The Guardian reports that scientists have finally started to piece together exactly what happened when the United States detonated an atomic bomb in the skies over Hiroshima on the 6th of August, 1945; a truly horrific event in which 140,000 Japanese people lost their lives. (Plastic has an entry with a selection of links to mark the 58th anniversary; c/o Antipixel.)
Just think about that number for a minute. One hundred and forty thousand.
Both the Hiroshima explosion, and the subsequent attack on Nagasaki three days later that left 80,000 dead, will always be remembered as a dark time for modern civilisation. One cannot even imagine how it must have felt to be there; to have experienced the devastation first hand; to have fallen victim to the firestorm and the radiation. Quick as a flash.
But common history tends to ignore what the Japanese had been through just a few months before, when Tokyo was firebombed by the United States using a new type of incendiary munition, designed for maximum impact. Japan may have been on the side of the ‘bad guys’, their own military may have been guilty of countless human rights abuses, but nobody deserved what the US government and military dealt out to the ordinary citizens of Japan that year.
Jonathon Delacour has posted an absolute must-read in an excellent, well-researched piece on the legacy of Vannevar Bush, the computing pioneer who foresaw the development of hypertext, and who also happened to be the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, a branch of the US government responsible for coordinating work on America’s most advanced and deadly weapons during the Second World War: among them, the atomic bomb, and napalm.
The horrors of napalm didn’t quite worm their way into the collective consciousness of the west until the war in Vietnam some twenty-odd years later. For the people of Tokyo in March of 1945, however, they were all too real.
Delacour’s article is an enlighetning, in-depth look into the events and decisions that lead up to the 1945 bombing raids. It also acts as a chilling reminder of just how self-destructive, of just how _wrong_ we fallible mortals can be, and of how little we have learned from our past indiscretions; 58 years later, and the United States military is _still_ employing napalm-like munitions, despite a United Nations ban on the use of napalm in combat since 1980. (Surprise surprise, the US declined to ratify the convention.)