“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Those are the words Robert Oppenheimer, “father of the atomic bomb,” quoted from the ancient Hindu text Bhagavad Gita shortly after he observed the first tests of the weapon he helped create.
69 years ago today, “Little Boy,” as the bomb was code-named, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The event was marked by some 45,000 people who converged at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the pouring rain, The Japan News is reporting. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui, and recently-appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (see this Inquisitr article), among other dignitaries, were in attendance.
10,000 lanterns will be set afloat tonight in Hiroshima http://t.co/B3aMEIyU9e pic.twitter.com/HcvNjAfJti
— The Japan Times (@japantimes) August 6, 2014
At approximately 8:15 AM local time on August 6th, 1945, the atomic bomb detonated in the skies above Hiroshima, instantly incinerating tens of thousands of people; by December of 1945, 140,000 people were dead, according to ABC. Radiation at the site continued to poison people in the years that followed; the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park contains a monument bearing the names of some 300,000 victims.
On August 9th, a second atomic bomb was dropped in the Japanese city of Nagasaki. These two incidents are the only times nuclear weapons have been used in war. A few days later, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally, bringing World War II to a close.
The specter of nuclear weapons being used again in war looms large in Hiroshima. Abe said in a statement, quoted in The Japan Times, that:
“[I] would spare no efforts in working toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of eternal world peace.”
This pledge contrasts sharply with the news, which broke last month, that the Japanese government is considering altering its constitution to allow a larger and more visible military. According to Newsweek, Abe championed a constitutional move that would allow the Japanese military to send personnel and equipment to assist allies.
“I believe we owe it to efforts by our forebears who acted boldly in the face of changes in the international environment.”
Still, at Hiroshima, the message is one of peace. Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui said, in his speech:
To make sure the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki never happen a third time, let’s all communicate, think and act together with the [victims of the atomic bombs].”
Was the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified? Should the U.S. continue to stockpile nuclear weapons? Let us know what you think in the Comments.
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