Trevor Wedlake's Writings
Thirty Years after the Bomb
Published in the Village Journal July, 1975
|On July 27th exactly 30 years ago the Allied Powers issued an ultimatum to Japan inviting her immediate and unconditional surrender. The ultimatum was rejected. Consequently, according to plan on August 6th a U.S. B-29 Superfortress dropped a single atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was one of the great milestones of human history, the Atomic Age had begun.
The destruction was beyond belief; tens of thousands of civilians died. Still the Japanese, their Army and Air Force undefeated did not indicate their readiness to surrender, and on August 9th 1945 a larger bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On August 10th the Japanese accepted the ultimatum. Except for the formalities which took place on board the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo bay on the morning of September 2nd, the second World War was over.
It had been a long haul since Mr Chamberlain's broadcast on that sunny Sunday morning of September 3rd 1939. “lt is evil things that we shall be fighting against”, he said, “brute force, bad faith, injustice, persecution”, and in the intervening 6 years, 50 million people around the world, including 20 million Russians, had perished.
We had got used to killing people in air raids. In the spring of 1945 we had killed a hundred thousand people in the round-the-clock bombing of the mediaeval city of Dresden. Sixty thousand British died in air raids in this country, but the A-bomb was a new refinement of horror because of the hazards of radiation, even to those unborn, and many voices in the West in 1945 said that to drop it on any city was the ultimate obscenity.
Mercifully, up to now according to A.B.C.C., (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission), the genetic abnormalities that would lead to deformities have not materialised in the first generation of children; but women who received large doses of radiation run an increased risk of certain cancers, while children who were under 9 at the time run a greater risk or all cancers.
The other side of the coin is that there are very many middle aged men in Britain and America today who have the bomb to thank for their lives. For the burden of breaking the Japanese in their own islands would have fallen entirely on the British and U.S. forces. The Russians who had declared war on Japan on August 9th and to whose huge sacrifices everyone now living owes a debt, were now on the touch line.
The Japanese Army, one of the most disciplined and best trained in the world would have defended their homeland with unsurpassed ferocity. They still had 3,000 operational aircraft. Conventional invasion would have been an horrendous undertaking.
So we can say that the atomic bombs whicn rained unbelieved destruction on two Japanese cities and killed 100,000 people, and which did nothing to prevent the 57 wars that have been waged since, did save the lives of about one million Americans and about half that number of British. “Life is not so much to lose, but young men think it is, and they were young”.