No more Hiroshimas!

by Stefan Chiarantano, Oct 9, 2006 | Destinations: Japan

I wrote about Hiroshima (here) and how the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushered in the nuclear age and the arms race. I'll now write about my visit to Hiroshima.

The rebuilt city is beautiful. The rivers that run through Hiroshima are beutifully landscaped. Hiroshima has an efficient transportation city which I can attest to and possesses all the amenities found in a modern city, which it is. I stayed at the World Friendship Center to learn more of its mandate and its founder, Barbara Reynolds. Ms. Reynolds was instrumental in calling attention to the plight of the hibashuka and survivors of Hiroshima, and spreading the message of peace throughout the world to prevent another Hiroshima.

Hiroshima has many beautiful things to see and do but the focus of my visit was making a pilgrimmage to the A-Dome, the Cenotaph, and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

On the day of my visit, the museum was jam packed with visitors and tour groups. It was an impressive sight. I took my place in cue and followed the route laid out by the museum. I would emerge hours later with new insights and understanding. The museum has on display a wealth of information documenting Hiroshima's history before and after the bombing, documents regarding the Manhattan project and the development of the Atomic bomb, diagrams and information on nuclear fission, photographs and clips of the bombing and the devastated wasteland Hiroshima was to become, material witnesses of the bombing including tissue specimens, and so forth.

On display is a letter from Albert Einstein to F.D. Roosevelt dated August 2nd, 1939. What follows below is a copied section of the first page. It reads as follows:

"Dear Sir:

Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future.

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable - through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future. This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable though much less certain - that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed."

The letter was actually drafted by Szilard.

-It was Otto Hahn who discovered nucleai fission and Lise Meitner who explained the fission process. Nuclear Fission, the splitting of atomic nucleai, was discovered in Germany in December 1938.

Here's an excerpt from L.R. Groves, Brigadier General, C.E., from the Minutes of the Military Policy Committee May 5, 1943.

5. The point of use of the first bomb was discussed and the general view appeared to be that its best point of use would be on a Japanese fleet concentration in the Harbor of Truk. General Styer suggested Toko but it was pointed out that the bomb should be used where, if it failed to go off, it would land in water of sufficient depth to prevent easy salvage. The Japanese were selected as they would not be so apt to secure knowledge from it as would the Germans.

This committee, composed of military personnel and scientists, held overall responsibility for the A-bomb project.

-"Tube Alloys" was the code name for the British A-bomb development project.

Here's an excerpt from the Diary of Henry Stimson, Secretary of War.

"I was a little fearful that before we could get ready the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength."

The following are excerpts from the exhibits.

-The atomic bomb had cost 2 billion dollars and mobilized at its peak, over 120,000 people.

-The US began in Spring 1945 studying targets for the atomic bomb. To ensure that the effects of the atomic bombing could be accurately observed, potential target cities were required to have an urban area at least three miles in diameter (about 48 km) and air raids in those cities were prohibited. On July 25, 1945, an order was issued calling for the first atomic bomb to be dropped on one of the following cities: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki.

-The order naming Hiroshima as the primary target was issued on August 2. One reason is that Hiroshima was the only city thought to have no Allied prisoner-of-war camps. On August 6, the sky over Hiroshima was clear. The city's fate was sealed.

-To investigate changes in heat and air pressure caused by the bomb, Scientific measuring instruments were dropped with parachutes from the observation plane.

-Prior to the dropping of the actual A-bomb, Dummy A-bombs were dropped.

-At the instant of detonation, the bomb generated tremendous heat and blast. Heat from the super-hot fireball raised temperatures on the ground near the hypocenter to 3,000 to 4,000 degrees centigrade, igniting fires throughout the city. The super-high pressure of the epicenter of the explosion generated a shockwave followed by a powerful blast wind that instantly crushed building. Within two kilometers of the hypocenter, most buildings were totally collapsed and burned.

-Hiroshima was placed under the governance of the British Commonwealth forces. Occupation policies included a press code established in September 1945 that provided the strict censorship of published and broadcast reporting. Particularly severe censorship of material related to the A-bomb delayed for years full reporting of the damage done. As a result, the Japanese people only very slowly came to understand the devastation that had occurred and the implications of atomic weapons.

-In 1981, Pope John Paul II said, "God's hope is one of peace, not one of pain." And in 1984, Mother Teresa proclaimed, "so that the terrible evil that brought so much suffering to Hiroshima may never happen again, let us pray together and remember - works of love and prayer are works of peace."

-The A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima was about three meters long and weighed about four tons. Called "Thin Man" at first because of its long thin design, when the actual bomb turned out to be shorter, the nickname changed to "Little Boy".

-Because the people of Hiroshima had no way of knowing that an atomic bomb was being dropped, some watched the B29s drop parachutes without running for cover. Just after the parachutes droppped, the atomic bomb exploded.

-The detonation of the atomic bomb created a fireball that blazed like a small sun. More than a million degrees celsius at its center, the fireball reached a maximum diameter of 280 meters in one second.

-The radioactive material used in the Hiroshima bomb was uranium. Of the approximately 50 kilograms of uranium packed into the bomb, only about one kilogram underwent fission. About 15% of the energy released was in the form of radiation. The radiation released the instant the nuclear fission took place is called "initial radiation". The large amount of radiation remaining on the surface for some time after the explosion is called "residual radiation".

The horror of the atomic bombing left me speachless. Japanese and non-Japanese hibashuka continue to suffer the after effects of radiation exposure.

The Peace Park that afternoon was thronging with pilgrims paying their respects at the Cenotaph, visiting the many monuments, and taking in the A-Dome, a reminder of the atomic bombing, and now a protected UNESCO site. The evening presented another side to the Peace Park. Amongst the landscaped little enclosed parkettes, the homeless were asleep joined by some travellers with their lugguge serving as a pillow. Along the pillars of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, young people were practicing dance steps. Along the river embankments, some young people were making music and singing. The feral cats, whose home the park is, were prancing about hissing and screaching over their territory. And there were many strollers taking in the beautifully lit A-Dome on this warm evening.

Mother Teresa's words proclaimed a message of peace. I pray that love prevails!

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