(From Deutsche Welle)
The dropping of nuclear bombs on Japanese cities 70 years ago was a crime that transformed the country from a perpetrator into a victim. For the sake of peace, Japan must face up to its past, says DW Asia department head Alexander Freund.
Hiroshima is a midsize port city located in the far west of Japan’s largest island, hundreds of kilometers away from the capital Tokyo. Nagasaki is also a midsize port city, located even further to the west. Both are beautiful towns, bustling with people, but the places have no real strategic significance.
That’s the present reality of these two cities, and it was no different 70 years ago. And this probably explains why the towns managed to escape the initial wrath of US bombers during World War II.
Unfortunately, this also became the reason why they were targeted later on as an ideal testing ground for the US military’s new wonder weapons 70 years ago. The cities enabled the American military and scientists to precisely assess the destructive power of nuclear weapons.
Over 200,000 people died – some 90,000 immediately, and the remaining a few days later. It was a perfidious test under real conditions. The city of Nagasaki was particularly unlucky given that it was not the original target. It was only selected because dark clouds covered the skies above the primary target, Kokura.
The whole world now knows the names of these two relatively insignificant Japanese cities. They stand for the “Fall of Man” and the horrors of nuclear destruction. After dropping the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, the co–pilot of the Enola Gay aircraft commented is his log “My God, what have we done?” But he wasn’t the only one to realize what had happened.
By the time the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, a couple of days after the bombing of Hiroshima, the whole world had become aware of the destructive power of the bomb, making this an inexcusable war crime. The Americans later justified this atrocity by saying the war in the Pacific would have lasted much longer without the bombing campaign, and that millions of lives would have been lost in an invasion of the Japanese archipelago. They claim the Japanese were only willing to capitulate after the bombs were dropped.
And although some historians argue that it wasn’t the nuclear bombs that ultimately forced Japan to surrender, but rather the Soviet Union’s entry into the war, the fact of the matter remains that such a crime against humanity is unjustifiable. The ends never justify the means. The United States simply wanted to test a new weapon and demonstrate its strength – toward the Japanese, and above all, the Russians. Read more