Was it necessary to drop the bomb on Japan? I don’t know. I know the people making the decisions at the time thought so, and they were the only ones that counted. I’m not sure that those of us that didn’t live through those times, with those experiences, and those pressures, and that history have any right to criticize. Ponder ways things might have been handled better? Sure, especially if it will help us to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. There’s blame enough for all sides. But those who were there did what they thought was best with the information they had at hand.
Are nukes too horrific to ever be used again? Yes, without question. That was the conclusion of the military researchers and scientists who toured the bomb sites after the war concluded. They were horrified by the scenes. All through World War Two all sides had been trying to make bigger and bigger bombs, and the people involved had been thinking of the A-Bomb as just a bigger bomb. The world had seen horror on an industrial scale. Those working on the project just thought it was one more step. They had not grasped the true impact of the weapons, what a massive paradigm shift they would be. I’ve seen interviews with both military people and the physicists who worked on it. They were absolutely staggered by the results. Many of them have said they would have done it differently if they had realized the scope of the effects.
One thing I do know is that the results were so horrific that we’ve never had another nuclear attack. The Cold War was starting even before the end of World War Two and both sides were struggling for dominance. I don’t see any way the Suez Crisis or the Cuban Missile Crisis, or Korea, or Viet Nam or any one of the Arib Israeli wars, would have unfolded they way they did if the people making decisions had not known about the real impact of nuclear bombs. Setting aside the big historical events, there have been many times when this knowledge saved the world. Many times when erroneous alerts went out but some person in a silo, or at a control panel, or behind an executive desk, said “No, I’m not sure what’s going on and these are too horrific a weapon to launch when I’m not sure.” The knowledge from Hiroshima and Nagasaki played no small part in stopping a nuclear holocaust.
And that, at least, is one good thing that came out of the events of August 6, 1945. Possibly the only good thing.
Unfortunately after 70 years without any nuclear attacks the generation that witnessed the effects is fading away. Their children who heard the accounts first hand are leaving the stage as well. The world is now being run by people for whom the attack is just grainy black and white photos in history class. It is no more viscerally real than the scenes in the trenches from World War One, or descriptions of the Battle of Agincourt. They don’t know the reality of it. They can contemplate using atomic and nuclear weapons, unfettered by the reality of them. By the horror of them. They are running companies that don’t see the downside to selling the technology to unstable countries to make a buck. This years profit statements and political gain is no longer being restrained by the knowledge of what these things do to people. To the world.
In 1965 satirist Tom Lehrer wrote the song Who’s Next? about nuclear proliferation. We all laughed because it was just a silly song about all of these crazy little countries that want the bomb.
It’s time to stop laughing.
Find a copy ion the book Hiroshima, by John Hersey. Here, I’ll make it easy for you. This is a link to the book. The NewYorker put it on line for free. Now you have no excuse not to read it. And read it you should. Hiroshima should be required reading for everyone. Because as the old proverb says: Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.