As part of our current investigation into the nature of memory, the Exploratorium invited people to share their recollections of learning about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We were particularly interested in how people receive and remake stories of events they did not directly experience. We received hundreds of replies from all over the world, representing a wide range of age, ethnic background, and perspective. Below is a representative sampling of people's reminiscences. We are very thankful to those who candidly shared their thoughts.
I am a 23 year old mixed race woman. I learned about the atomic bomb growing up through television and school. The source of information that had the greatest impact on me was the movie The Day After which I saw when I was 12 years old. It terrified me. For weeks I woke up glad the world was still here. The threat of total nuclear war seem very real and possible to me. I cannot say in which ways growing up with this fear has shaped my view of the world, politics or person. I do know that knowing that we are capable of such destruction has made me staunchly anti-war.
I'm not sure how I first became aware of the bomb which is a little ironic, as my mother is a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. Or perhaps this makes sense -- she has always spoken of it as matter of factly as most people talk about being in a minor car accident. She says that when you see such things when you're very young (5 years old) you don't really know, understand, or realize how horrible they really are. So the images I had then were from her - of the bright light, the cloud, the people -- burned terribly their skin coming off like it does cooked chicken. This is how my mother described it. She was not harmed at all -- but lost a cousin and an uncle. Bodies by the edges of the river, the dying were thirsty as burns tend to leave one dehydrated. Many fell in when they died and so there were bodies in the water too and the black rain.
It never seemed completely real to me. I think my mother's matter or factness had something to do with that. It wasn't that I didn't think it was horrible -- I knew and felt that it was -- it just seemed very far away -- very far removed from my existence and the things I felt were real (I am speaking of the time when I was about 5-6 ).
That changed in the sixth grade though. Our teacher Mrs.**** showed us a film of the bombing. Or I should say of the immediate aftermath. It was very graphic. I have yet to see anything like it on TV or anywhere else. I think very very few people would show that film to 30 twelve year olds but I am very grateful that she did. I will never forget it. When I was 16 (I think) I got to go to Hiroshima with my parents. My father and I visited Peace Park one afternoon. I got to see the famous building with the sheeting of it's top blow off revealing the curved steel frame under it. And I got to see the shadow on the side of it , where a person stood and disappeared in an instant. The ironic thing was there is a beautiful green park around the building and coincidentally it was some sort of holiday that day and there were people picnicking, kids chasing each other on the grass, balloons....
It's interesting how this has been woven into my life -- I majored in Physics (studied at U.C. Berkeley, graduated in '93). Several years ago 50 of all physics BA's went to work for the military. That's changed now though, there aren't any jobs at all, but I am not so unhappy. And even if things were as they were back then I would not work for the military. I will refuse to use my talents creativity and knowledge in the pursuit of finding ways to kill people. I know that many things are potentially critical components of weapons. All I can say is that I will and must do my best to be aware. Most of the Physics students, graduate and undergraduate, were very good people -- very good human beings and I believe that many of them live by philosophies similar to mine. M.R., 26 years old. Sebastopol, CA
Even though I was born in 1979, I learned about the atomic bomb and nuclear wars in 2nd grade when we were doing a unit on the USSR, now known as Russia. My teacher told us explicitly what would happen and that image of what would happen has always been in my mind and I still worry a little bit about it even though Russia has disarmed their nuclear bombs. Then as I read Pat Franks book, Alas Babylon, the images that I thought were written in this book made me think more, since I do live in an area where if a nuclear bomb were to arrive near me I would be killed instantly. I also saw the movie The Day After and I didn't know what that was about until I saw the missiles being launched to Moscow. Then I saw the images of what could happen when a missile lands and spreads over the land. I take Japanese and German in HS. So we have talked about WW2 in classes. Reggie.
I first became aware of the atomic bomb sometime in elementary school during the 1950's when we regularly had drills to drop under our desks. My husband 's family was personally affected by the bombing of Hiroshima. His paternal grandparents lived near the epicenter of the explosion and were evaporated. His maternal grandparents, uncle, and aunts lived outside the city . They saw and lived the horror and tragedy. A nuclear holocaust could happen at any time. Only people committed to a civilized world can make life on earth a continuing possibility. Marsha Nakanishi, 46. Los Angeles.
