Hiroshima: The Real Story, is a documentary about what led up to the U.S dropping the first-ever atomic bomb used in war, and the aftermath of that decision. It includes quite a lot of interviews with survivors, scientists, and historians. As you may imagine, it is raw and real and difficult to watch. It is also presented from a non-American (British) point of view, which of course presents a much different view of the world than that taught in American schools.
As a product of American schools, I know that we “had” to drop the bomb, even though it was horrible, because it saved a million American lives. If we had to invade Japan, that’s how many American troops would have likely died. That argument came from an article written in The Atlantic, as a defense of an expose written by a journalist who was able to see what was really happening in Japan. I never knew that. There are quite a few things I never knew, given that in high school and college, my education of this event (and the bomb at Nagasaki) took about 5 minutes. “It was unfortunate. It was necessary. Moving right along.” This documentary was full of information that was new to me:
- The war was already done: Japan’s Navy was all but completely destroyed, and their people were literally starving from blockades. Morale was incredibly low. More to the point, Japan had already made efforts to negotiate a peace treaty. We dropped the bombs anyway.
- The sticking point to a peace treaty was the Emperor. Japan insisted on keeping their Emperor and the Allies refused. In the end, they kept the Emperor anyway.
- 80,000 people died within 5 seconds of the bomb dropping. An additional 60,000 people died within the days, weeks, and months following the blast. Generations to come would suffer from radiation-related illnesses.
- The American public celebrated the drop for generations. We had atomic-energy beauty contests, atomic energy kits for school children, and more.
- We made survivors into guinea pigs. During the occupation of Japan immediately following the peace treaty, American scientists opened a clinic to study the effects of radiation on the human body. Not only did we not help the victims, we studied them to the point of parading naked school children in front of rooms full of scientists so they could see first-hand the effects of the bomb on human skin.
- Japan had such a secretive PR machine that the rest of Japan didn’t initially know what was going on. For months after the bombs were dropped, people didn’t know what had happened. It was business as usual in Japan. Worse yet, the PR machine churned out (before and after the drop) complete horse-doo-doo that the war was all but won by Japan and it was only a matter of time before the Allies would surrender.
- When word got around in Japan about what was happening to the people in Hiroshima, they were ostracized from the outside community. People were terrified of the illnesses the people were getting from the radiation. People were not permitted to marry outside the community, get jobs outside, etc.
I was already an anti-war person and most certainly an anti-atomic-bomb person prior to watching this film. You should be horrified by the images presented in the film, the PR stunts, the politicization of events and the evil of war after watching it.
I am very happy to read about recent agreements between countries to end nuclear proliferation. I am saddened, of course, that my own country refuses to participate.
God Bless the world. Pray for peace.
Matthew 5:9 (NRSV): Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Serve all with love.
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