Thursday, June 23, 2005

"The liberated atom spares nothing"

Tuesday, August 9 — about seven weeks from now — will mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki. And only now, after six decades, can we read dispatches by George Weller, the first Western war correspondent to view Nagasaki after the bombing. Weller wrote dozens of stories from the area in late 1945, but all of them were spiked by General Douglas MacArthur’s censorship office in Tokyo and thought lost until Weller’s son Anthony found smudged, mildewed, and crumbling carbon copies in a crate two years ago.

Anthony Weller says he offered to sell his late father’s articles to U.S. magazines but was turned down. The Japanese newspaper Mainichi Daily News finally published excerpts last week. Here are a few selections:

“In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki. Look at the pushed-in façade of the American consulate, 3 miles from the blast’s center, or the face of the Catholic cathedral, 1 mile in the other direction, torn down like gingerbread, and you can tell that the liberated atom spares nothing in the way.”

“Several children, some burned, and others unburned but with patches of hair falling out, are sitting with their mothers. Some adults are in pain as they lie on mats. They moan softly. One woman caring for her husband shows eyes dim with tears. Vink (a Dutch medical officer) points out a woman on a yellow mat in hospital. She lies moaning with a blackish mouth stiff as though with lockjaw and unable to utter clear words. Her exposed legs and arms are speckled with tiny red spots in patches. According to Japanese doctors, patients with these late developing symptoms are dying now a month after the bombs fell, at a rate of about 10 daily.”

“The atomic bomb’s peculiar ‘disease,’ uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here. Men, women and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around for three or four weeks thinking they have escaped. The doctors here have every modern medicament, but candidly confessed the answer to the malady is beyond them.”

Of the 286,000 people living in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing, 74,000 were killed and another 75,000 sustained severe injuries. The Japanese estimated that 44% of the city was destroyed.

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At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an infantry private, recently in Europe, an ammo bearer for the 30 caliber LMG, when the War ended there. I expected to to go to the Western Pacific as soon as the shipping dearth allowed, for the Battle for Okinawa demonstrated that the Japanese knew not how to surrender. Infantry replacements would be needed there as the Japanese Nation fought to the death. I have since learned that Admiral Nimitz was appalled at the projections of casualties attending the invasion of Japan. The awful slaughter, similar to insect exterminations, wreaked by the Atomic Bombs actually did shift a Japanese policy paradigm, allowing the Emperor to take the lead in forestalling, by a brave capitulation, the total destruction of the Japanese People while probably saving my life. I celebrated VJ-DAY on leave in London. And I am here today. Was it worth it? If President Wilson had kept us out of the Great War, then I believe that World War II would never have occurred. The Great War would have ended without a victory, and the war lords would have been repudiated. Disgusted by the awful slaughter precipitated by the feckless statesmen, the people of Europe might well have embraced a politics of LIBERTY & TRADE, thereby resuming the ascent out of the feudal misery that characterized the Old Europe.

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Vache Folle said...

The Japanese had already initiated surrender overtures, and this was terrorism pure and simple. Truman burns in Hell.

At 5:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truman merely continued to give operational content to the recently deceased President Roosevelt's UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER policy, which Mr. Roosevelt proclaimed in a casual aside while answering a reporter's hurried query. Mr. Roosevelt had not discussed this policy with any of his Allies. The policy riveted the Dictators to their seats of power; they had nothing to lose, and the peoples they led perforce had to follow. Should Mr. Roosevelt, whose unconditional surrender policy caused more deaths than the atomic exterminations in Japan, "burn in Hell"? The Japanese peace discussions with Stalin's USSR were a non-starter from the beginning. Marshal Stalin intended to inherit the Japanese continental possessions, which he did. The Japanese rulers, wicked as they were, knew full well Stalin's ambition. The Japanese rulers were not fools.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Vache Folle said...

Should Mr. Roosevelt, whose unconditional surrender policy caused more deaths than the atomic exterminations in Japan, "burn in Hell"?

OK, FDR can burn in hell, too. I had pretty much consigned him there for other reasons, but you have persuaded me that he gets even worse accommodations.

I am glad waumpuscat is still alive, as a possible side effect of the atom bombings, but I can't accept that the USG really needed to commit such an atrocity.

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wally: If you are trying to resurrect the arguments about whether the bombs should have been dropped, they should have. Cruel and awful as those bombs were, invasion would have been much worse.

My conviction, firmly held, is based on my recollections of the political climate at the time (no mercy until unconditional surrender), a belief that NO American lives (millions, a half-million, several thousand, one) should be lost to invade a country to end a war we did not start, knowledge that Japan at Okanawa, Iwo Jima and other late-war battlegrounds had demonstrated that the Japanese felt a warrior's death was better than surrender and would fight beyond reason.

Sure, there were Americans aghast at the carnage we had wrought. I was, too. I remember reading the paper the next day, stunned. And, during our trip to Hiroshima, I felt guilty that I was a partisan for the side responsible for the devastation. Guilty, but no less convinced that it was the proper decision at the time -- and that all six-decades-later second guessing is an exercise in futility and an indulgence of guilt.

Truman had to do it. He did it. Good for him.

Don Pieper

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Richard said...


“The liberated atom spares nothing in its way”,
he wrote, before what he wrote was confiscated,
but not forever, by the man with the pipe, glasses, and swagger.
His son discovered copies left behind.

People died in waves as Nagasaki’s hills mirrored
and mimicked the flow of new, to us, energies
that also, in its afterthoughts, sent many to hospitals,
to suffer, to die, to look like the sick until the quick end.

The end is never good. It is, after all, the end.
The shape of the eye or the ideology is not relevant,
we are told, as bones lose whatever bones must lose
before we become former rather than present.

Insidious? I would imagine that word working
in this hideous phase of rationalization by
a very nice man from the haberdashery trade
made president by hard work and a certain kind of fortune.

The question is, I should guess, whose fortune we discuss,
whose bones we discuss, which topography we discuss,
whose knees and eyes and soul, we discuss.
I suppose it is his or his or hers or hers or ours.


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