August 6 is the anniversary of the first ever use of the atomic bomb against “enemy” targets. This action was committed, as we know, by the United States government in 1945, as World War 2 was drawing towards an end. Atomic bombs have only ever been deployed twice against enemy targets. The other time was three days later, when the US dropped a bomb of a different design over Nagasaki.
The Wikipedia entry on the effects of the Hiroshima bomb reads as follows:
- According to most estimates, the immediate effects of the blast of the bombing of Hiroshima killed approximately 70,000 people. Estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945 from burns, radiation and related disease, the effects of which were aggravated by lack of medical resources, range from 90,000 to 140,000. Some estimates state up to 200,000 had died by 1950, due to cancer and other long-term effects. From 1950 to 1990, roughly 9% of the cancer and leukemia deaths among bomb survivors was due to radiation from the bombs. At least eleven known prisoners of war died from the bombing.
Those were the casualties from just one bomb, which was much smaller than many of the thousands of A-bombs in the arsenals of the world’s eight nuclear powers today.
Among the casualties in Hiroshima there were also large numbers of indentured or virtually enslaved Koreans who had been brought to work in in war industries there by Japan’s military-governmental authorities and many thousands of civilians, including women, children, retirees, and workers in civilian industries.
It is worth remembering the US’s status as the only nation that has ever used an atomic bomb in war— and which did so against two densely populated cities– as we listen to the bellicose rhetoric that has been coming from Washington in response to Iraq’s pursuit of its nuclear technology program (about which no-one has produced evidence on ongoing attempts to weaponize it.)
Last week I was fortunate to have a short conversation with Prof. Chieko Kitagawa Otsuru, a professor of political science at Kansai University, near Osaka, Japan and a native of Hiroshima, who has been here in Washington studying the US government’s decisionmaking system in matters of war-making. She talked quite a bit about the whole system of peace education that grew up in Hiroshima and elsewhere in Japan in response to the events of the 1930s and 1940s, including the US atomic bombings and fire-bombings of many Japanese cities. She reviewed how in Hiroshima, the concern for the victims of the bombing has been broadened over time to include the Korean (and the Japanese “buraku”, or “untouchable”) victims of the bombing, as well as the more powerful “mainstream” (i.e. non-buraku) Japanese victims.
I was familiar with some of those issues from 2000, when I visited Hiroshima. At that point, the local authorities had just moved into the main Peace Park that lies at the heart of the bomb-affected area the memorial to the Korean victims of the bombing, which previously had been kept outside the park.
Prof. Otsuru talked a little about how the victims and survivors from Nagasaki often get short shrift in remembrances of the bombings. And she talked about the pressures that have been building up in Japanese government circles to move even further away from the strictly “self-defense” aspects of the country’s military forces that are mandated under its post-1945 constitution. These pressures have also, I note, come from the US, which has been eager to have the Japanese “Self-Defense” Forces play a bigger role in supporting the US deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Prof. Otsuru also put me in touch with Dr. Hiroko Takahashi, an assistant professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, who recently published a book (in Japanese) that charts the way the US occupation authorities in Japan used the population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as, in effect, guinea pigs from which they could learn more about the physiological and biological consequences of detonating the bomb.
(I recall from my own visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, that they showed that the whole bombing had been planned to be, to some extent, a “human trial” experiment from the get-go, since shortly before they detonated the bomb they dropped a number of passive sensors over the city whose only function was to record the radiological events that would follow.)
Anyway, Dr. Takahashi has kindly allowed me to re-publish here on Just World News a short article she has prepared in English that summarizes the main findings of her book. She writes that most of her book was based on US government documents covering not only the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also subsequent US nuclear activities including “Operation Crossroads”, a series of two atomic-bomb tests conducted on Bikini Atoll in 1946.
Here, with my thanks to her, is her article. (I have very lightly edited it. All the emphases in the text are my own. ~HC.)
- The Reality of Nuclear War Concealed by U.S. and the A-bomb Disease Certification Class-action Lawsuits
(Winner of the 2nd Peace Study Encouragement Award of the Peace Studies Association of Japan)
By Hiroko Takahashi
In February 2008 I published a book entitled Fuin sareta Hiroshima/Nagasaki [Classified Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The U.S. Nuclear Test and Civil Defense Program] (Gaifusha, 2008).
This book reflects the research I have carried out in Hiroshima since my appointment at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, and the doctoral dissertation which was submitted to Doshisha University in 2003. For this book I drew mainly upon U.S. government Documents collected at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland U.S.
