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“The Unforgettable Fire”: Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 Years On.


Next month see the 70th anniversary of the Unforgettable Fire wrought by the nuclear strikes on Japan which are credited by establishment historians and commentators with bringing the Second World War to a close.

But we need to ask more questions.

1) Is it ever acceptable to knowingly cause mass civilian deaths in such a cold and calculated way? In this age where the US considers itself to be the World’s Policeman it is still the only nation to have unleashed WMD, and in the ’Sixties used chemical weapons in Vietnam. In addition there was the carpet bombing of the North in that war which resulted in nearly a million deaths.

The Vietnam War all told cost 2 million lives.

2) It is accepted now that the Japanese Government, or at least a section of it, was seriously interested in opening negotiations via the Soviets. Japan was not a dictatorship in the sense that the other Axis Powers were. They operated a Cabinet system of Government. Did the US try hard enough to make contact with the doves in the enemy administration?

3) At Potsdam the initial communiqué called for total surrender. This caused wavering amongst even the hawks in the Japanese Government. However it was amended to allow the retention of the Emperor. This was meant to give the hawks a way out but instead unwittingly sent a message of indecision thus encouraging the Tokyo Government to fight on.

4) The received opinion at the time was that the Japanese would have fought to the last man. On what basis? Kamikaze? Stereotyping? This theory merits more investigation.

5) Why the second bomb so soon? How much effort was made to open channels between the bombings?

On the counter balance the line had been well and truly crossed regarding civilians with the barbaric firebombing of Hamburg and then Dresden, in the European theatre and of Tokyo in the East, so I suppose Truman was immune to considering such an argument.

This, however doesn’t make it right and anyway, I‘m convinced that the Allies wouldn‘t have used Nuclear Weapons on the Continent of Europe. It‘s a lot easier to justify, and stomach blowing up homogenous Japanese stereotypical Bad Guys, the Yellow Peril, than to condemn people like yourself, and in the US case many were directly descended from German stock.

It is said that dropping the bombs in the sea or on land would not have had the same effect. Why?

The there is the argument that the Bombs had the effect of preventing a Nuclear conflagration during the Cold War due to the fact that people could see the consequences.

Agnostic as charged on this one. There was plenty of Hot Action as a result of the US/Soviet rivalry, as large swathes of Africa, Asia and South America will testify to. Just because it didn’t affect European White Developed Nations didn’t mean it wasn’t happening. “Cold War” is a bit of an offensive sobriquet if you lived in Namibia or Mozambique.

But in the end we will never know whether it was possible to bring the War to a close by any other means, because as is usual Capital demanded a quick end so that it could continue on its merry way. The reinvention of the defeated nations shows that as long as the flow of money is protected there is no problem. Hence the use of Nazi technicians on the Space Programme and the fact that West Germany had it debt cancelled in the 1950’s, something that the Greeks are currently and rightly pointing out.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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