From the Honest History archives: Lest We Forget Hiroshima 72 years ago this week

Repost from last year. Why? Well, we faithfully and annually commemorate wartime events involving Australians. Some of these events are relatively insignificant, even trivial, in the scheme of things or when compared with other wartime events. It seems only right that we pause each year to remember significant events that did not directly affect ‘us’. DS

From the Honest History archives: Hiroshima 1945; Managing Hiroshima

Update 31 August 2016: an article on The Millions website commemorating the 70th anniversary of the publication in The New Yorker of John Hersey’s long article Hiroshima.

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.

Hiroshima-Nagasaki_2012_(7746129572)Nagasaki 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)

There are four archive items:

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’.

David Stephens

6 August 2016

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