Stephens, David: ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’: Hiroshima 75 years on

David Stephens*

‘”Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”: Hiroshima 75 years on’, Honest History, 6 August 2020 updated

Update 8 August 2021, 76 years on: Sue Wareham of Medical Association for Prevention of War and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, on ABC God Forbid, 8 August; on 3CR Melbourne.


The quote above is from Robert Oppenheimer, in charge of the American project to build the atomic bomb. It is from the Bhagavad Gita, and Oppenheimer recalled it as he watched a test of the weapon a few weeks before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Today is 75 years since that day.

Honest History has marked this day with a number of posts over the years. Australian journalist, Wilfred Burchett, was the first Allied reporter into the city and wrote feelingly about what he saw. We put together this collection of images of Hiroshima 1945 and Lone Pine 1915. (It is 1o5 years this week since Lone Pine.) Sarah Stillman wrote in the New Yorker about what Hiroshima taught us about how people deal with trauma, perhaps a useful lesson for today’s world. And this note lists fatality figures for various bombings during World War II.

Hiroshima aftermath NARA_1Hiroshima (Atomic Heritage Foundation)

This year we can add a reflection by Matthew Ricketson in Inside Story on John Hersey’s famous long article, later book, Hiroshima (as revealed in a new work by Lesley Blume; another, earlier piece by Christian Kriticos on Hersey), plus the memories of an Australian soldier who arrived in Hiroshima a few months after the bomb was dropped. And Gareth Evans and Chung-in Moon in The Interpreter on the prospects of disarmament, 75 years on. Phebe Bowden in Australian War Memorial blog on Australians in Hiroshima with the Occupation Force. Matthew Ricketson also wrote this piece in Inside Story in 2016 about the historiography of Hiroshima, including Burchett’s article.

For me, though, that quote from the Bhagavad Gita sums it up. Lest We Forget.

* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website.

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One comment on “Stephens, David: ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’: Hiroshima 75 years on
  1. Leighton View says:

    Yes, and Sherman’s “War is Hell” is also a fully lucid, pithy encapsulation.

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