Vigil to be held Tuesday in Concord to remember those killed by U.S. atom bombs dropped on Japan

  • An aerial view of Hiroshima, some time after the atom bomb was dropped on this Japanese city. (AP Photo) —ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Twisted metal and rubble marks what once was Hiroshima, Japan’s most industrialized city, after the atom bomb was dropped in 1945. AP file

  • A column of billowing smoke, thousands of feet high, mushrooms over the Japanese city of Nagasaki. August 1945. U.S. Army Signal Corps

  • FILE - In this Aug. 9, 1945 file photo, a mushroom cloud rises moments after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, southern Japan. On two days in August 1945, U.S. planes dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima, one on Nagasaki, the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used. Their destructive power was unprecedented, incinerating buildings and people, and leaving lifelong scars on survivors, not just physical but also psychological, and on the cities themselves. Days later, World War II was over. (AP Photo/File)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 1, 1945 file photo, then-U.S. President Harry Truman sits before a microphone at the White House in Washington, where he broadcast a message on the formal surrender of Japan. Clifton Truman Daniel, a grandson of ex-President Truman, who ordered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, is in Hiroshima to attend a memorial service for the victims on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, marking the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing. (AP Photo, File)

  • In this Aug. 6, 1945, file photo, smoke rises around 20,000 feet above Hiroshima, Japan, after the first atomic bomb was dropped. On two days in August 1945, U.S. planes dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima, one on Nagasaki, the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used. Their destructive power was unprecedented, incinerating buildings and people, and leaving lifelong scars on survivors, not just physical but also psychological, and on the cities themselves. AP

  • A huge expanse of ruins left the explosion of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima. 140.000 people were killed.(AP Photo)

  • In this Aug. 6, 1945, photo released by the U.S. Army, a mushroom cloud billows about one hour after a nuclear bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan. AP file

  • Barry Jacobson of Franconia holds a sign saying “treaties not bombs” during a vigil for the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings near the Merrimack River off Loudon Road in Concord on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor columnist
Published: 8/8/2022 5:34:53 PM
Modified: 8/8/2022 5:31:36 PM

More than 200,000 civilians were killed by the Atomic bombs that the United States dropped on a pair of Japanese cities 77 years ago this month.

On this, there is no debate.

But the rationale behind President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons – in an attempt to save the lives of American troops and bring a quick end to World War II – has been debated by generations ever since. There’s little doubt that the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima within a three-day span in 1945 will forever be criticized as cruel and unnecessary, or praised as a path to peace against an enemy that struck first, at Pearl Harbor, four years earlier.

Jeremy Love subscribes to the former, and his surname fits perfectly here. He’s on the board of New Hampshire Peace Action, and the group will gather on Tuesday at 5 p.m. behind Everett Arena to mark the 77th anniversary of the destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The goal, as is stated in NH Peace Action material, is to reach “a future where international relations are based on cooperation instead of competition and conflict, and where mutual benefit and shared security lead to a more peaceful and just global community.”

Participants are asked to bring a sign, a friend and flowers. 

“The United States is the only country to have used this technology as a weapon of mass destruction against other humans,” Love said in a phone interview. “You can not blame historians for using a critical eye to inform people about U.S. foreign policy.”

Love counts himself as a historian. He’s convinced that Japan was on the verge of surrendering in August of ‘45 and needed little incentive to do so.

The newsreels and photos from those two days show that civilians were incinerated by the vicious heat and shock waves. Concrete behind an individual would be bleached by the blast, except for the “shadow” outlined on steps and buildings, created by the person who had been standing in front of the structure and had taken the energy head-on.

The shadows remain, an eerie reminder of a time in history when the world went crazy. Birth defects and cancer caused by radiation plagued the two cities for years afterward.

From where Love sits, the United States murdered thousands of women and children in attacks that were not needed. He says top military officials in the Truman Administration advised against attacks.

“I would say (people) should familiarize themselves with what was going on on the ground,” Love said. “We should know what military strategists thought about this. (Japan) was on the cusp of surrender. There was no use to use those bombs.”

Love took his passion and frustration a step further. His research tells him that the United States killed all those people for political reasons, not military. He said America wanted to send a message to other countries as the Cold War lay on the horizon.

“It’s fair to be critical of those decisions,” Love said. “We wanted to be first to market this new weaponry. It was a demonstration of inhumanity. It was demonstrating that the United States has this gigantic stick and it’s not afraid to use it.”

Civilian deaths as a strategy became more common as the war dragged on. Love cited the 67 Japanese cities that had been firebombed by U.S. planes. Many of the buildings in those places were made of wood and burned fast. The air raids received little media attention, compared to the two Atomic blasts and Japan’s surrender six days after Nagasaki was flattened.

Since then, some military strategists and historians have agreed with Truman, that invading Japan’s homeland would have meant more vicious fighting from an enemy that in many cases would rather have died than surrendered. It happened at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

As for Tuesday, Love said there will be a moment of silence to recognize those killed in the two cities. He’ll invite people to come forward, with each person reading a name of a bombing victim.

He thinks reciting the names of Japanese people who perished in this part of the war means a lot. Flowers will be tossed into the Merrimack River, representing each name read.

“Anyone who wants to read one can,” Love said. “Putting a name to them, paying special attention to these people is important. They were vaporized by this violence.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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