I was born in 1978, so I did not experience the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima when they occurred. I do however specifically remember the first time I was told about the atom bombing in Japan. I was a fifth grader at a school in San Francisco. Our class read a book about a little girl dying from leukemia.
My name is James Seo and I'm a 23-year old Korean. I was born in Seoul Korea and grew up partially in Manila Philippines, receiving an American education. Attending grade school in Korea I was taught only of the horrors of the Japanese occupation of Korea before and during WW2. Of the atomic bombings all I knew was that they had put an end to the war - and that the Japanese deserved it for all their sins in Korea and other places. The latter observation was naturally not something taught in school but I believe it is a fact that any a boy or girl accepted growing up in Korea - the Japanese did bad things and they got what they deserved. As I grew up, I learned more about the war as well as the bomb's effect on not an abstract evil nation but the daughter and the mother left clutching rice balls in burned cities. Yet when I view these pictures or see shots from movies showing nuclear holocaust for a long time I've had trouble reconciling the lessons I was taught as a child and the conclusions I'm trying to arrive at as an adult. It's a difficult process and it's easy to pity these victims it's easy to mourn or blame or feel sorry. I'm more interested in the thorny questions of relative justice, distortions or omissions of history, interested in what mix of feelings these images bring out in me. And I thank the exhibit for doing that for providing an arena full of burning ruin as it is for my thoughts to roam uneasily.
My name is Ron Smith. I'm 46 years old. I was in Japan for Expo 70 as part of the Canadian Exhibition performers. I met several survivors. The memory is visually strong. Throughout the 50's and 60's I recall feeling that the bomb was a part of my world. The thought of it being used was constant but not something real for a 10 year old. Being able to meet survivors put a face to the horror I can never forget. I am glad to remember but sad to know it was real.
My name is Tana Brinnand. I was born on June 12, 1946. I was conceived directly after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remember air raid drills in grade school. We would hide under our desks, on our knees, with our heads in our laps. This was supposed to protect us from atomic bombs. Later, we would go to the inner hall of the school, away from the windows. This was considered an improvement in technique. I remember fall-out shelters for sale and discussions of public shelters. I had nightmares as a child of the world blowing up, with only a space ship to take me away from the destruction. I read a book about "The Third World War." In it, someone lost their feet in an atomic explosion, and ran down the street on bloody stumps. When I saw the motion picture, "On The Beach", I realized for the first time, that I was not the only one who was terrified of the possibility of atomic warfare. It sickens me that governments still insist on testing nuclear weapons.
I am only nineteen years old so I have no real recollection of the cold war much less WWII. I do however recall watching movies like "Fat Man and Little Boy" to learn just what happened in the creation of the bombs and "Dr. Strangelove" taught me about the paranoid absurdity of the Cold War itself. In sixth grade I first learned about the August 6 bombing of Hiroshima...my teacher read to us out of the book entitled "Hiroshima"and now the images I see when I consider the horror of the bomb being dropped is that of men running about with the eyeballs melted out of the sockets. I associate the aftermath of the bombing with the book by Eleanor Corr... "and the Thousand Paper Cranes." All in all I was taught to look upon the slaughtered Japanese as victims rather than as the enemy that deserved it as my parent's generation was taught.
My first awareness of the bomb was in elementary school. We periodically had drills complete with air raid sirens and quiet orderly filing of ranks down into the bowels of the school there to kneel on the chilly concrete clasp our hands over our eyes and wait for the all clear signal. As I grew older (born 1952), I became intellectually aware of the bomb and its consequences and I think had a reasonable fear of it. I have grown to feel great shame and sadness that America was the first and so far only country to use the bomb in anger. We shall long be stained by that guilt. I used to have bomb dreams fairly frequently as a child as well as dreams of immense tidal waves. Also common were dreams of alien invasions often by spaceships of immense size. I no longer have such dreams or at least very infrequently--certainly none within recent memory.
