70 years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing

August 6th 1945

5:55 AM: American air forces takeoff from the American held island Iwo Jima and head toward Japan. One of the planes contained a weapon called little boy (formerly known as the manhattan project) in its hull.

7:09 AM A Japanese broadcast tells citizens that the sky was clear after air forces detected planes at 12:05 AM.

7:45:AM The safety locks for the bomb are removed.

8:15: The bomb is dropped.

44.4 seconds later the bomb detonates.

70 years later on that same day my friends and I went to the movies to see “Dragon Ball Z Resurrection of F.”  

Nuclear historian Samuel J Walker notes that the the dropping of the bombs has became controversial in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the bomb dropping. Apparently in 1995 people realized that killing off hundreds of thousands of people probably wasn’t the best thing to do.

I’ve always been torn about the bombings. Both sides of the argument, those for and against the bombing both present strong arguments.  are arguments on both sides.

Those who support the bombings bring up the argument that Japan needed to be stopped, and they’re right. I love Japanese culture (anime, manga, video games etc) but 1940’s Japan was different from Japan of today.  The Japanese had been increasing their military power for decades. 2 years before the start of WW2was the start of the second Japanese -Shiro war, a war between Japan and China that concluded when Japan surrendered to the Allies at the end of WW2. They captured Chinese land and treated the civilians horribly.

When WW2 officially started the gates of hell broke lose with the Japanese prisoner of war camps (POW camps). Google Japanese prisoners of war stories and you’ll get more than a years supply of nightmare material. One of the most infamous of these was the Thai-Burma railway, aka THE DEATH RAILWAY. The Japanese enforced slave labour on the prisoners to build a railway from Thailand to Burma. The construction killed approximately 12619 POW and 85400 civilian slaves from Malaya, Singapore, Burma and Java.

Death railway
This painting from Australian POW Murray griffin shows the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers during WW2

Its not just  POW who were mistreated. The Japanese soldiers were known for being terrible to non-Japanese civilians. Soldiers were known for looting, public executions, murders, burying people alive, rapes, everything. Strangely Japan’s current prime minister Abe Shinzo has denied many of these allegations saying they’re untrue. This is the same man who wants to remilitarize Japan… Just something to note.

Japan also had its own propaganda to help convince its civilians that they were in the right by attacking other countries. The manga “Norakuro” starred a black dog (which represented Japan) leading his men against stupid white pigs (the Chinese).

4.6 Norakuro from zenshu
Norakuro. The dog that convinced Japan killing Chinese was okay. The one manga character more evil than Light Yagami, Griffith, Johan Liebert and Shou Tucker combined.

tagawa_norakuro2

 

 

 

Japan needed to be stopped. The big question was wether the bomb was the right way to do it. Was it right to use such an explosive weapon to stop them? Could there have been a way to stop them that didn’t kill so many people?

Recently The Washington Post released an article that reveals how the bombing could have been avoided. This ranges from an invasion of Japan (which sources revealed would have taken less lives) to a conditional surrender from Japan (where the emperor would have not been tried as a war criminal).

So if the bomb could have been avoided why wasn’t it? Why were North american military so keen on dropping the bomb? For myself I can’t help but wonder if race played a part in the dropping. If the North american racism towards the Japanese influenced the dropping of the bomb.

While nowhere near as terrible as the Japanese POW camps North America still treated people of different race, particularly Japanese citizens terribly. The U.S. created the infamous Japanese internment camps; where over 100 ooo Japanese american citizens were relocated into camps with their rights and material wealth stripped away.

Posted_Japanese_American_Exclusion_Order
The Japanese internment camp instructions

Canada was just as terrible. After Pearl harbour Japanese Canadian citizens were fired from their jobs. Ian Mackenzie, the Cabinet Minister for British Columbia (The province where most Japanese Canadian citizens lived) publicly stated “It is the governments plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia: No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.”

Ian Mackenzie
Ian Mackenzie. Cabinet Minster of British Columbia during WW2.

 

Canada also set up internment camps in British Columbia were over 20 000 Japanese citizens were relocated to camps. It remains the greatest exodus in Canadian history. Just like the U.S. the Canadian government sold  the material wealth of Japanese citizens. in 1988  Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. President Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the wrongs committed by in that time along with $21 000 compensation package for all those who were directly involved and wronged. It took 43 years for North American governments to realize they were racist bigots but better late than never.

