Man's terrifying ability to destroy.
| I have always been a great lover of research. That is, I have always enjoyed delving deeply into a subject while seeking to discover those hidden workings usually withheld from the casual observer. And just lately I have come upon one particularly fascinating subject. I guess you could call it my thoughts - and those of others on the first Atom Bomb and its subsequent testing. Being an amateur historian, with a particular interest in the European Theater of conflict, I also found the nuclear bombing of Japan of great interest. So, here are my thoughts concerning the most powerful and frightening weapons ever devised by the minds of men.
It really doesn't take much of a detective to make a case which would prove that mankind is the deadliest creature on earth. Men will kill in the fever of hatred, religion, politics, and pure unadulterated greed. Man is a killer, and nothing since time recorded has been able to slake his unquenchable thirst for blood. Man doesn't kill only in order to survive, but also to ensure that others will not.
If you are ever in the mood for some light reading, try reading up on the development of weaponry through the course of history. This is one area where man excels to the level of pure genius. Of course, weapons can be used for different purposes. Anything that man has devised to secure his food can be used to kill men as well - even when there is no plan to eat those men. One interesting sidebar of history is the naïveté of some men concerning those weapons they develop. One of my favorite examples is that of Richard Jordan Gatling. Some may recognize that name as the man who invented the Gatling Gun. Gatling truly believed that, if men could see how many men could be mowed down by his forerunner of the machine gun, they would be shocked into losing their taste for war altogether. Of course, Gatling's invention had no such impact on the thinking of men. Looking back on Gatling's time, we cannot help being amazed that Gatling honestly believed that his gun would keep men from going to war. But, wait, for it doesn't stop there. When World War I broke out the technology of the time was in the perfect position to develop some of the most destructive weapons ever seen before. And there is surely a reason it was called the war to end all wars. Men simply could not conceive of such carnage as they had witnessed in the first World War. The war terrified men, and that shock reverberated across the world. It was the consideration of many that the world could not survive another war of such devastation; something must put an end to war for good. There again, many believed that by putting level heads together, men of good will would see the folly of war and end the conflict of nations once and for all.
In 1920 the organization that was supposed to bring that dream to fruition came into existence. We know it as The League Of Nations. The league had in mind to regulate issues that would threaten the security of the people of Europe after the devastation of World War I, as well as other parts of the world. If disputes were to arise between governments, the league would act as a mediator to bring the disputants to mutually satisfying agreements. Through its existence, the league did have its successes. However, when Germany and Italy began their bellicose rantings of the 1930s, the league found no success in quieting their stormy rhetoric. Provocative words soon turned to active aggression as Europe would be the tender unleashing a conflagration that would ignite the entire world. World War 11 had begun, and weapons more horrifying than any before would soon vent the deadly vapors of man's terrifying technology.
Now, let's leap forward from 1862 to 1945. That leap brings from the Gatling Gun to the first Atomic Bomb. That is an amazing leap, especially when you consider that in those in between years man's technology of self-destruction was growing at a fevered pace. But even more amazing is the fact that it only took some eighty years to accomplish this leap. There is no doubt that the development of the first and subsequent Atomic Bombs was the perfection of man's destructive capabilities. However, a better mousetrap is always in the offing, so bombs got bigger and were tested and tested and tested again. The very strange thing about all of this, is, that men actually knew very little about what they dealing with in those early testing years. Yet, the test went on, putting God knows how many human beings at risk of sickness and death. And it was all done under the auspices of our National Security.
But what about the two bombs dropped on cities in Japan in 1945? We might begin our discussion by asking the one question that has been at the epicenter of massive debate since the bombs were first employed. The question is, should such a weapon of mass devastation have been used on a civilian population center? Without going into needless detail, it should be admitted, that, as far as the U.S. Military was concerned, Hiroshima was a viable target. It was an important military center for the Japanese and greatly aided their ability to wage war. Therefore, the question of whether the bomb should have been dropped on civilians is somewhat insignificant It is necessary to understand that American citizens had no knowledge of what was planned for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even in the highest levels of the American Military and scientific communities, not all was clear as to the effects such a weapon would have on a living and thriving city. After the initial bombing, teams of scientist descended on Hiroshima - and later, Nagasaki, to study, study, and study the effects of the blast. American scientists were interested in observing the effects of radiation on humans. The cool and sometimes unsympathetic nature of their study remains striking to this day. The two bombed cities of Japan were the scientist's perfect laboratory. Only years after the bombing would detailed facts about the terrible carnage and suffering of the Japanese people be available for public consumption. In all fairness, it should be noted that the American forces that occupied the two bombed cities were not all scientist with only an analytical interest in the Atom Bomb's hellish results. It is reported by the Japanese survivors that most of the Americans were kind and helpful and did what they could to aid a devastated and emotionally bankrupt people, that is, just short of giving significant medical aid. Remember, study first, heal later.