My earliest memory of the bomb is when as a small boy I was terrified that large planes flying over my house were in fact Russian bombers. My brother was in the Navy and had called home in tears saying good-bye to my Mother during the Cuban missile crisis. He, and my parents, were convinced we were going be in a nuclear war. A few years later I was scared witless when an air-raid siren was randomly tested while I was playing nearby. I ran home screaming and crying thinking this was IT. I was pretty sure that some day the bomb would be used. Today I don't think it will be the global holocaust like that depicted in Hollywood movies. More likely some small country will use it against another small country or terrorists will use it against a significant site somewhere.
I am 25 years old now and I have no experience whatsoever about the WWII. However, I was brought up in the city called Sasebo, the second largest city in Nagasaki prefecture. When I was a kid, on August 9th every year, we had to go to school during the summer vacation to hear about the tragedy in Nagasaki in 1945. I visited the atomic bomb museum in the city to see all those horrible pictures when I was 9 years old. Those pictures are still frightening to me even today. My sister's best friend died when she was 15 years old because her mother was in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing. The atomic bomb does not just kill people who happen to be there, but also pose a threat to their offspring.
When I was eight years old I read "Hiroshima"for the first time. The stories found therein touched and horrified me to the point that I could not sleep. Especially terrifying to me was the story of the Japanese soldiers who had been looking directly at the bomb blast and whose eyes had melted down their faces. I can never view a movie of a mushroom cloud without seeing the face of a Japanese soldier, sans eyes, superimposed over it. I realize that those who chose to use the atomic bombs felt they were doing so for the good of their own people and the people of Japan. Nonetheless, I wonder about the motivations of these people, that they were willing to unleash such a gruesomely destructive force on the world in order to stop a war. I often wonder what the U.S. and the international community may choose to do in Eastern Europe, in the name of stopping another bloody war.
I first became aware of the atom bomb and the idea of nuclear war when I was about eight years old, that was around 1980 in the middle of the cold war. On route to school (I was in third grade) I used to cut through an abandoned parking lot where rows of those round concrete portable fall-out shelters were lined up for sale like used cars bright price tags dangling from the wind vents on their roofs. My friends and I learned to make a game of it. We'd climb inside them and play war. Whoever was left outside the shelter after the "bomb"usually a water balloon was dropped was "nuked". You had to be quick and tough to secure a place for yourself inside before there was no more room. Usually I was among the more unfortunate. The idea of nuclear war really started bothering me around age 10. I spent age 10 and 11 in a kind of fever. Really, for a while I thought about it constantly. I can remember sitting on the edge of my brother's bed one afternoon staring at my reflection in his dresser mirror vaguely aware of the thunderclouds in the sky behind the hall window. I sat there and stared into the mirror dreading the end of the world and grieving for myself with all the hot force of a child's worried imagination. Somehow I grew out of that fear, I'm glad to say and I've never dreaded anything so much since then although I know there are numerable other horrors to think about. Basically my experiences with the atom bomb came as a child's nightmare that vanished with time. Lisa Lishman. Starkville, MS. Age 24.
I first recall talking about the atomic bomb with friends playing in the neighborhood where I grew up in Anaheim, California in the early 60's. In playful arguments we would talk about "...I'll use the atomic bomb."Then somebody else would say something like "I'll use the H-bomb."That statement was the most powerful statement you could make. I remember practicing duck and cover drills in our classrooms when I was in first or second grade (1961-2). I recall that the threat from earthquake and a bombing attack were on par. The teachers told us to make sure that we didn't face the wall that was comprised of windows because the glass would shatter and hurt us. People were into building bomb shelters at home. In fact, a family across the street from the school built one in their back yard. I remember being very afraid of the air raid siren that we would hear once a month. When we heard it we were to duck and cover again.
The air raid drill must have stopped by the time I was in junior high school (1966). The movie "Failsafe"was intriguing yet frightening and helped me become more aware of the intricacies of our defenses and the madness of Mutually Assured Destruction. It wasn't until much later in life when I realized how absurd it was to think that anyone could survive a nuclear attack by ducking and covering.