Of course it wasn’t just the Japanese who were oppressed during WW2. Citizens of German and Italian background were treated unfairly as well. In the united States over 10 000 German American citizens were detained. Canada followed suit interning citizens with German and Italian background.

I never considered race to be a factor in the dropping of the bomb. I always considered it to be the right thing as decided by high ranking military officials who knew what they were doing. It never crossed my mind that some intelligent military agent would drop the bomb because of race. However something changed this year which made me reconsider my position. I read Art Spiegleman’s Pulitzer prize winning graphic novel “Maus“.

Maus

Maus” is a book about Art Spielgeman’s father who survived the holocaust. The interesting thing about the book is that despite being about one of the greatest tragedies in human history the story is told using cute animals akin to a Disney or Warner Brothers cartoon. All of the worlds races are drawn as a certain kind of animal. The Poles are pigs, the Americans are dogs and the French frogs etc. The most important race depictions are the Jews and Germans. The Jews are drawn as mice while the Germans are drawn as cats. Spiegleman drew the Jews this way in response to Nazi propaganda which constantly depicted the Jews as vermin. The Germans are depicted as cats because cats kill mice.  One of the major themes of the book is how a race is dehumanized. Depicting Jews as Mice in “Maus” isn’t very different than what the Germans used in their anti-Jewish propaganda during WW2. The images of Jews as Mice helped convince the German people that Jews were an inferior race not to be associated with.

So after reading “Maus” I went back and looked at North American anti-Japanese propaganda during WW2. Unfortunately it was very similar to what was portrayed in “Maus” except to the Japanese.

While the Germans were also discriminated against the Japanese were represented horribly in WW2 propaganda. The were constantly portrayed as sub human. Caricatures of Japanese as monkey and mice were common.

1942xthis_is_the_enemy_us_2

 

Anti-Jap3anti-japanese-propaganda-poste-hateJap propagandajaptrapimages

 

It wasn’t just poster, other popular forums of entertainment got in on the act as well. Everything from  comic books to animation jumped on the anti-Japanese vibe. Not even good old Superman or Bugs Bunny were able to escape the prejudice of the timeSuperman-Says-You-Can-Slap-a-Jap-with-War-Bonds-and-Stamps

 

The cartoons proved to be effective. History professor Michael Gordin in his book “Five Days in August:How World War 2 Became a Nuclear War” describes how the Americans viewed the Japanese as “a nameless mass of vermin” (Sound familiar?).

 

After the bomb droppings the U.S. began to censor any video or photography of Japan.  It was not until the 1960’s and early 1970’s that footage of the wreckage was seen by the public eye. Not all media was censored, books and articles about the bombings were released during this time and were not censored. Pulitzer prize winning author John Heresy published “Hiroshima” a book about 6 survivors of the bombing and the horror they faced. The book was published with no censorship problems. Apparently reading about someone’s skin melting off  isn’t as bad as actually seeing it.

And so here we are 70 years later still asking ourselves if it was right. As stated earlier 1940’s Japan was an evil force that needed to be stopped. The crimes the Japanese committed during this time cannot be described by any word other than evil. Yet was this the right way to do it. If the bomb could have been avoided why wasn’t it? Was it racism toward the Japanese that lead to the bomb dropping? The debate still lingers on.

As I sat in the theatre waiting for the movie to start it crossed my mind that the 70 years ago the bomb dropped. As I sat there watching an animated movie from Japan I wondered what Japan would be like if the bomb had not been dropped. Would they be the same nation as they are today? After the bomb dropped Japan renounced war and they only have an army for self protection. Since the end of WW2 Japan’s biggest military movement was aiding in rescue of Japanese citizens after the 2011 tsunami. If the bomb was not dropped Would Japan still be the peaceful nation it is today (Which may not last much longer if Shinzo Abe has his way)? Would I have still been in the theatre that day watching “Dragon Ball“? Unless we create some crazy device that lets us see parallel history we’ll never know and we’re left with the question of whether killing over 200 000 people in a nuclear holocaust could have been avoided in the path to peace.  You can’t change the past but you should never forget it either, and movies like “Grave of the fireflies” and “Barefoot Gen serve as a reminder of the horrors of what happened that day.

 

To end on a lighter note “Dragon Ball Z resurrection of F”  was great.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s