Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years on

Reading Time: 3 minutes

At 8:15 on the morning of 6 August 1945, a 50-70 kg enriched-uranium bomb – the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT – known euphemistically as ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on the people of Hiroshima.

90,000 people were killed instantly, with 145,000 dead within months. It had obliterated 10 km2 on impact, with the shock wave seconds after destroying everything within a 4 km radius. Unfortunately 3 days later, at 11:02am on 9 August 1945, a 6.2 kg plutonium fission bomb known as ‘Fat Man’ – the equivalent of 21,000 tons TNT – was dropped on the people of Nagasaki. 40,000 were killed instantly, and 75,000 had died by 1946. This one had been detonated 500m above the city, obliterating ‘only’ 1 km.

The exact number of people who were slaughtered by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, both immediately after and in the months following, is difficult to determine. The Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-Exposed estimates that the population of Hiroshima at the time of the bombing was between 340,000 and 350,000. Of this total number, approximately 20,000 – less than 15 percent of the casualties – were military personnel. Nagasaki had an estimated population of 250,000 people at the time of the bombing. It was reported that only 150 of the casualties were Japanese military personnel.

>As US President Harry Truman (the person who ultimately gave the order to use the weapons) acknowledged, a great many of the victims had been children, as well as women and the elderly. However Truman continued to refer to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as military targets and defended his decision to drop the bomb until the end of his life. “I would not hesitate to drop the A-bomb again?, he said in 1965. In his August 9 public statement, Truman declared, ?We have used [the atomic bomb] in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.? Later he would declare: ?Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am, but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbour… When you have to deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast.”

The US Administration had wanted to test the limits of their new weapons, to play with its new deadly toys. It could have taken the advice of many scientists and advisers who were proposing a demonstration in an unpopulated area with representatives from various countries present, but instead wanted to test it in a real ?military? environment. Also, containing the USSR’s influence after the war created a dilemma for the US in terms of how to end the war. If the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan as the Allies had planned, or if they were to broker the peace with Japan (as Japan had implored them to do), then Russia would have had a greater hold on post war Asia.

Today thermonuclear weapons are 100-1000 times more powerful. The 5 major nuclear powers currently have more than 20,000 nuclear warheads each in their arsenals. But this does not include a number of intact Russian nuclear warheads of indeterminate status – possibly as many as 10,000. Of the more than 30,000 intact warheads belonging to the world?s 8 nuclear weapon states, the vast majority (96 %) are in US or Russian stockpiles. About 17,500 of these warheads are considered operational. The rest are in reserve or retired and awaiting dismantlement. Since 1945, more than 128,000 nuclear warheads have been built worldwide – all but 2 % of them by the United States (55 %) and the Soviet Union or Russia (43 %).

American socialist James P. Cannon noted, “What a harvest of death capitalism has brought to the world! If the skulls of all of the victims could be brought together and piled into one pyramid, what a high mountain that would make. What a monument to the achievements of capitalism that would be, and how fitting a symbol of what capitalist imperialism really is.” No final solution to that ultimate form of terrorism – nuclear annihilation – can be found while the stockpiles of WMDs lie in the hands of those elite that see prestige, power and profits as ?success? in life. Capitalism is a system based on death and misery, and only when we transcend a society that values human life as a commodity to be weighed, can we rid ourselves from the terror of a nuclear holocaust.

By Greg Bradshaw


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