The everlasting specter of Fat Man

The everlasting specter of Fat Man

Seventy years ago on this day the second of two atomic bombs was dropped on Japan, this one on the city of Nagasaki.  The sad irony of targeting Nagasaki was that it contained the highest population of Christians per capita in all of Asia outside of the Philippines.  In all fairness to Major Sweeney, the pilot of Bockscar, the B-29 which dropped the bomb Fat Man, Nagasaki was the secondary target.  When the primary target, Kokura, was found to be obscured by cloud cover and smoke from a nearby incendiary raid despite three approaches, the decision was made to proceed to the secondary.  The entire history of that city ended at 11:02 AM local time, August 9th, 1945.  Some 40,000 souls were killed outright by Fat Man and some 60,000+ survivors suffered long range adverse health effects from its radiation.

August 9th is a municipal holiday in the City of Nagasaki.

Peace Fountain, Nagasaki Peace Park, July 27th, 1979

Peace Fountain, Nagasaki Peace Park, July 27th, 1979

Nagasaki is a place I have actually been in my travels during my service in the U.S. Navy.  Below is an excerpt from my very own personal journal detailing thoughts on my visit to that city during a port visit to the city of Sasebo.

Atomic bomb Victim Shrine, near Ground Zero, Nagasaki, July 27th, 1979.

Atomic bomb Victim Shrine, near Ground Zero, Nagasaki, July 27th, 1979.

From 27 July 1979 (Friday):  ….I had a great time today.  I went on a bus tour to the City of Nagasaki.  It was about two hours away from Sasebo.  It was amazing to see how a city could be so devastated by one bomb and be rebuilt so beautifully.  The tour guides took us all to the Bomb Victim Shrine, the Ground Zero area and then the A-Bomb museum all before lunch.  After lunch we got to see all the other things that were destroyed on 9 August 1945 and eventually rebuilt like the Shrine of Confusious, the Catholic Church which partly survived the blast and the Home of Madame Butterfly.  We eventually got to see the Peace Park and then go up to the observation deck of the mountain overlooking the city before getting on our way back to Sasebo.  After seeing a place that was so completely destroyed by nuclear holocaust and rebuilt so nicely and now knows the value of peace, I must say I am very against nuclear weapons…. 

Peace Statue at the Peace Park of Nagasaki, July 27th, 1979.

Peace Statue at the Peace Park of Nagasaki, July 27th, 1979.

I recall some of the thoughts I did not write down when I made that above journal entry.  I vividly remember most of my fellow shipmates were wholly unrepentant as Americans for the nuking of two cities.  I also recall the looks we Americans often got from the older Japanese natives who lived through the war, expressions like they were still zeroing in on USS Arizona, conveying very non-verbally that they definitely had never gotten over being so soundly defeated in a conflagration their own country started.

Port of Nagasaki

Port of Nagasaki

Downtown Nagasaki, July 27th, 1979.

Downtown Nagasaki, July 27th, 1979.

The City of Nagasaki

The City of Nagasaki

Seventy years to the day the last nuclear weapon was expended on a lawfully declared enemy, we still have nuclear powers with arsenals potent enough to destroy the planet several times over.  Seventy years hence the World is still every bit as dangerous as it was when Major Sweeney opened the bomb bay door of Bockscar over his secondary target.  Some can successfully argue that the World is even more dangerous now.  At a time when our own Secretary of State John Kerry has successfully negotiated an agreement with Iran to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, critics react like he traded arms for hostages.  Such is the dilemma when the genie is out of the bottle or the toothpaste is out of the tube.  It becomes a challenge of containment.  I for one don’t see nuclear conflict as a pressing threat although so many powers with that capability refuse to relinquish the option.  As it was so thoroughly demonstrated on September 11th, 2001, the greatest threat to the safety of our citizens is a lapse of vigilance by our senior leadership.  Even still, the mere specter of a mushroom cloud can move heaven and earth of public opinion and quickly sell the American people on an ill-advised military adventure.  Such is the legacy of Fat Man.  May he, Little Boy and all the rest of the nukes forever go away and be relegated to the dustbin of bad memories.

Fat Man mushroom cloud.  (File photo)

Fat Man mushroom cloud. (File photo)

1 Comment

  1. Carl Alexander
    Aug 9, 2015

    “Seventy years to the day the last nuclear weapon was expended on a lawfully declared enemy, we still have nuclear powers with arsenals potent enough to destroy the planet several times over.”

    And if that is not proof-positive that it is impossible to curb nuclear proliferation, once the scientific knowledge becomes readily available, then nothing is..

    If Iran (or anyone else) wants to build a nuclear bomb bad enough then they will not be stopped by sanctions, treaties or threats from doing so. To believe otherwise is to believe in fairy tales…