It is likely worthwhile to reflect that seventy years ago today, at 0816 hours Japanese War Time, the first nuclear weapon used in battle exploded over the city of Hiroshima. The blast destroyed about 80% of the structures in the city, and in the wake of the blast perhaps 150,000 people died, some long years later as a result of radiation exposure.
Whether or not The Bomb should have been dropped is a matter that is much debated; some say it was not needed, others say it was the only hope for allied victory. In the end the debate can always rage, and both extremes of the argument have their points. It is certainly clear from the American experience in the final stages of the Pacific war that the Japanese Homeland would have been fiercely defended, and many tens of thousands (likely hundreds of thousands) of Japanese soldiers would have died in the defense. Many tens of thousands of Americans and allies would have died as well. In any case, invasion was a bloody, dreadful prospect.
I cannot say that The Bomb was the only way, but I can understand the grim realities that led to the decision to use it. Whether the decision was right or wrong, The Bomb was dropped, and the result was ghastly in the extreme. True, war is a ghastly business, and all carnage — that delivered by 1000 heavy bombers or that delivered by one — is carnage. But the spectre of a city wiped out at a single blow intensifies the horror. And Hiroshima has come to symbolize the devastation of nuclear warfare.
My main motive today, though, is to write about a different anniversary, a personal one, of August 6, 1981, in Palos Verdes, in Southern California.
On that date my Mom and Dad hosted a barbecue for several neighbors and friends. I was in charge of most of the cooking so that my Mom and Dad could concentrate on socializing with their guests. I made up an immense batch of seasoned hamburger patties and staffed the grill.
The guests — there were about 12 or 15 or so — chatted and had a pleasant time. Some were local neighbors, and some guests were visiting from Japan, for the barbecue was a thank you for the friends and neighbors who had helped my Mom and Dad prepare for an upcoming trip to Japan as part of a teachers’ exchange program. These neighbors and friends were mostly employees of Japanese firms doing business in America. They were in california for a few years, and they gladly helped my Mom to practice her Japanese, to learn about Japanese culture and history, and to discover and to appreciate Japanese cuisine.
When my Mom decided to hold the thank-you barbecue — intended as a typically American cultural event — she discovered, to her anxiety, that the only date that all could coordinate was Thursday, 6 August. And she was aware that it had been 36 years to the day since Enola Gay had dropped its devastating payload on Hiroshima. But those whom she asked if it would be better to reschedule assured her that no, it would not be a problem. That was in the past, and the present was time for friendship.
So we hosted the barbecue and a good time was had by all. I received many requests for my hamburger recipe, and the next Christmas I received a small ceramic sake service from Japan, along with a thank you note assuring me that “Jamie’s hunburgers” were quite popular among the outdoor grilling crowd in Osaka!
So it is this personal anniversary that I share today. Yes, great devastation happened seventy years ago, but much healing happened in the intervening years. August 6 to me is always an occasion to recall that past conflict need not be present strife, if we have the courage and the character to permit the past to be the past. Remember the past. Honor it. Learn from it. Be guided by it. And visit the past from time to time. But do not live there. The present needs us so that we may continue to advance the cause of friendship and of peace.
— Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas
It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. — Eleanor Roosevelt