I was not alive on August 6, 1945, but events on that day have made a mental scar in my psyche nonetheless.
My school books all told me that the bomb was dropped to end the war with Japan and save American lives. Maybe it did. But, I wonder, if an American soldier was asked "back then" if it would be acceptable to bomb thousands upon thousands of babies and young children in exchange for less U.S. military casualties, would he agree? Perhaps that is an unfair question for someone who faced war atrocity every day for months on end. I have never been in the military. I have never lost someone really close to me to war. I have the luxury of being an armchair critic.
"...in [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.
"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."
Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380
I still remember my initial shock and horror of learning about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How could MY government have committed such an atrocity? That history book chapter was a turning point in my civil education. It was far easier to read about the heroics of the American soldiers who freed the Nazi death camp occupants, more sane to study strategy and "theaters" of the war than to see the horrible aftermath of Little Boy and Fat Man. I was no longer the little naive flag-waving girl at a Memorial Day parade. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not brave, certainly not heroic.
The people in charge of any country who make these monumental decisions of who lives and who dies, sitting in their safe and secure governmental offices with nice clean clothes and climatized settings, need to remember soldiers and civilians are living breathing beings and not to be considered "acceptable collateral damages".
Then again, if the "man in charge" - of whatever nationality, considered that easy concept, war might become obsolete.
On this somber anniversary of Hiroshima, I truly hope mankind does not forget, does not let the passing years soften and blur the images of atomic war. If there is any silver lining to this lesson, it is the knowledge gained of how easily we could totally destroy a living breathing planet and all its lifeforms.
I tremble that we have not yet learned our lesson.