Friday, August 7, 2009

Lest We Forget

From his book Hiroshima, written by Dr. Ron Takaki, R.I.P. :

Hiroshima had not been given any warning. People heard an early alert and then an all-clear sound, and they resumed their activities. Then came another plane, followed by the atomic blast.

“A bright light filled the plane,” recalled Paul Tibbets, commander. “The first shock wave hit us. We were eleven and a half miles slant from the atomic explosion but the whole airplane cracked and crinkled.”... “ Then the second shock wave hit and we turned back to look at Hiroshima. The city was hidden by that awful cloud, boiling up, mushrooming, terrible and incredibly tall.”

“My God!” several crew members exclaimed in horror and wonder. Robert Lewis would never forget what he had witnessed -- the evaporation of a city: “Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could now no longer see it. We could see smoke and fires creeping up the sides of mountains.”

From an altitude of 29.000 feet, tail gunner George Caron describe it as a peep into hell. “The mushroom cloud itself was a spectacular sight, a bubbling mass of purple grey smoke and you could see it had a red core in it and everything was burning inside. It looked like lava or molasses covering a whole city.”

Meanwhile, on the ground that morning, Naoko Masuoka was on a school trip. She and her friends were singing “Blossoms and buds of the young cherry tree” when someone cried out -- A B-29! Even as this shout rang out in our ears, she said later, “there was a blinding flash and I lost consciousness.”

Sanae Kano also remembered seeing a sudden flash of light. She was eating breakfast and had her chopsticks in her mouth when it happened. There was a big bang and she almost fainted. Kano ran out of her house. “At the river, I saw people who were burned black and were crying for water. Some people were in the river desperately drinking the water. The fire wardens were shouting at them telling them that it was dangerous to drink the water but many people went into the river anyway and drank the water and died.”

After the terrific blast fires were everywhere. Instantaneously, Hiroshima had been reduced to cinders. All green vegetation had perished. Yoshiaki Wada found many dead people lying on the bridge. Some were burned black, some had blistered skin that was peeling off and some had pieces of glass in them all over.

The force of the explosion had sent millions of shrapnel shards in all directions. Yoshihiro Kimura asked: “Where is mother?”
“She is dead,” her father answered. Then she noticed that a nail five inches long had stuck into Mother’s head and she died instantly.

Then almost as if nature had come to cleanse the burned city, it started to rain hard. The mushroom cloud had carried tons of dirt into the atmosphere: from the sky fell a black rain. “The wind got stronger,” Yoko Kuwabara reported, “and it starting raining something like ink. This strange rain came down hard out of the gray sky, like a thundershower and the drops stung as if I were being hit by pebbles.”

After the rain, the survivors looked around and saw corpses everywhere. Bodies were cremated every day in the bamboo grove near the house, on the river bed, or in the corners of fields, Megumi Sera recalled “it made a horrible smell and sometimes even the white smoke would come around our house.”

Far from this scene of devastation and death, Truman was on board the Augusta returning from Potsdam having lunch with some crew members and was handed a decoded message. “Results clear cut successful in all respects. Visible effects greater than in any test.” Truman exclaimed: “This is the greatest thing in history.”

Two days later, the Japanese government finally received a full report on the devastation. When the plane flew over Hiroshima, reported Lieutenant General Seijo Arisue, “there was but one black dead tree as if a crow was perched over the rubble. There was nothing but that tree. The city itself was completely wiped out.”

Hiroshima had been a communications center, a storage area. It was not a purely military target as Truuman had intended. Of its population of 350,000 people, only 43,000 were soldiers. 70.000 people were killed instantly and 60,000 more by November and another 70,000 by 1950 from the bomb.

The second attack had been scheduled for August 11, but the timing had been left in the hands of the field commanders and the day had been moved up to the 9th -- weather conditions.

Nagasaki would have been spared had the city been bombed as originally scheduled. The Japanese govt had not been given sufficient time to respond to the “rain of ruin” that had fallen on Hiroshima and to surrender before another atomic attack. “What we had not taken into account,” General Marshall admitted years later, “was that the destruction of the first bomb would be so complete that it would be an appreciable time before the actual facts of the case would get to Tokyo. The destruction of Hiroshima was so complete that there was no communication at least for a day, and maybe longer.”

On August 9, before Japan could fully comprehend the destruction of the bomb, a plane carrying the second bomb, Fat Man, took of from Tianian. The target was Kokura, war production plant. But a thick overcast prevented a visual bombing so the pilot Major Charles Sweeney turned to the secondary target, Nagasaki, a shipbuilding center. Some 70,000 people were killed by the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.