North American children know about Hiroshima. They are taught about the dangers of
nuclear war. Sometimes they learn the details of the damage that was done. They learn
about what happened at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. People were eating breakfast;
children were going to school and adults going to work. There was a blinding flash of
light, a scorching heat, and a mushroom cloud rose up. People close to the explosion
were instantly vaporized. Many of those further away would die from burns and radiation.
Sixty thousand houses were destroyed immediately. One concrete structure remained
standing, although it was damaged. The local government left the Atomic Dome standing
as a memorial to the explosion.
Even those who were not seriously injured in the explosion later became very ill. They
became very sick from radiation poisoning. Many developed leukemia. Sadako Sasaki
was two years old when the bomb exploded. She was apparently uninjured and grew up
normally until she was twelve. Then she developed leukemia, a disease of the blood and
bone marrow. Sadako began to fold paper cranes to protect her from the illness. However,
she died in 1955 before she reached 1,000 paper cranes. Her example inspired the
Children’s Monument at Hiroshima.
There is a Peace Museum in Hiroshima which has objects left by the explosion. These
include bottles, metal, stones and tiles twisted into strange shapes by the heat. There are
objects on which people were vaporized, so that their shape appears like a shadow on
the material. There are bits of burnt clothing and many photographs.
Why was the bomb dropped? World War II was a long and bitter war. The rules of war,
which said not to kill civilians, were forgotten. Hitler bombed London, hoping to break
the spirit of the English. Then England bombed Germany to destroy the factories and kill
the people who worked in them. Americans wanted revenge for the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. The U.S. government had spent six billion dollars developing the A-bomb
and wanted to use it. Some say that they also wanted to warn the Russians not to cause
trouble for America.
When American forces advanced on Japan in 1945, they had to decide what to do. Would
Japan surrender, or would they fight to the last soldier? American leaders feared that
they might lose many men by an invasion. Dropping the atomic bomb would end the war
very quickly. President Truman made the decision to use it.
Since then, most people have felt that this decision was wrong. It was such a terrible
thing to do to people – children, old people, women, men and babies. Hiroshima inspired
many people to try to “ban the bomb.” They wanted to ensure that atomic bombs would
not be used again. Even some of the scientists and aircrews involved in making and
dropping the bomb at Hiroshima wanted it banned. Perhaps if we can all remember what
happened that day, there will be no more Hiroshima’s.