Hiroshima and Nagasaki — What We Do Defines Us

The Hiroshima bomb blast, WWII
The Hiroshima bomb blast, WWII

Today, August 6th, marks the anniversary of the U.S. attack on Hiroshima during WWII. That attack was different from the firebombing that we had inflicted on the mainland of Japan in that we used an atomic bomb. Today marks the beginning of the nuclear age of possibilities and horrors.

Three days later, on the 9th, the second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, with even larger effect.

It is nearly miraculous that there have been no nuclear wars since. We have come close several times. It should not be missed, though, that a whole generation grew up in deep fear of that happening. The fear itself has taken its toll.

Here are some resources that show a deeper discussion than the official line of the U.S. government or the far Right on this matter to help with your conclusions about these critical events in world and U.S. history.

There was a considerable amount of secrecy involved decades after each bomb was detonated and it has taken years to get some documents declassified and available to the public.

This is a good piece that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now did on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing in 2011 that reveals some information that was new then, and perhaps is new for you now:

If you have not had the opportunity to see the documentary The Fog of War then I recommend it. The backbone of the narrative is an interview with Robert McNamara, who has been involved in a number of wars at unusually high levels. Most of us who were in or near adulthood during the 1960s remember him as the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War.

As a young man during WWII, he was responsible for conducting data studies on the effectiveness of our bombing raids on Japan which were planned by General Curtis LeMay.

As as high school history teacher I used this film to help instruct students on point of view and how to evaluate first-person accounts.

I have set this to start right after McNamara has discussed the various aspects of the firebombing of many cities in Japan, killing hundreds of thousands in each raid. Then, he discusses the nuclear attacks and what the takeaway might be after all of these years.  He raises a fascinating question about “proportionality” in war decisions.

This section is about 4 minutes. If you are interested, the rest of the film follows.

Whatever your view of the necessity of those attacks or the lack thereof, this day is still significant in that the American public, through democracy, empowered our leaders at the time to prosecute that war as they saw fit to win.

Their decision was to use the massive destructive power of the atomic bomb on Japan twice.

As a voting public in the U.S. now, we can ask what it is that we are empowering our leaders to do right now? Our actions as a country have defined us and they will in the future.

Our vote — our responsibility.