Drawing upon Manhattan Project records and contemporary newspaper articles, Chapter 1 examined the activities of the U.S. government and military regarding the collection of medical information in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and public announcements about the impact of the A-bomb during the period of the occupation of Japan.
As part of the Manhattan Project, in 1943 the U.S. government set up the “Radioactive Poisons Subcommittee,” and conducted a study on the military use of radioactive materials. A report of the subcommittee explained “the factors involved in employing radio-active materials effectively” are “Highly persistent and can contaminate an area for many months. Immediate decontamination could take place only at the sacrifice of personnel.”
Following the dropping of the A-bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government claimed that the A-bomb was a more brutal weapon than poison gas which had been prohibited by international law.
On September 5 1945, following the start of the occupation, Wilfred Burchett’s report published in the British Daily Express stated that, “People are still dying mysteriously and horribly－people who were uninjured in the cataclysm–from an unknown something which I can describe as the atomic plague.” On the other hand, Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell, deputy to the Head of Pacific Command Major General L.R. Groves, “denied categorically that it produced a dangerous lingering radioactivity in the ruins of the town or caused a form of poison gas at the moment of explosion.” (New York Times September 13, 1945). That is to say, he denied the existence of residual radiation which occurred one minute after the detonation of the A-bomb.
The purposes of the U.S. government in making such a statement which underestimated the influence of the A-bomb were to reject the Japanese government’s claims that the use of the A-bomb was against international law, and to make practicable the landing of occupation troops in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the other hand, the U.S. Military Joint Commission for the Investigation of the Effects of the Atomic Bomb in Japan and the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey collected, brought to the U.S. and classified many Atomic Bomb materials.
Chapter 2 focused on the U.S. government’s declassification policy of the A-bomb issue through the use of documents from the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission. Before the commencement of Operation Crossroads, the U.S. nuclear test held in the Pacific in the summer of 1946, Groves recommended the publication of the Manhattan Engineer District Report, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Report, and a report written by the British Mission to Japan. However, at the same time he stated that “No authoritative statement on radiation and its effects can be made by anyone until the completion of the analysis of the available data by the Joint Medical Commission.”
After the first two Operation Crossroads tests were conducted, due to the serious contamination caused by the second test, a further test was canceled. It was recommended that “if it was desirable from a Naval standpoint to do so, that all pictures and written material be censored and edited by someone familiar with security and the technical information involved.” U.S. Navy personnel cleaned the contaminated battleships used for the test, but it was nevertheless admitted that “Immediate decontamination could take place only at the sacrifice of personnel.”
Chapter 3 discussed the Civil Defense Program of the early 1950s. The U.S. government explained how people could survive a nuclear attack by means of a “Duck and Cover” approach and ignored the issue of the impact of residual radiation.
Chapter 4 discussed the 1954 Bikini Atoll nuclear test and the subsequent Civil Defense Program, drawing upon documents from the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) and Atomic Energy Committee (AEC). Following the exposure of the Lucky Dragon crew members to fallout from a nuclear test, the dangers of fallout began to be widely understood. In 1955 the FCDA and AEC claimed that “You can survive” even the dangers from fallout through inviting civilians to a nuclear test conducted in Nevada. At the time, the AEC was still denying the existence of fallout (residual radiation) in the cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to the fact that the detonation of the A-bombs had taken place at high altitude.
Chapters 1 to 4 reveal that the U.S. government consistently underestimated the influence of the radiation caused by the A-bomb and based on such public statements, constructed the Civil Defense Program.
Following the submission of this dissertation in March 2003, newspapers reported about citizens filing A-bomb disease certification class-action lawsuits against the Japanese government. I was very surprised to learn that the so-called “science” which had basically been produced by the U. S. government was still being applied in the Japanese government’s certification of A-bomb disease, which ignores the influence of residual radiation. The standards and logic produced by the “perpetrator” were still being actually applied to the “victims.”
It is clear that “data” collected from Hibakusha [the survivors of the two bombings in Japan] were being collected for the purpose of preparing for future nuclear war. On the other hand, these people’s appeals were ignored in the name of “science” which did not recognize the existence of residual radiation. Sixty-three years have already passed since the dropping of the Atomic Bomb. Now it is time to “judge” this event for the sake of human beings and not for militaristic purposes. I hope that this book will contribute towards this “judgment” and eventually assist in the procurement of justice.
- (Thanks for the work you’ve done, Dr. Takahashi. I hope your book gets widely read– and that it quickly gets translated into English! ~ HC)
Never again! Nuclear disarmament now!