It wasn't until the mid 1980's until I fully realized the destructive power of the world's nuclear arsenals by seeing a presentation by an anti-nuclear weapons activist. He dropped one bee bee into a drum to show the explosive strength of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Then he poured what seemed like an endless stream of beebees into the same drum to demonstrate the global nuclear destructive capacity...
Russell Frank, 40. Sonoma, CA. It's interesting to see Nagasaki spotlighted here instead of Hiroshima. We have family movies of my father visiting Nagasaki in 1958.
I first learned of atomic weapons in elementary school through history class. However when I was in the sixth grade I viewed the British film THREADS which scared the living hell out of me. Since then I cannot recall feeling even slightly good about nuclear weapons. It has not affected my image of science and technology but it has affected my image of the human race, particularly in this country the only country to ever use nuclear weapons.
There was a period in my childhood in which I was worried about the use of nuclear weapons. Today the fear has become smaller but I do not feel comfortable about their existence. Dave Saulnier. I study war, genocide violence and politics. It is very difficult subject to stomach at times.
Ernie Putt, age 42, Chesapeake VA. I learned about the bomb at my grandparent's house when I found and read a book or magazine - maybe it was a Civil Defense publication - which was full of pictures showing the effects of the bomb. I think what I remember most were the pictures and articles about bomb shelters. I was about 8 or 9 years old. And YES, it scared me! The images which associate with the bomb are: Heat and blinding light, pain, slow agonizing death, total destruction, desolation, and the end of the world. The same goes for nuclear war. The knowledge of the existence of these weapons used to make me feel like the Sword of Damocles was hanging over my head, that it was just a matter of time until these weapons were used. I don't feel as threatened these days. The only thing that comes to mind when I think about the use of the bomb as related to science and technology is that it seems to me that if science can make a weapon possible, then the technology to build it soon follows.
I came from a depression-era working class family who lived in Akron, Ohio when the first atomic bomb was dropped. I was 13 at the time and had a daily suburban paper route. I remember carrying the "extra" editions on "VE Day" (Victory in Europe), VJ day (Victory over Japan). I don't remember a news "extra" concerning the atomic bomb drops. The American people were very tired of what seemed to be an endless World War II. At 13, I did not realize either the long-term historical impact of these weapons nor their effective closure of Japanese military efforts. The Cold War was different thing. In the 1950's, war hysteria was constant and rampant. Many people were persuaded to dig holes in their back yards (bomb shelters) as a psychological crutch to help deal with their terror of impending war. The "Russians are coming!" was the certainty of the times, only the exact time remained to be established.
In elementary school we learned what to do in the case of a missile attack; it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember learning about the effects of a bomb in 7th grade. I woke up in cold sweats for weeks, even years later I grew sick thinking of it. It didn't take a genius to figure out what kind of destruction laid ahead for the human race. I am now a 5th grade teacher and each year I read the story of Sadako and her battle with "The bomb disease." Each year we mourn her death. When my son was 3 there was a movie that showed a bomb and he covered his ears and said, "This is a bad thing, Mommy." He said it well. This is a bad thing. K. Kimpel, 39, Midland, TX.
In the early '50's, I rose early to watch atomic bomb tests on TV, broadcast from Yucca Flats, NV. Right after the blasts, large numbers of troops and vehicles moved right into Ground Zero. Now I realize this was part of an effort to get Americans in the early '50's to accept the idea that an atomic war was inevitable, survivable and, presumably, winnable. I pity the soldiers who were marched into the radiation, no doubt with bland assurances from their commanders that everything would be all right.
I learned about the bomb as a 10-year-old newspaper boy, picking up papers for delivery on my route. It was wonderful news because it meant my father, away in the Navy, and my uncles and the relatives of my friends would soon be coming home. I didn't really think about the horror of it. We had been exposed to so many stories about terrible things happening in Europe and Asia that this was just another story of terror. In the '50s, the idea of a nuclear attack seemed possible. Air raids were common. Shelters were marked in the basements of buildings. People even spent large sums of money building shelters in their back yards. And in Chicago, where I lived, Nike air-defense missiles were positioned along the lake-front parks. I went into the service in the late 50s and served with a border-patrol regiment on the Czech/West German border. NATO was vastly outnumbered by the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces, and we were told that tactical atomic weapons would be used to even things up.
