64 years ago today, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb ever deployed, on the city of Hiroshima in southern Japan. Three days later, we hit Nagasaki with a second. These bombs, then jocularly named “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”, respectively, are still the only atomic bombs ever used against a people.
If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen on this earth.
— U.S. President Harry Truman, after the bombing of Hiroshima
That bears repeating: despite our rhetoric about who has what in the way of weapons of mass destruction, the United States remains the only nation ever to attack with an atomic bomb. Accounts are that the 13-kiloton “Little Boy” — extremely inefficient by today’s standards — destroyed 70% of the city and killed 70,000 people instantly. Many more, perhaps that many again, died over time from injuries and radiation. And despite our demands for disarmament, the Unites States retains a formidable arsenal of nuclear weapons at the ready.
Whether deploying those bombs was ethical or not is an ongoing matter for debate. Some say that deaths and damage from a continued war would have far surpassed what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Others — myself among them — find it unconscionable to level two entire cities and to kill such a large civilian population. In any case, U.S. presidents since, including both the first George Bush and Bill Clinton, have refused to issue a national apology for the bombings.
The Boston Globe’s periodic feature called The Big Picture has posted a photo essay on the Hiroshima bombing.
Today, Hiroshima is a thriving, modern, technological city, rebuilt literally from the ground up. And the next IETF meeting, the 76th, will be held there in November. I’m looking forward to attending the meeting and to visiting the city... and to seeing what the Japanese have built back up from what the U.S. government of my father’s day destroyed.
[Update: See the discussion in the comments, here and following.]
[This post's title comes from composer Krzysztof Penderecki, and the time of the post is the local time of the bomb drop.]