The anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings tends to creep up on us every year. There is always something else happening at around the same time. In 2014, the anniversary coincided with the centenary of the start of the Great War and official Australia’s commemorative lens was focused on a trivial incident in Port Phillip Bay and a skirmish in German New Guinea in August 1914. Last year, in Australia and New Zealand at least, competition came from the centenary of the Battle of Lone Pine, though people stayed away from the ceremony in Turkey because it was hot. (This year, there is no ceremony because of fears of terrorism.)
This year, instead, the competition comes from an athletic event in a sprawling city in a failing state in South America. There is also always something happening in the political field in Canberra and in Washington, environments to which the modern social epithet of ‘fail’ seems increasingly to be applied also.
Yet, we should remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These linked items from the Honest History archive gives some hints why. Whether the bombs should have been used in the way they were used will be argued till the end of days; what they did is indisputable. In terms of lives lost, though, they were only two of a number of similar events, as the material in the linked posts shows.
Nagasaki 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)
There are four archive items:
- a miscellany of illustrations covering Hiroshima-Nagasaki and Lone Pine, showing the similarities and differences in the destruction wrought;
- the famous article by renowned Australian journalist, Wilfred Burchett, who was the first journalist into Hiroshima after the bomb;
- an article about the bombing of Darwin in 1942, which includes some comparative figures about the numbers of people killed by bombing in World War II;
- an article by Sarah Stillman in the New Yorker, which looks at Hiroshima and the inheritance of trauma.
This year, there is a thoughtful article in Inside Story by Matthew Ricketson. It is entitled ‘Managing Hiroshima’ and it looks particularly at the work of Wilfred Burchett and others in getting the news about Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the world, despite official attempts at suppression. He has a lot on Burchett’s trip to Hiroshima and on the famous 1946 piece by John Hersey. He looks also at the official news management efforts.
Only in the third paragraph of his statement did [President] Truman reveal that an atomic bomb had been dropped, and no mention was made of the possible effects of radiation. Nor was anything said about what would later become a central plank in the government’s justification for dropping the first nuclear weapon – that its use would save many American lives by avoiding the need to invade Japan to end the war.
The following day, 14 press releases started spinning the official justification for what had happened and how it heralded ‘the birth of a new age – the age of Atomic Energy’.
6 August 2016