Hiroshima

August 6, 2005 | 32 comments
By

It happened. From pictures and testimonies we can grasp somehow what happened. Sixty years ago to the day. I am unable to write a long post on such agony and devastation. Moreover, this is not the day to analyze the chain of events that led to it nor to weigh reasons and responsibilities. Still I feel I must try to comprehend something essential, something that goes way beyond the facts and ties in with the Gospel and eternity. After all the trivialities, this is a day to ponder about the white doves flying over the Atomic Bomb Dome, the suffering on all sides, burned skin hanging from bodies, radiation, children, peace for tomorrow. But the scare of a future, similar to Hiroshima’s fate, is still with us, today more than yesterday.

In the April 2003 conference, Gordon B. Hinckley said:

We can hope and pray for that glorious day foretold by the prophet Isaiah when men “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Tags:

32 Responses to Hiroshima

  1. danithew on August 6, 2005 at 9:35 am

    I turned on the C-Span this morning and Richard Rhodes, the author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”, has been providing analysis of the events that led up to the bombings. Of course they have been showing pictures of the events, the mushroom clouds. Rhodes has been making some points that I have never heard before in regards to these events. Out of respect for Wilfried’s post I’ll not mention those (potentially controversial) points here and simply meditate over the prophecy that someday all weapons and military institutions will be turned towards productive and creative purposes.

  2. Wilfried on August 6, 2005 at 11:36 am

    Thank you, Danithew. We know there are difficult issues surrounding the event as such. The decision to develop an atomic weapon, the policies and procedures for a totally new form of warfare, the decision making process to actually use the bomb, the choice of the target, the “terrifying moral threshold” to target civilians on such a scale, the soulsearching afterwards… But, indeed, this day is a day of sober commemoration, not of controversy. A commemoration for all innocent war victims, on whatever side. Not a pleasant topic, but I felt Times and Seasons could not afford not to mention it as the world remembers.

  3. Jim F. on August 6, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks Wilfried for this post and especially for the recognition it carries that when we get involved in the difficult issues surrounding events like this, as important as they may be, we often forget the victims of violence that are connected to those events. We owe those people our commemorations.

  4. John H on August 6, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    Very nice post, Wilfried. Such a difficult event – hardly one easily understood by any simple explanation.

    My grandfather was assigned to Hiroshima just weeks after the Bomb was dropped, as a soldier helping with the rebuilding effort. He rarely talks about what he saw, but has opened up more recently. An image that has always stuck with him, he said, was a bridge. The bridge was still intact and could still be crossed, but the 4′ cement walls on both sides of the bridge had been blasted completely away as the shock wave swept across the land.

  5. manaen on August 6, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    Anyone comments on Elder McConkie’s warning of coming atomic holocausts?

    “We do not say that all of the Saints will be spared and saved from the coming day of desolation. But we do say there is no promise of safety and no promise of security except for those who love the Lord and who are seeking to do all that he commands.

    “It may be, for instance, that nothing except the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood can save individuals and congregations from the atomic holocausts that surely shall be.” (“Stand Independent Above All Other Creatures,” Welfare Session, General Conference, 31 March, 1979, 10th and 9th paragraphs from end. Quote copied-pasted from May, 1979′s issue of “Ensign” on lds.org.)

    Although he said this a while ago, it’s a timely part of our reflections on Hiroshima and a good reminder to put in order our houses.

  6. Josh Kim on August 6, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    I agree with all your posts. Let me add this:

    Yes, the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were tragic. Hundreds of Thousands of lives were destroyed and damaged.

    But let us not forget that it was Japanese Militarism which provoked the dropping of the bomb.

    Millions of lives, both American and Japanese, were spared as a result of the dropping of the bombs.

  7. Josh Kim on August 6, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    And may I also add that Japanese Historians are conveniently forgetting that it was Japan who are responsible for American involvement in the Pacific War!!!

