Sunday, August 06, 2006

Gen baku no hi...........August 6th, 1945- Hiroshima.

Today is August 6th. The 61'st anniversary of the atomic bomb released on Hiroshima. Gen baku (原爆) is Japanese for atomic bomb. As you might expect there has been a lot of coverage on the various TV networks including bell ringing at the hour of the attack. The history is of course well documented:

August 6, 1945 is a day the Japanese will never forget. This is the day the world's first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. The bomb fell from an airplane named the "Enola Gay" at 8:15 a.m. and exploded 43 seconds later, at 1,900 ft. above the city. The results were devastating. The intense heat generated from the bomb ranged from 7200 to 1000 degrees fahrenheit. Thousands were instantly killed, vaporized from the searing heat. Others were terribly disfigured with limbs melted from their bodies and skin peeling off in large strips. The intense heat melted the eyeballs of some who had stared in wonder at the blast. "Big black flies appeared and tried to lay eggs on human flesh. The injured were so weak that they could not brush away the flies that nestled in their hands and necks." (Doomsday) said survivor Michiko Watanabe. Throughout the city, parents and children were discovering one another wounded or dead. "A mother, driven half-mad while looking for her child, was calling his name. At last she found him. His head looked like a boiled octapus. His eyes were half-closed, and his mouth was white, pursed, and swollen." (Schell)

The blast was equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT. By present standards, the bomb was a small one, and in today's arsenals it would be classed among the merely tactical weapons. However, it was still large enough to transform a city of some 340,000 thousand people into hell in a matter of seconds. Only 6,000 buildings of the 76,000 were left undamaged; 48,000 were completely leveled. By the end of the day there were 100,000 dead. The figure would rise to 140,000 by the end of the year, due to radiation sickness and other complications.

What I found interesting today was talking with the S.O. about what we were seeing on TV. It is a classic case of the old adage, "where you sit, determines what you see". The S.O. made the comment that the Americans should never have done this (drop the bombs on Japan). With trepidation I waded into the pool, knowing damn well a deep discussion like this would go nowhere good.

"What then should the US have done?", I asked her, "They wanted to get the war over with after all....".

She replied that Japan would have surrendered anyway.

"Perhaps", I responded. "But when?. The Americans were planning an invasion of Kyushu in November and of Honshu the following March. The Russians were coming into the war as well. Have you ever considered what would have happened to Japan as a nation if your birth place, Sapporo, or even Sendai (where she grew up) had been occupied by the Russians? Or how many American and Japanese lives were saved by not having to invade?".

She had not, of course, only that it had killed a lot of Japanese. The Russian aspect, she seemed to have never heard about. Which, to tell you the truth, surprised me. Because, If the Soviets had been allowed to get their fingers into Japan, it would not be the great nation it is today. From the S.O.'s reaction there must be a lot of Japanese who do not realize that.

The news broadcasts here, also say very little about that aspect of the attack. They do focus on the tragedy of course. They always show the atomic dome. Pictures of the inside of the main post office, where many were trapped and died later. Interestingly, in the last 3 years I have been watching this, they always have coverage of Americans...either in America or visiting Hiroshima. It always seems to me, with my very incomplete understanding of Japanese, that these TV shows are always looking to show American remorse. They surely would not broadcast the facts which became clear long after the war:

An inner cabinet in Tokyo authorized Japan's only officially sanctioned diplomatic initiative. The Japanese dubbed this inner cabinet the Big Six because it comprised just six men: Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo, Army Minister Korechika Anami, Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai, and the chiefs of staff of the Imperial Army (General Yoshijiro Umezu) and Imperial Navy (Admiral Soemu Toyoda). In complete secrecy, the Big Six agreed on an approach to the Soviet Union in June 1945. This was not to ask the Soviets to deliver a "We surrender" note; rather, it aimed to enlist the Soviets as mediators to negotiate an end to the war satisfactory to the Big Six--in other words, a peace on terms satisfactory to the dominant militarists. Their minimal goal was not confined to guaranteed retention of the Imperial Institution; they also insisted on preservation of the old militaristic order in Japan, the one in which they ruled......

........From mid-July onwards, Ultra intercepts exposed a huge military buildup on Kyushu. Japanese ground forces exceeded prior estimates by a factor of four. Instead of 3 Japanese field divisions deployed in southern Kyushu to meet the 9 U.S. divisions, there were 10 Imperial Army divisions plus additional brigades. Japanese air forces exceeded prior estimates by a factor of two to four. Instead of 2,500 to 3,000 Japanese aircraft, estimates varied between about 6,000 and 10,000. One intelligence officer commented that the Japanese defenses threatened "to grow to [the] point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not the recipe for victory."

Now I understand that everyone is not a history buff like I am. However in a country that is as well off as Japan and has labored under the shadow of the second world war as long as it has ( and many Japanese would argue they have paid for their sins over and over......) that the folks would know better their own history. A sample size of one is poor statistics I know. And the S.O. knows more about Coach purses than history.

It provides an interesting data point for me though. Not everything is understood by the American frame of reference. A lesson we have had to painfully re-learn again and again, most recently in Iraq. Then again having mastered the means to destroy our selves over and over again, collectively the world still pursues war. Give the Japanese credit, at least they now understand how wasteful the whole enterprise truly is.

Or do they? Given recent rhetoric.......who knows?


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