On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. one of the most destructive weapons ever unleashed by man was detonated at an altitude of 1900’ over Hiroshima, Japan. The hypocenter was just above Shima Surgical Clinic, killing 90% of doctors and medical professionals in the entire city. Over 1.1 square miles of land was totally destroyed as a result of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb, leaving 30% of the of city residents fatally wounded.
After the attacks on Hiroshima, President Truman warned,
“It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”
Three days after the destruction of Hiroshima, preparations were underway to detonate a second atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki. This was not all that was planned: If the japanese still failed to surrender, there were several more nuclear bombs that were slated for production.
11:00 a.m on August 9, 1945, the Fat Man was dropped over the city of Nagasaki. While reports vary, approximately 20,000 people died in the initial blast, with 25 kilotons of energy producing winds nearly twice the speed of sound at over 600 mph. By the end of the year, an estimated additional 20,000 people were killed due to radiation exposure and complications.
Death tolls within the course of a few months totaled more than 100,000 lives, including prisoners of war from the United States. Until the second detonation, the Japanese government had not surrendered. Upon the realization that not one, but two nuclear weapons had been detonated, Emperor Hirohito declared,
“Moreover, the enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”
After the show of force against Japan, the United States had secured a presence as the world’s strongest political force. This led to disagreements between the USSR and the United States. Once allies in WWII, these disagreements set the stage for the start of the nuclear arms race.
The question must be asked: How many nuclear weapons are needed for the extinction of the human race? Throughout the cold war, global powers sought to answer that question.Industrial might led to the mass manufacture of nuclear weapons that were more destructive and terrifying than ever before.
The world was nearly on the brink of global thermonuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1961, the U.S. deployed medium-range ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey, as a tactical move against the USSR. Khrushchev then deployed similar nuclear weapons to Cuba. He remarked to his confidant that Americans, “have surrounded us with bases on all sides” and in the event of “intolerable provocation”, the weapons would be used as a counterattack.
Upon discovery of these weapons to Cuba, JFK ordered a military blockade around surrounding the country. Only legally accepting weapons from their allies, Cubans felt their sovereignty was threatened. This was considered an act of war by the USSR, and the crisis began.
It is interesting to note that such use of force was questionable at best, and downright dangerous at worst. Kennedy stated himself, “…geography doesn’t mean that much… taken at its worst the presence of these missiles really doesn’t change [the balance of power].”
Fortunately for humanity, the conflict was able to be de-escalated due to compromises from Khrushchev, who agreed to remove nuclear weapons from Cuba. He had developed the “dead hand”, a nuclear deterrent in which automated systems orchestrate nuclear response on a massive scale in the event of nuclear attack. This would have certainly led to the near extinction of the human race.
These nuclear deterrents have done their job in the sense that nobody has used a nuclear bomb since the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, these automated systems spell the end of humanity if they were activated.
For this reason, world leaders today are working together to build a world free of nuclear weapons. The anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor are important to remember, for the raids on the day that lives in infamy are what brought the U.S. into the war, inevitably leading the first use of nuclear force.
This anniversary is a time to remember those brave men and women who changed the course of history so many years ago, and the impact their courage has on the world today. To prevent tragedies like these, the world must continue to fight for a place without war and destruction.
To help in this fight, Hawaii Congressman Mark Takai has invited both President Obama and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe to attend the commemoration ceremony on December 7th. Takai writes in a letter to President Obama,
“The U.S.-Japan alliance could not be stronger at this time, and I applaud President Obama’s decision to visit Hiroshima later this month as he goes to Asia… Even as we look back on tragedy, we must also recognize that over the years, our nation has moved through this tragedy to build a strong alliance with Japan, based on preserving peace and stability in the region since the end of the war. It is my hope that both President Obama and Prime Minister Abe will celebrate this partnership at the 75th anniversary commemoration in Hawaii later this year, while also continuing to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.”
The commemoration ceremony is by invitation only, but there will be live video coverage available for those interested in witnessing this landmark event in history. If you’re planning a visit to Pearl Harbor or Honolulu this winter, there are still plenty of activities open to the public that pay homage to the sacrifices made by all the patriots who laid down their lives.
Starting December 1st, 2016, the 75th anniversary ceremonies begin. There are military band performances to enjoy, movie screenings on Waikiki Beach with a different movie every night, an individual ceremony for the USS Arizona and Oklahoma, ringing of the Freedom Bell at the USS Bowfin Submarine and Park, and a mass military band performance aboard the Battleship Missouri memorial.
It’s recommended to schedule all the tours you’re interested in taking in advance. Often, folks show up to their museum of choice only to leave disappointed when they discover tickets have sold out for the day. With tours lasting several hours, it can be difficult to see each of them stress-free if you take a chance buying tickets at the door. Be sure to reserve them before your visit to enjoy a week of activities and remember the importance of creating a world of peace.