  8. Nate Oman on August 6, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    Josh: I appreciate the points that you are making, but Wilfried’s post suggests that sometimes it is simply important to remember that war is horrible and the devices that we have developed for its prosecution are hideously cruel without trying to weigh issues of fault or responsibility. Those are arguments that are important and that we can have at another time. For now, I think that there is a lot of wisdom in Wilfried’s call to remember the brute fact of human suffering and the gospel’s condemnation of war and hope for millenial peace.

  9. Josh Kim on August 6, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I agree Nate that war is wrong. War is hell.

  10. Wilfried on August 6, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    Josh, we welcome your participation, but your comments go in a direction we would like to avoid on a day like this. This is not the time to blame, but to forgive. Not the time to justify, but to remember the unspeakable suffering of all.

  11. Dan Barnes on August 6, 2005 at 9:44 pm

    I play golf with a Japanese gentleman, and a couple of years ago the topic of WW2 came up. He was 15 years old and living in Hiroshima. I asked what his experience was with the atomic bomb and he described in some detail the destruction all around.

    One of the more graphic scenes he recounted was the attempt by the survivors to cremate the remains of the dead. He had to walk (alone) to the hospital and walked down a street which had the pyres on either side. Of all his memories the vision of the partially burned bodies, thousands of them, has stuck with him. There wasn’t enough wood to burn them all, so the partially burned corpses were all around him.

    I asked him what his thoughts were on the bomb. His response was ” …it saved my life.” You see at 15 he had been training with a bamboo spear to meet the marines on the beach, something he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to live through, nor would his classmates and friends.

    He moved to American and, of all things, joined the Army. Great guy. Really interesting insight. He has little tolerance for the xenophobes in Japan who want to discuss the moral issue of the bomb without discussing the moral issue of sending children to fight with bamboo spears. He has less for those in American who question the decision. He tells them to get a spear and storm Camp Pendleton, just to get the flavor of what he was going to face.

  12. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 6, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    Dan, thanks for sharing:

    Really interesting insight. He has little tolerance for the xenophobes in Japan who want to discuss the moral issue of the bomb without discussing the moral issue of sending children to fight with bamboo spears. He has less for those in American who question the decision. He tells them to get a spear and storm Camp Pendleton, just to get the flavor of what he was going to face.

    I had an uncle who was one of the units being psyched up to kill all those kids. He hated the military when he came back, burned all of his uniforms and medals before he got back to California.

  13. Mark B. on August 6, 2005 at 10:29 pm

    First, for all the non-Japanese speakers: remember that it’s Hi-ro-shi-ma. Four equally accented syllables, the “i” in each case pronounced like an English long “e”, the “o” just like an English long “o” and the “a” like the a in father. We should honor the victims by trying to say the name of their city right.

    Second, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the culmination of nearly six years of barbarity. How many millions of the fair ones, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, had their lives cut short–in Warsaw and Rotterdam, London and Coventry, Belsen and Auschwitz and Treblinka, Berlin and Hamburg and Dresden, Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal and Bataan and Normandy and Stalingrad and Kursk and the Ardennes, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and, finally, in those two cities (and ironically, on the USS Indianapolis, a US Navy cruiser that carried the bomb to Tinian and then was sunk by a Japanese submarine, with a loss of over 900 men). These two days (August 5 and 8, by the Japanese reckoning) should be the days when we join Lincoln in fervently praying that the terrible scourge of war will pass away, and that the young men and women of our nations will no longer be sent off to kill and be killed.

  14. Heather Bigley on August 6, 2005 at 11:29 pm

    I’ve just read an interesting article, “From Yellow Peril to Japanese Wasteland”, which discusses the effect of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” in America. Hersey’s short story was published in The New Yorker in 1946 and was a reaction to the US Governement’s control over the information surrounding the atomic devastation. According to the article’s author, Hersey’s story actually discussed human devastation, whereas the US official reports discussed only destruction to infrastructure and topography (and dismissed radiation sickness as a possible life hazard). The author also claims that Hersey’s story was the beginning in a change of thought of the general American populace. In the months after the bombings, Americans felt justified, victorious, etc. (as much to do with years of anti-asian and anti-asian american propaganda), whereas “Hiroshima” began to introduce some doubt and sober reflection over the true price of the atomic bomb.

