also have read all the reasons why taking Japan by conventional forces would have been costly and dangerous.

Yet I always also suspect that
a. they had to justify that funding
b. there was this toy, and everyone wanted to see what it would do.

Likewise, I get somewhat enraged (oh, I can't stop myself, but neither can I live in permanent dudgeon) when people consider the post WW2 era devoid of war or its miseries. (Huh?) They just mean it hasn't happened to them.

So I was glad to reflect upon this post. It is liberal arts-history-that keeps us from becoming culturally insensitive. By God it is worth something. maybe everything.

Great post! I'll definitely be back!
Ann T. Hathaway

Dominic Rivron said...

Those two bombs were abominations. My father - a Japanese prisoner in his teens who was close to death at the end of the war- probably owed his life to the A-bombs, but always maintained afterwards that he'd rather they hadn't been dropped.

Carolina Linthead said...

Thank you for stopping by, Dominic. That is powerful testimony against the use of atomic weapons. My father, a teenager in North Carolina at the time, has the opposite view, and we've had a few heated arguments about it, to be sure. In the summer of 1945, the case for using the atom bomb was not as clear-cut as most think these days. The numbers Truman received regarding potential death tolls were inflated, there were factions in the Japanese government willing to seek terms for surrender, and a number of high-ranking military men, not to mention some of the leading scientists involved, did not want Truman to use it. He did, at least in part for the reasons Anne T. suggests, and so that he could close out the Pacific war before the Soviets got involved. In the process, he let a genie out of the bottle that both of us wish he hadn't. Some abominable things were done in that war, and I happen to agree with you that this was one of them.