My name is Joe Feeney from Arlington, MA. I was aboard a Destroyer in the Atlantic returning from No. Africa when the news came over the radio. I remember a shipmate said to me " You are a high school graduate and took science in school, What is an Atom?' All I could say was " An Atom is the smallest division of a Molecule"
I grew up in the 50s/60s as a military brat outside of Washington, DC. The notion of the atomic bomb was a ubiquitous background discourse: films showing atomic bomb tests and Japanese WWII footage; "duck & cover" exercises for schoolroom; daily tests of the Emergency Broadcast System on radio; tests of air raid sirens; jokes about what to do if an atomic attack occurred ("bend over and kiss your ass good-bye!"); news on Soviet arms build-up, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis; etc. Part of the general foreboding (background "noise") of everyday life. In high school, protesting Vietnam War, the subtext would eventually unravel to the topic of Ultimate Destruction. Looking up at the moon and stars, reflecting with friends about LIFE (as teenagers do, I suppose), the choice seemed to be between First Strike or Silent Spring.
My name is Dick, age 55, now living in Annapolis, Maryland. I remember the war all too well, and spent my early years learning to hate the Japanese, who drove my mother and me out of our home in the Philippines in 1941 while my father (then a lieutenant in the Air Corps) had to stay behind and fight. He came close to dying on Bataan, but was able to catch an evacuation flight to Australia just before Bataan fell. After his recovery from near-starvation and several diseases related to his ordeal, my father got sent back to war (mostly in Europe) until the bitter end in 1945. I got to watch my mother frequently disappear from my presence during this period, usually after receiving a letter from my dad. She would be in her bedroom crying. She would return after her cry, and our life would go on, after a fashion. Until next time. I also remember the general social climate throughout the country during this time. Really grim. We ALL perceived ourselves as fighting for our very survival.
Greg Peterman, 41, New Orleans, LA, USA. I learned of the A-bomb in school. I think these weapons were needed at the time and today they still are needed as a deterrence to the Saddam Husseins of the world. I grew up in the atomic age. It was like a great storm cloud that was always watching, ready to lash down with unending and unstoppable power. As I grew up I watched how children would draw pictures of atomic explosions. At a camp where I worked kids while in the midst of fun would stop and get depressed with the idea that this could all end so horribly. They always assumed there was nothing they could do. We were never direct victims of the bomb but we knew its power and the insanity of those who controlled it. We had seen the pictures of its use on Japan. We grew up with a beautiful world attained by the oppression of obliteration of all that we loved at any moment. This was not the world I wished to pass on to my children. Today, I am more optimistic. Yes, there is still some fear but the constant standoffs between the US and the USSR are mostly over. The dark cloud of atomic destruction is still with us but it has moved over and has gotten a little paler.
Like so many children of "Generation X", I don't remember the exact point when I was made aware of the Bomb. We were surrounded by anxiety about it almost from birth. But my earliest recollection is from Mrs. Tudor's fifth grade class at Woodlake Elementary School in Sacramento, CA. We children had just finished going through the "Duck and Cover" drill. All the kids in this gifted class were full of questions about the Bomb. How would hiding under our desk protect us from such an awful thing? After it was dropped, how would we find our parents? Would we get new families? If the Bomb were dropped right outside our window, what would happen to us? I don't remember how Mrs. Tudor responded, but I do remember an awful lot of silence that day. Jay Cee Straley, 29 Oakland, CA
I don't remember how I first heard about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; but growing up in Hawaii there were a lot of mixed feelings about it. Some folks, who had lived through the bombing of Pearl Harbor, felt it was justified. Some, who once had relatives in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, were very angry at the USA. And some were simply horrified. My first direct knowledge of the bombings came from reading John Hersey's book, Hiroshima. I was ill for a week after reading it. Now, I think that history is written by the winners, and that we'll never know whether the bombing was "justified." david adam edelstein. Kirkland, Washington, USA. 25 yrs old.
Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I moved about in the mountains. In one place, we had a picture window with a view of the Peaks of Otter, a local geographical landmark. About 10 miles away from that picturesque view, like a boil on a mountain, sat a radar dome, part of the DEW line. From the time I knew what that site was and stood for, I had thoughts of the past and potential horrors of nuclear war. At school we would have the air raid drills, the "duck and cover" and all the other things the government told us would save us if the world was suddenly blown up. This never made any sense to me, we were supposed to arise from the rubble, survive in our home made bomb shelters, and repel the Red Menace invading our homeland. It is little wonder that there are so many paranoid and anxious members of this current generation; we were not expecting to live to become adults.
Suddenly, the Red Menace was gone, the bad guys are now the good guys, and we are free of the threat of a nuclear war. I still think of the thousands of warheads pointed in someone's direction in the new "borderlands" of the wasted USSR, and it still gives me an uncomfortable feeling knowing that we can still, on the whim of one person, be destroyed in an exchange where MAD still rules.
Jack M. Thav, 57 years, Live in Florida -- originally from Detroit. Recall the enormous relief that the war was over. Heard bits and pieces about the new weapon which had ended the war and which had saved millions of American and Japanese lives. Didn' t know much of the details of the bombing until many years later.
I grew up in the Sixties largely numb, not unaware, of the devastating potential of nuclear weapons. When I heard of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was mostly fascinated in the spectacle of a giant, mushroom-clouding bomb. Somehow it registered unconsciously in me that we had this bomb, and though other countries had it now it was not likely they would use such a weapon against us. I barely remember a few air raid drills - I think we practiced hiding under desks one day in public school in first or second grade, but this could be a manufactured memory. I like the idea that we had the power to stop a war with the Japanese with one big blast. That seemed quite neat and simple to my child-mind. Later I found out about the horrible burnings and radiation sickness. Again, this was "gross"but remote to me. Later I found it remarkable how quickly the Japanese people were back on their feet again. After such devastation, a complete rebuilding within a generation. So I never truly took the nuclear menace seriously to heart. This was probably sheer denial on my part.
I was not one of the children who had the nuclear nightmares I read about now. As I grew older and learned about the arms race, part of me registered "absurd", and the other connected with the incredibly cool and expensive war toys used to deploy these weapons. So there was part of me, an Upper West Side Manhattan kid of liberal middle-class parents, that simply did not feel the cost of the investment in these weapons - the cost in money and the cost in fear. I just saw it all as a pageant of way-cool fighter-bomber-sub-carrier-missile-rocket technology.
I think that the presence of The Bomb as one of the most significant and visible products of 20th Century technology did have an effect on my image of science and technology. As a youth, I accepted that technology has a lot to do with delivery systems of nuclear devices. My vision of technology was symbolized by computers and rockets. I loved the space race, because the guilt of doing harm was completely removed. But I respected and did not question the suggestion that the space race could not have happened without military use of technology to deliver nuclear weapons, i.e., ICMBs. Occasionally I would imagine a nuclear war, but my attention would not hold on it for long and would wander to other things. I don't recall ever bringing the subject up as any concern of mine to my parents. Only recently did I learn how close we really came to massive nuclear strike and counterstrike during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those stories made my blood run cold. I still can hardly believe that in the early sixties there was no direct communication link between the White House and the Kremlin, so that we had to rely on Soviet radio broadcasts for information. Or that members of the Joint Chiefs seriously considered a first strike to be a "plus"and truly wanted to bait the Soviets into war.
My feelings have changed from my initial impression that a nuclear strike is a good, simple way to end a war. -Alex Yourke. New York.
I first heard about the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima when I was seven years old, too young to understand perhaps, but still, 30 years after the bombing itself. In many ways, the adults around me, such as my parents, may have had the many years of their won lives to figure out their own analysis of the situation, but any experience of this was not passed on to me. In fact, I was given the cold hard facts, and expected to deal with it in my own way. I have talked to many people of my age group, and the same emotional mess is prevalent for children who were young during the '70' s, and teenagers, and just realizing how to form our own analyses, in the 1980's. During the '80' s, many films depicting modern nuclear war came out. Some were made for t.v., and some were made for the screen. No matter the film, any discussion of this horrified me, plagued my worst nightmares, and became a driving force behind early political ideas.