    I would add to your list, Mark B., the city of Nanking, as well as the almost 100,000 Korean women who were forced into prostitution to serve the Japanese Army.

  15. Heather Bigley on August 6, 2005 at 11:29 pm

    I’ve just read an interesting article, “From Yellow Peril to Japanese Wasteland”, which discusses the effect of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” in America. Hersey’s short story was published in The New Yorker in 1946 and was a reaction to the US Governement’s control over the information surrounding the atomic devastation. According to the article’s author, Hersey’s story actually discussed human devastation, whereas the US official reports discussed only destruction to infrastructure and topography (and dismissed radiation sickness as a possible life hazard). The author also claims that Hersey’s story was the beginning in a change of thought of the general American populace. In the months after the bombings, Americans felt justified, victorious, etc. (as much to do with years of anti-asian and anti-asian american propaganda), whereas “Hiroshima” began to introduce some doubt and sober reflection over the true price of the atomic bomb.

    I would add to your list, Mark B., the city of Nanking, as well as the almost 100,000 Korean women who were forced into prostitution to serve the Japanese Army.

  16. Shareene Strem on August 6, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    Dan, Thank you for your comments about your golfing buddy. My father who was in WW2 always said it saved lives on both sides and I never really understood that completely, but this gives me better insight.

    Wilfried, I do agree that this is a day to pray for all at war and those that lived through the horrible bombs.

    Mark B. I have to say I agree with you as well, we need to remember all who died during WW2 this day. All the events regardless of which country were horrific and painful. The bomb though it did kill many, stopped the killing of many many more individuals, as dan’s friend said it saved his life. If the bomb had not been dropped, I am told the figures would have looked worse, 1 mil of our boys and 7 mil to start of Japaneese men, women and children. And like Stephen said, on top of that mil that we would have lost how many of our boys would have come home with a mental illness because of the things they saw? The Japaneese were preping their little children to fight us because they knew it would hurt us psychologically. We honor children and would have a hard time killing them, even knowing they were there to kill us. What we need to remember is that we have to always stand for right and help others do the same.

    Lastly this is a day of fasting and prayer, we need to pray for those that lived through this horrible time and did so with strength, only known to the Lord. As a mother I pray I will never have to send my boy out to fight, but if that day comes he will do what the Lord wants him to do, just as we did 60 years ago today to SAVE all the Japaneese and American lives that we saved by making a very hard descision of dropping the bomb. It was the right thing to do, and I hope we would do it again if we needed to, as much as I would hate to see that. Thank you Wilfried for bringing up the topic it is one of contemplation and soberness. God Bless our boys this day who fight for the rights of another and for us. May Father lay his hand upon them that they will be safe.
    Shareene Strem
    St George, Ut.

  17. danithew on August 6, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    War truly is hell. One of the points I heard in Richard Rhode’s presentation on C-Span this morning is that every single significant Japanese city (he said of 50,000 or more people) was firebombed by U.S. planes. According to him, the total number of indiscriminate deaths (men, women and children) and the amount of infrastructure destruction by these firebombing attacks were greater than the awful numbers reported after the A-bombs were dropped.

    He also made some other points that (though they are interesting) I will not introduce here because they are more argumentative and controversial in nature. I am not presenting the above point to try and support or argue against what happened. It is simply a thought for additional consideration and appreciation of the harm caused by war’s vicious tactics.

  18. comet on August 7, 2005 at 1:48 am

    Amazing how even human suffering fails to escape cooptation
    by political and other kinds of discourse. No easy thing, Wilfried,
    to move us to reflection pure and simple.

