WW II, Hiroshima, and the BBC
In other words, there was a plethora of stories about the end of the war detailing all manner of events taking place and the people who experienced them.
We are now approaching the 60th anniversary of VJ-Day. The BBC is again starting to produce daily stories about August, 1945.
Like the one about Keiko Ogura, a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
And one about Yutaka Nagura, a ex-soldier in the Japanese army and a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
And one about Yukio Yoshioka, currently a school teacher and a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
And one detailing the memories of crew members of the Enola Gay regarding the fateful day on which they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. (Noting in the lead-in that the young airmen were hoping to help the world, the BBC reminds us that they stand accused in some quarters of committing a “war crime”).
And one about the continuing argument over whether the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was necessary to bring the war to an end.
And one about Tinian, the pacific island from which the Enola Gay took off on its mission to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
And one about the lingering health effects due to radiation exposure for survivors of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
And a photo essay of pictures contrasting Hiroshima in the days after the atomic bomb was dropped on it with today.
Now, I don’t dispute that the introduction of the atomic bomb to the world was certainly a momentous day. But why, when contemplating the end of the war, do we seem dwell upon the suffering inflicted by the dropping of the bomb as particularly notable or distinct among the sea of tragedy suffered throughout World War II? And why should coverage of that suffering far outweigh the celebration of the fact that the war itself had finally been brought to a decisive and just conclusion?
It is usually noted, in moral critiques of the decision to use the bomb, that the primary victims of it were civilians. This is, regrettably, true, and in the moral calculus of whether dropping the bomb was ultimately justified, that fact must surely have weight. But as repugnant as the fact may be, that in itself hardly distinguishes the use of the bomb from everything else that was going on during the war. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed about 70,000 people. The Tokyo fire raids killed an estimated 100,000, also mostly civilians. Civilian deaths during the battle of Stalingrad have been estimated at about 1 million. In Nanking non-combatant deaths were approximately 260,000. Some estimates have placed the overall civilian fatality figure for all of WW II at close to 40 million. In this context, the fact that the bomb caused civilian deaths hardly distinguishes it from the rest of the war.**
In recognizing that it has been sixty years since World War II finally and happily came to an end, the dropping of the atomic bomb must certainly play a significant part. But in focusing exclusively, or even primarily, on the unhappy effects of a single event which precipitated the end, the BBC does justice to neither history nor the occassion.
(**The above does not, and is not meant to, imply a moral equivalence between, say, the Rape of Nanking and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima.)