I also remember, in later years, becoming extremely angry, not only at the invention of the bomb itself, but at the makers of the films. I felt manipulated, and was angry that so many people, seemed more effected by the films, usually set in white middle-class North America, than by the actual telling of history, set across the world, but in reality all the same. The sensationalistic approach of these films appealed to my young brain, and caused me much grief and worry, not that a young brain should be spending it's time celebrating. I am glad that I had the morbid experience of worrying and fretting over something on the television, perhaps it helped in many of our developments, but I do feel that an entire generation was raised blindly to the fact of that history. What was it like to be raised in other decades? Was the destruction discussed more or on a less sensationalistic note?
I was born August 10,1951. My name is Ernest Beabes. My father was on the invasion force to first land in Tokyo. He had his orders the ship had set sail. As a first time combatant his odds of living through the first several hours of the invasion would have been astronomical. I am who I am today because of this bomb. Almost every person I know was affected by someone who was influenced by those two bombs. These are our reality and the legacy that we will hand down.
As a child we did not discuss the bombs. I learned of them in grade school, but we still did not talk of these bombs. In latter years I learned of my father's involvement in the invasion force. His troop became the occupation force of Japan as the Japanese surrendered just as the invasion fleet was entering Japanese waters. Still we did not talk about the bombs, we spoke of the many pictures he had from the occupation and the Japanese people. By this time he bore them no ill, and had no remaining biases. We still did not speak of the bombs. My youngest daughter, finally asked my father if he owed his life to the bomb just about four years ago as she was learning about the bomb. She would have been about eight years old. He thought about it a moment, and then answered, "Yes, I guess I do."That is the first I can recall his talking about the bomb in the context of his personal experiences. The subject quickly changed, and we continue to touch those we come in contact with in everyday of our lives. We need to look at our lives, how we affect others, who have affected us and our personalities. Is there a person who benefited from the bomb that has influenced our lives so that we may influence the lives of others. I owe my all, and all that follow me owe theirs to the bomb. How can anything with such a positive influence on us all be also as horrendous to us? My father and I still do not talk about the bomb.
I believe I was around six when our school took a trip to the local museum. We were to see an exhibit on the atomic bomb. I probably brought my Sport Billy lunch box, and carried it in my right hand as I shuffled around, looking at all the exhibits with my classmates. One stark image from that trip has stayed with me since. A picture, in a glass case, of some bomb victims, something we moved by silently. The pictures are in black and white, and from the way they looked I was surprised that the pictures were of humans. The photographs had this very medical atmosphere to them, as if instead of people, these were specimens photographed under the cold lens of a microscope. The pictures completely lacked compassion. One picture was of a woman, from behind. Sitting in a chair, her back was bare, and covered with burns, discolorations. She was looking over her left shoulder, maybe at her burns, maybe at the photographers. She looked very sad, as if she had been crying or was trying to not cry. The woman looked like my mother. The thought came to me faintly. I was six.
As I grew bigger and older, I began to feel the bite of racism. Because they would never teach me non-European history in school, I had to find out about America' s concentration camps on my own. I saw the stark racist nature of the American war effort. For instance, the man who was in charge of putting Nikkei (Japanese Americans) in concentration camps, Henry Stimson, was the same secretary of war that advised Truman on the atomic bomb. In other words, the racist, exterminationist policies at home and the racist, exterminationist policies abroad were carried out by the same policy makers. And as I studied Japanese literature and watched Japanese movies about the summer of 1945, more and more the nagging feeling came to me that Japan had already been defeated. That the bomb need not have been dropped.
Why did America kill 100,000 Japanese in a fire-bombing raid less than 10 hours before the surrender, less that 10 hours after Nagasaki? Why did America use two bombs, instead of one? Why civilian areas? The bomb is a penultimate symbol of the racism and genocide faced by both Nihonjin and Nikkei during the war. It reminds me of the constant battle, even after 125 years in America, that I as a Nikkei must face if I wish for equality. Most of all, in a haunting, numb rage, I see that scarred, numb woman, who reminds me of my mother. Jason Rabbitt-Tomita, 18yrs. old, Seattle, Wa., hapa yonsei.