  19. annegb on August 7, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    Some newcomers here are missing a perspective that I think I also missed when I was new, the previous discussions about issues.

    We have discussed this before and made the same points that Josh Kim made, for example.

    I think what Wilfried was seeking was perhaps acknowledgement of the suffering of the innocent as the result of the bomb and reflection on the consequences of war. Not a blanket absolution of Japan.

    If I were new here, though, I wouldn’t know that, I wouldn’t know that we had discussed this at length before and the same points made.

  20. Wilfried on August 8, 2005 at 10:27 am

    Sadly, we lost some valuable comments over the week-end, hopefully those who have commented can still do so.

    Let me reiterate my gratitude for your participation. It is normal that a topic like this immediately triggers historical and political observations, but it is also a precious mental exercise to focus on the essence of suffering and commemoration, without quickly diverting to a discussion of facts or our interpretation of the facts – however interesting these are. At the same time we did receive some deep and hearfelt comments in the spirit of the topic. Thank you so much. The topic of war and peace is a difficult one to reflect on. President Hinckley gave his example of a Gospel approach in this conference talk.

    As Comet said: “No easy thing, to move us to reflection pure and simple.”

  21. NJWindow on August 9, 2005 at 7:04 am

    Wilfried, I appreciate very much your posting this topic in an appropriate stance:

    > this is not the day to analyze the chain of events that led to it nor to weigh reasons and responsibilities. Still I feel I must try to comprehend something essential, something that goes way beyond the facts and ties in with the Gospel and eternity.

    > this is a day to ponder about the white doves flying over the Atomic Bomb Dome, the suffering on all sides, burned skin hanging from bodies, radiation, children, peace for tomorrow. But the scare of a future, similar to Hiroshima’s fate, is still with us, today more than yesterday.

    I feel relieved to find most of the 20 comments tried to face this difficult theme sincerely.

    — A Japanese member of the Church in Hiroshima.

  22. Wilfried on August 9, 2005 at 11:40 am

    It certainly was a surprise to receive this comment from a Church member in Hiroshima. Thank you so much. Also thank you for your generosity and kindness, because some of the previous comments were perhaps somewhat hurtful and unnecessary in this thread. But, indeed, the overall tone of the participants is one of sober commemoration and of gratitude for the Spirit that binds us all, whatever our nationality and whatever the past of our countries. We greet you, Hiroshima. And, appropriately on this day, we add Nagasaki today in our thoughts.

  23. b bell on August 9, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    Lets not discuss the history or the politics.

    Hiroshima was a human tragedy like the firebombings of other Japanese cities or the “rape on Nanking” War is horrible even if it is justified. My grandfather fought in the battle of the bulge and he is still scarred from the experience 60 years later.

    Modern war brought carnage and bloodshed to the civilian population much more than previous time periods. War is always a tragedy.

  24. Jim F. on August 9, 2005 at 2:24 pm

    b bell reminds us that the tragedy of war is not only its civilian victims, of which there are many in any war, but also the soldier victims on whatever side. The actual human beings who are scarred or destroyed by war immediately disappear when we turn to talk about history and politics, or about who was right and who was wrong. There are times and places for historical, political, and ethical discussions, but Wilfried has invited us to remember at least briefly those millions of individuals who are almost always elided in any discussion of war, individuals with personal histories before and after, with families who are also victims, people with hopes, dreams, aspirations, pains, failings–flesh and blood brothers and sisters.

  25. b bell on August 9, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Jim F.

    This is correct. My grandpa is still scarred by the shooting of his first German soldier from behind as the German cowered behind a bush and the results of losing 90% of his unit when they tried to surrender to a German Pillbox. This is the result of war. He also speaks of protecting German civilian women with force from the Soviet troops as the Soviet troops raped their way across Germany in May of 1945. He shot at a group of Soviet soldiers as they attempted to catch a 14 year old german girl who was fleeing on a bicycle. The large scale abuse of women is also part of the horror of war.

