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Remembering Hiroshima

October 2015 | by Simoney Kyriakou

Atomic bomb clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 1945There were mixed emotions at the Japanese commemorations to mark the end of the Second World War with the dropping of the atomic bombs (A-bombs) on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As the War in the Pacific drew to a close, US president Harold Truman approved the military use of atomic weapons — dropping first one on the heavily populated Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and then another on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

This forced the unconditional surrender of Japan on 14 August 1945 and drew to an end over six years of war across the globe.

Little Boy and Fat Man

Little Boy, the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was one of 32 built by the US military. It directly caused 66,000 deaths, allegedly including 20,000 members of the Imperial Japanese Army, and injured 69,000 others.

Fat Man, the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, killed 35,000-40,000 people outright; a further 35,000-40,000 died from long-term health effects — mostly leukaemia, but also after-blast and burn injuries, with hundreds from radiation illnesses.

Seventy years later, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and the mayor of Hiroshima called on world leaders to work together to abolish nuclear weapons. During a memorial service attended by 40,000 people in August 2015, commemorating the dropping of Little Boy, representatives from 100 countries held a moment of silence at 8:15am, the time of the blast.

More than 5000 additional names were added to the memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, taking the total there to more than 272,000 people.

However, thousands of British, Australian and American servicemen were tortured in Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camps, counter to the Geneva Convention on how to treat prisoners of war. Some of the most atrocious acts included a massacre of 150 Americans at a camp in Palawan, and the deaths of 2,200 during a forced march through Borneo.Such was the impact of the bombing that, on 10 August 1945, the Japanese government wrote a letter of protest to the US of ‘a new-type, cruel bomb ignoring international law’. Even today Japan does not accept that the use of the A-bombs was justified.

Unbroken premiere in Sydney November 2014

There were also notorious camps along the Burma-Thailand ‘death railway’, where 15,000 Allied POWs perished, along with almost 180,000 civilians impressed into slavery.

Moreover, as the Americans fought their way across the Pacific towards Japan, the Japanese had hung on to their conquests to the last man, causing countless casualties on both sides for every territory liberated.

Missionary and former Olympian Eric Liddell died in a Japanese camp, in Weishien, in 1945. He was not the only former Olympian to suffer at Japanese hands.Unbroken

The 2014 film Unbroken, produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, tells of US runner, Louis Zamperini, who pledged to serve God if he survived a crash-landing in the ocean.

After 47 days at sea, he and his fellow survivor, a practising Christian, were picked up by the Japanese navy and thrown into a POW camp. The film tells of his endurance under extreme persecution by one particular officer, Mutsuhiro Watanabe.

After the war, Mr Zamperini returned to Japan in 1950 to address the Japanese war criminals held at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo. While there, he shook hands and embraced many of his old camp guards.

His old torturer had avoided capture, but Mr Zamperini later wrote a letter forgiving his former tormenter and unsuccessfully tried to meet with him while in Japan for the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Thankfully, the world has not been led to another world war, but those who lived through the Cold War will have experienced the fear of living under the threat of atomic warfare. Pray to God that there will never be a need to use such weapons.

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