Left Justified: 65th anniversary of Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombings

August 4, 2010

By Stanley Campbell

Sixty-five years ago, our military blew away two Japanese cities, killing more than a quarter of a million civilians, and ending what was the worst war in the history of the world. The use of the atomic bombs portended the possibility of the next war destroying everything.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which occurred in 1945 on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively. It would be nice to eliminate—once and for all—the unthinkable threat that a nuclear weapon will ever again be detonated. It would be nice to freeze the development and production of these weapons. At least we have a president who once mentioned he would like to eliminate them. Once. Maybe, we hope.

After 65 years, it is time we retired the bomb.

Rockford Peace & Justice is hosting a short commemoration program Sunday, Aug. 8, beginning at 6 p.m. at 201 Seventh St. (in the JustGoods fair-trade store gallery space). Free and open to the public, we’ll share some readings, sign a petition to our Congressman, and then see the old film classic, Atomic Café.

It’s good to commemorate this day. It was the first time a nuclear weapon was used in anger, and we hope it is the last. Fortunately, it ended a war. Unfortunately, our country used the atomic bomb on a mainly civilian population that was a different skin color. It doesn’t sit too well in the history books.

Whenever we host this annual commemoration, some folks say, “The Japs had it coming.” They wave the bloody shirt of Pearl Harbor as justification for disintegrating more than 300,000 civilians and wiping two cities off the map (wiped off at least for a few months—both cities are now prospering and wish to forget World War II). The United States had entered the war vowing never to knowingly attack civilians.

As a peace activist, I wish we’d never gotten into any war, and yet as a veteran of the Vietnam War, I imagine the joy many soldiers felt when Japan finally surrendered and the war ended.

The world has 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence today, and they are of a much more scientific variety than those used in 1945. George Bush, before he left office, authorized working on a nuclear bomb the size of a suitcase. Whatever for?

So, if the world is going to abolish these weapons of mass destruction, they better start now. And the U.S. better be leading the way.

This year’s events are being planned all over the world for Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6. In Melbourne, Australia, a screening of the recently-produced film Flashes of Hope: Hibakusha Traveling the World will take place, as well as a peace vigil and memorial concert. To see a list of events currently planned in the world, go to www.icanw.org, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (I think Rockford—our meeting—is listed).

It will only be through the concentrated efforts of people like us all over the world that we can ensure the horror inflicted on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is never, ever repeated.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Aug. 4-10, 2010 issue


  1. steven

    August 6, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I think you wrote a fairly neutral account of justification, but historically speaking I think you miss the point. People don’t wave the bloody flag of pearl harbor…the coming invasion of Japan (operation downfall) most likely would’ve cost millions of American soldier, japanese soldier and Japanese civilian deaths, the vast majority of those being Japanese civilian. Moreover the casualties on the small islands of okinawa and Iwo jima in the couple months leading up to the bombs had death estimates of at the very least 200000 a large portion of which were once again civilians. at the very most unflattering level the u.s. saw this as a taste of what was to come and did it because their armies were being ripped to shreds for every inch of Japanese soil. The deaths by continuation would have dwarfed the bombs’ damage and whether by sheer interest, historical knowledge or personal account I cannot push aside the glaring truth of why they did it and though you may never feel “ok” with it, one must almost feel relief that they did in hindsight. The only point I wanted to make here is If your going to weigh the justification thing, then try not to sensationalize or half bake it.

  2. Red Rover

    August 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

    (Pacific War)
    1 JULY 1946


    Consider the following statement, taken from a recent review of the relevant literature in the respected academic Journal Diplomatic History: “The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it. . . . It is certain that the hoary claim that the bomb prevented one-half million American combat deaths is unsupportable.” The writer is hardly a revisionist; he is J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    Giving Harry Hell
    Gar Alperovitz and Kai Bird
    The Nation, May 10, 1963


    The United States spied on its World War II allies, breaking their codes and intercepting their secret diplomatic communiques, newly declassified documents show.
    The documents also show that the United States had information suggesting that top members of the Japanese Army were willing to surrender more than three months before the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 48 years ago.

    “Since the situation is clearly recognized to be hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not regard with disfavor an American request for capitulation even if the terms were hard,” a German diplomat reported to Berlin after talking with a ranking Japanese naval officer on May 5, 1945, three days before Germany itself surrendered.

    United States intelligence analysts underscored this information as they passed it up the chain of command, the records show.

    U.S. Spied on Its World War II Allies
    The New York Times, August 11, 1993

  3. MikeT

    August 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Truman and the rest of the administration might have remembered Saipan, where Hirohoto sent out an imperial order to the civilians to commit suicide in the event of an Allied victory. Or maybe they remembered the recent battle of Okinawa, where the highest number of Allied casualties had occurred and the 1,400 or so kamikaze attacks. I guess the German officer wasn’t exactly correct about the willingness to surrender.

    If the Japanese had wished to avoid Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they should have surrendered earlier. It was not Truman’s responsibility–it was the Japanese leadership. Rational people recognize this.

    Will we use nuclear weapons again? Yes, if we must. Would we bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki all over again despite snippets of information (and disinformation) regarding their possible willingness to surrender (a willingness remarkably lacking in the recent battle of Okinawa)? Yes. Japanese insistence on avoiding unconditional surrender and continuing their existing form of government meant that we would likely be at war again in a generation or two.

    Thank goodness Truman chose as he did.

  4. Red Rover

    August 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    The lies of Hiroshima are the lies of today
    by John Pilger
    6 Aug 2008

    In an article for the Guardian on the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, John Pilger describes the ‘progression of lies’ from the dust of that detonated city, to the wars of today – and the threatened attack on Iran.

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