    The results of war is always carnage, rape, and death. One a side note he was back in the states when the bomb was dropped traing to invade Japan. He says he is grateful for the bomb (despite the carnage) and glad he did not have to participate in the invasion of Japan.

  26. Wilfried on August 10, 2005 at 1:14 am

    Why is it so difficult to commemorate without blaming others by name? In the previous (of course well-meant) comment the “Soviets” were mentioned. Russia alone lost some 12 million soldiers and 20 million civilians during the Second World War, more than any other nation. I wonder how a Church member in Russia would feel reading that “the Soviet troops raped their way across Germany”, while Russia remembers heroism and unspeakable sacrifice in their defense of an attacked nation, just like the Americans?

    Ill feelings and misconceptions are perpetuated when we tend to imply a whole population, like “the Japanese”, “the Germans”, “the Soviets”, and all their troops. The logic of war has always fed on generalizations in representing the enemy, extending the misdeeds of some to all. If those feelings are passed on to the next generation, the cycle can start again. We must learn to be extremely careful in what we say about others. This is not to deny that specific people have been responsible for horrific acts, on all sides, but when we commemorate and try to build a different future, let the accusations rest.

  27. b bell on August 10, 2005 at 10:16 am

    Wilfried,

    The Soviet troops did rape their way across Germany. It was partly in revenge for the horrors that the Germans had committed in their invasion of the Soviet Union. Its well documentated. Its not an accusation. Its like saying the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Its important to point out the horrors of war so they do not occur again. The horrific abuse of women was a part of the war on the eastern front in Europe. Its important not to be so sensitive that we ignore what war can do and be afraid to discuss it in a fit of political correctness.

  28. Wilfried on August 10, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    b bell, I am sorry you seem to miss the point. This is a thread of respectful commemoration, of reaching out between brothers and sisters of formerly opposing nations, sixty years after the events that had our parents and grandparents fight against each other. Again: “This is not to deny that specific people have been responsible for horrific acts, on all sides, but when we commemorate and try to build a different future, let the accusations rest.” Please do not call this a fit of political correctness. We know what happened, we know it all too well, but there are plenty of historical sources and sites where the details can be found. No need to spread them out here, and moreover in generalizing terms.

    Please ponder: “The logic of war has always fed on generalizations in representing the enemy, extending the misdeeds of some to all. If those feelings are passed on to the next generation, the cycle can start again.”

  29. b bell on August 10, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    Wilfried,

    I am thinking of the abuse of women on the eastern front. One more reason to avoid war.

  30. Jack Sprat on August 10, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    I hope we will honor the memory of those who died by being very sober in considering the potential for this to happen again. Talks in Korea and Iran are the biggest news of the week. As we remember those who have already died, I hope we will also pray for the humility to face the recurring challenges that our US leaders unleashed by using the bomb 60 years ago..

  31. Wilfried on August 10, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    Jack, thank you for that comment. I would welcome a thoughtful discussion here on the dangers of nuclear proliferation. It is indeed high on the news agenda. I mentioned in my post: “But the scare of a future, similar to Hiroshima’s fate, is still with us, today more than yesterday.”

    Manaen (#5) reminded us of Elder McConkie’s warning of coming atomic holocausts.

    Where are the dangers? How should we react? What can we do? What have we learned from the past?

  32. Bill on August 11, 2005 at 2:18 am

    Let me recommend for those not familiar with it the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima composed by Krzysztof Penderecki in 1960.

    That same year Shostakovich composed his string quartet no. 8 in c minor, op. 110, “to the memory of the victims of fascism and war”. He was in Dresden working on a film and the city was still in a ravaged state, fifteen years later. The scenes reminded him of the siege of Leningrad which he had experienced firsthand as a volunteer firefighter. In a fit of inspiration, he composed the quartet in three days. It’s easily the best known of his quartets.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.