Day 172 – Atomic

Hiroshima.

A name that invokes one single thought or memory when it is heard across the globe.

The bomb.

At 8:15 on the 6th August 1945 the US  airforce dropped the first nuclear weapon in history to be used against mankind, consigning the city to the history books and over 140,000 people to their deaths.

Two days later a second nuclear device was detonated over Japanese soil and the nation surrendered thus ending WWII.

The first thing that you notice about the city is, barring strong recollections that the name provides and a poignant but relatively subtle amount of memorialisation, it is impossible to believe that it was almost wiped off the face of the earth less than 70 years ago.

Testament to the resilience and powers of recovery of the Japanese nation the city now stands stronger and more developed than it ever was.  From adversity came the opportunity to build a brighter better city, with wide avenues and open spaces, a public transportation system, and one with modern buildings and structures.

The ‘Hypocentre’, that is the location of the detonation, was located 600m above and 160m SE of the intended target of the T-bridge in the centre of the city.  Almost directly above the then Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial promotion hall.  For some reason this location meant that unlike the 2km radius surrounding it, the building survived, at least to a fashion.

Some of the walls and the metal structure that supported the originally bright green dome somehow survived the detonation.  Initially left alone due to perceived difficulties with safely demolishing the remains, it was eventually controversially kept as a memorial.  Now more commonly known as the A-dome it provides a slightly morbid and gruesome reminder of what happened here and has since been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status.

It is one of more than 50 memorials across the city, the majority of which are found across the river in the Peace Memorial Park.  A wonderfully calm and relaxed green area in the middle of a city of more than a million people, that has managed to maintain a positive atmosphere whilst ensuring that future generations never forget what occurred.

At the far end of the park is a museum that tells not only the story of Hiroshima and the bomb, but also looks at the impact that nuclear weapons have had on the world so far and the various campaigns to remove them from this planet.  In fact since 1968 the major of Hiroshima has sent a letter of condemnation to every world leader whose country has undertaken any form of nuclear weapon activity.

Questions about whether there was a need to drop a nuclear weapon on a nation that was clearly losing the war are left for you to decide yourself.

The US seemed keen to demonstrate to their own people that the money spent on its development was worthwhile whilst at the same time sending a message to the Soviets.  Though the systematic nature of the target selection that included stopping air raids to better monitor the impact makes you feel that perhaps that more than anything they wanted to test the latest in military toys.

As we walked back through the park we debated whether overall the use of an atomic weapon on Hiroshima helped to save more lives than it took.

Did ending the war early save more lives?  Did seeing the devastation that a nuclear weapon causes bring about a genuine deterrent and therefore prevent other wars?

Maybe, maybe not, but having seen the impact it had upon the civilian population it makes these benefits, even if true, seem slightly hollow.

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