Now, try to imagine what happened in Hiroshima on that clear and beautiful morning. The people of Hiroshima went about their daily lives in their beloved and unspoiled city. Many survivors can still recall seeing the silver plane as it flew high above in the cloudless sky. Some noticed something small fall from the plane. What they could not have known was that they were watching the world's first Atomic Bomb named Little Boy plummet to his detonation altitude. When Little Boy detonated at the predetermined altitude of 1,900ft a blinding white light brighter than the Sun flashed over the city. Instantly, 80,000 people were incinerated with as many as 70,000 injured. Included in the casualties were at least 2,000 soldiers of the Imperial Army. Those at or close to ground zero mercifully never knew what hit them. Others further away were tossed like rag dolls, some receiving burns that they carry to this day. Thousands not killed outright were horribly burned as their flesh hung from their bones like wet rags on sticks. Thankfully, death came quickly for many, while others lingered on only to later die in agony from the effects of radiation. Those scenes of unfathomable devastation and horror are indelibly imprinted on the memories of survivors more than seventy years after the event.
The hell on earth that was Hiroshima on that August morning cannot be compared to any event in human history. If you examine all of those arguments as to why such a horrendous act was inflicted upon other human beings, only one conclusion stands to examination. The United States was convinced that such an action, although it would take thousands of lives, would save countless more if an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands was attempted. After all of the math is done we are left wondering if those conclusions were true. Could another less horrendous course have been chosen? These are convolutions that will never be successfully navigated. Strangely enough, many Japanese were able to look at the bombing as a blessed end to a desolating war. Further, many citizens of Hiroshima did not blame the victorious Americans but more so their military leaders who insisted on pressing forward a war they knew they would eventually lose. Understandably, many others did harbor an ill will toward they Americans for the horror they had inflicted. That ill will abides still.
The development of the Atomic Bomb was first and foremost a race with Germany. In the early stages, they knew that Germany was working on the idea of Nuclear Fission. What they did not know was how far they had progressed. Of one thing there was no doubt. If Germany was successful in their efforts a nightmare would arise out of what was Nazi Germany and envelop the entire world.
When you consider how quickly the U.S. Nuclear Program was up and running it strikes one as truly amazing. Only the United States with its vast resources and unmolested homeland could have accomplished such a remarkable feat. Even before the war had ended in Europe the Allies had finally concluded that Nazi Germany was not as far along in their quest for an Atomic Bomb as was first feared. This, by the way, is still a
Much debated subject, with some insisting that they were very close and others saying that they lacked the resources to have ever built a viable delivery system. In any case, the United States pressed ahead with their program at breakneck speed.
Even after victory in Europe had been secured there still remained one resolute and defiant enemy. While it could be said that Americans have never been truly successful in deciphering the inscrutable oriental mind, their experience fighting the Japanese had revealed an enemy of fanatical tenacity that would fight to the terrible and bloody end. There was no word in the Japanese military vocabulary for surrender. This consideration was to effect any strategy that included an invasion of the Japanese Homeland. It would have been no stretch of the imagination to see casualties from such an invasion running into more than a million. This would have been at least five times the number of those killed by the two bombs. It does appear that using nuclear weapons against Japan saved countless lives. But did the end justify the means?
There is no doubt that those in seats of power wrestled with the decision to resort to nuclear weapons against Japan. Those who understood what was about to happen had some understanding of the cataclysm about to fall upon the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They knew they were about to unleash the most horribly destructive weapon ever conceived by man. With this knowledge, they lifted the lid on Pandora's Box with the full knowledge that it could never be closed again. Does this only tell you something about a certain group of men facing extraordinary world conditions, or does it tell you a great deal more about a disturbing human condition? Just what can you say about men living in any time period who know that what they are about to do will have the most dire results and they choose to do it anyway?
In conclusion, one can only wonder why any people would use the greatest scientific minds of their age in order that they might devise a weapon of unimaginable destructive power. What purpose did Atomic Bombs have but to destroy the lives of some 200,000 human beings? It could never have been used for anything good, only death. And then, after seeing what they had wrought, they did not shrink back in horror but envisioned bombs of even greater pugnacity. After the surrender of Japan, the American Military continued to test bombs with ever increasing power. These test produced bombs in the 1950s that were 500 times more powerful than those dropped on Japan. This is nothing less than pure insanity run amok. And did the testing stop? It did not. Those countries who possessed nuclear capabilities would soon be able to transform entire nations into lifeless wastelands.
As we have stated, the Atomic Bomb had one - and only one - purpose. That purpose was the killing off populations and the destruction of cities. Would not the world have been much better off if nuclear weapons had never existed? And yes, I do know the argument against such a statement, but it is an argument that no one can prove. I will finish by saying that those who witnessed the first Trinity test of the weapon reacted in different ways. Robert Oppenheimer remembered: "We knew the world would never be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent." Oppenheimer later said that he beheld his radiant blooming cloud and thought of Hindu Scripture: "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."