A personal journey into the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

by Stefan Chiarantano, Jul 2, 2006 | Destinations: Japan / Hiroshima

This personal essay isn't meant as a means to criticize or put down America. Far from it. I love America. I just want to understand what happened. Living in Japan and coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Japanese has confronted me to ask why were the atomic bombs used and were they really necessary to ending the war.

Japanese cities short-listed for the atomic bomb included:


On August 6, 1945 at 08:15, a nuclear bomb nicknamed "Little Boy", exploded over the skies of Hiroshima dropped by the US military aircraft, B-29, called the Enola Gay. On August 9, 1945 at 11:02, a nuclear bomb nicknamed the "Fatman" , exploded over Nagasaki. It was dropped by the US military aircraft, B-29, called the "Bockscar". These were the world's first nuclear attacks. Bad weather prevented the "Bockscar" from dropping it on its intended target, Kokura, so Nagasaki became the new target.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki instantly killed tens of thousands of Japanese and some Koreans. Many were vaporized or were burned to death from the fierce rays. Following the attacks, tens of thousands of Japanese died from radiation poisoning. Both cities were nearly obliterated along with the majority of its citizens. On the other side of the globe, the world had stood by while the Nazi Germans went on perpetuating unspeakable horrors on its victims. Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, Poles, Homosexuals met their fate in the concentration camps where most were gassed and then incinerated in the gas ovens. Their ashes harvested for use as fertilizer. Violence sickens me.

The survivors of the nuclear attacks in the tens of thousands known in Japanese as hibakusha continue to suffer. They have endured the unbearable just as the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps did. I think it's important understand what led up to the nuclear attacks.

The Japanese were blinded by their false feelings of superiority. They took on America. A savage war was raging between the two. America was now winning the fight and knew the war could be won. War is war and the means justify the ends, they say. Was the pre-text to end the war a means to justify the use of the atomic bombs? But then why were two different types of bombs used. The atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima was made with Uranium 235, an isotope of uranium that has the ability to cause a rapidly expanding chain reaction. The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was made with Plutonium 239. On explosion, above the skies of those two cities, both bombs emitted such fierce rays and radiation. The explosions were described as creating small suns having a center temperature of one million degrees centigrade and raising the surface temperature at the hypocenter between 4000 to 5000 degrees Celsius.

Japan did surrender on August 15, 1945. They capitulated not because of the atomic bombings but because the emperor system would be preserved by the Allied victors.

Reflecting on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I've come away with a deeper understanding as to what really happened and perhaps, history will bear that point out. The atomic bombings were a mistake. But what really troubles me now is the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world.

Look at North Korea, India and Pakistan. Countries who have threatened to use nuclear weapons. And now Iran is on the verge of developing an atomic bomb. Where will this all lead to? And it begs the question what our role is in the face of potential nuclear devastation, which may occur at any moment.

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