Wednesday, August 06, 2008
August 6th & 9th, 1945 - Necessary Evil
On August 6th, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb known as Little Boy on the industrial city of Hiroshima, Japan.
It was a Monday.
As many as 140,000 people, most of them civilians, died as a result -- directly due to the explosion or from secondary radiation burns. ( Six weeks later, one of the largest typhoons of the Showa Period hit the city, killed another three thousand people, and wiped out much of what was left of the place.)
On August 9th, 1945, three days after Hiroshima, the Superfortress Bockscar unloaded Fat Man over Nagasaki. That one was worth 80,000 people.
Six days later, after leaflets were dropped all over Japan warning that more bombs were coming, the Japanese Empire surrendered, ending the war.
Hideous things, in an awful conflict, and as terrible as they were, considered necessary evils. An invasion of Japan, it was thought, would cost many more lives on both sides, and so the hammer was dropped. Everybody was tired. Everybody wanted it over. Whatever it took.
Necessary Evil, by the way, was the name of the B-29 that flew scientists and photographers along on the mission to Hiroshima. This plane did not wind up in a museum, but as a gunnery target at the Naval Air Station at China Lake.
Look at the pictures. From the top: Models of Fat Man and Little Boy. The cloud over Hiroshima. The one over Nagasaki. Nagasaki, before and after Fat Man came to dine. The relative sizes of atomic devices.
Look at the microscopic size of the Hiroshima blast, compared to the biggest Soviet H-bomb, Big Ivan.
About what such a device could do to a city. About what a hundred of them could do to a country. About the notion that you could get third-degree burns more than sixty kilometers away from Ground Zero when Big Ivan got lit. About nuclear winter.
I grew up in the Atomic Cafe days, worrying about being vaporized. I had nightmares as a boy about mushroom clouds. We were taught to duck and cover, to get under our desks at school if we saw the bright flash. I lived in a city that was on the Soviet's American Top Ten Hit List.
There is no glory in war. Just a lot of death and misery, no matter who wins. Men, women, children. Shiva does not discriminate. All is ashes by his touch.
Einstein is credited with an observation. I'm not sure if he really said it or not, but it is appropriate on this date:
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."