My name is Dean M. Deai. I am 33 years old and currently live in San Francisco, California, USA. I am a 3rd generation American of Japanese ancestry and had uncles fighting on opposite sides of the war. My mothers oldest brother was sent to Japan from Hawaii to get a university education. While there, America entered the war. The other brother, second eldest, was active in ROTC in Hawaii. When war broke out, he became part of the now historic and, the most decorated unit in American history.
My earliest memory of the Atomic bomb was from a Hanna Barbera cartoon, "Beannie & Cecil". In that episode, an atomic bomb was going to be detonated on "No-Bikini-Atoll"and was stopped because of the existence of a prehistoric creature "Sore". At the time, I was too young to recognize all of the adult references in the cartoon but, enjoyed it any way. In the eighth grade, I had a very progressive Social Studies class which required us to do presentations on various social issues of the day. We were required to bring in film clips, get speakers and make handouts to accompany our presentations. After the presentations, we debated the pro's and con' s of the issues. In that class, I saw footage of the scenes from Hiroshima and Nagasaki before and after the bomb. I can recall that the most powerful image that remains with me today is the one of peoples shadows imprinted on a wall. The narration said that the people were vaporized and all that remained was their shadows. From that time on, I have been against the use of atomic weaponry but, acknowledged its' usefulness as a deterrence against possible nuclear war. With the end of the Cold War and the advances in technology, I can only hope that the bomb will never be used again. I realize that this view is a bit naive but one can only hope for the best.
I am returning to school and in the SFSU Multimedia Studies Certificate Program and I was interested as to how images contribute to our ability to communicate through this new medium that has been coined multimedia. Perhaps through multimedia, communication will advance in general and we will all understand each other better and eliminate all the hate in the world. However, with the gulf between the have and have nots ever increasing, it will take more than effective communication to make this dream a reality.
Neus, 28, Seattle. I am not old enough to have been alive when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. during the Cold War I was too young to worry much about whether or not the bomb was going to be used again. The images that I have always associated with nuclear warfare are of the mushroom cloud, bodies vaporizing into nothing and navy submarines. I grew up in a navy family and my father captained submarines. I don't remember when I first learned about the atomic bomb and it's being used on cities to end the second world war. my thoughts about nuclear destruction are mostly futuristic, about seeing a mushroom cloud appear on the horizon one day as I'm walking down the street. Some of the dreams that I most vividly remember are about an atomic bomb exploding and killing me. Do I think that an atomic bomb will destroy another city in my life time? Assuming that I live another sixty years or so, yes I do believe that within that period of time I will see another city explode.
I was born 3 years after the atomic bombings of Japan. My childhood in San Diego was spent worrying about the possibility of a nuclear war with the USSR. I was told by parents, teachers, ministers, etc. that in the event "bomb" was dropped on us -- and it could happen at any time-- the devastation would be immense. The image that remains with me and that brought my fears home, was the sight of neighbors building a fallout shelter in their front yard. Each day as I walked home from school I could see the progress of this shelter. People just doors from me were actually preparing for a thermonuclear catastrophe. In my backyard? I became convinced that the whole matter of science and technology was no longer simply gaining knowledge, but more importantly having the wisdom to use it well. Steve Shepard, 46, Palo Alto, CA.
I was born in 1950 in Sweden, and I have known about the bomb all my life. To me, it is out of the question to use it. My parents were very afraid that our big red neighbor would use it, and their fear of course has colored my view. We were also taught during my whole school education years about the bomb and its consequences. The pictures of dead and dying human beings of all ages, and of course, the book about Sadako. Sadako wants to live, impressed my whole generation. The book made the whole thing real to us. It could have been we, or our siblings, or cousins - and in a sense it were.
It MUST never be used again. A people have always the right to defend itself, but never to attack another, not even to prevent an attack on itself. How do we know the threat was real, and not made up?
The first remembrance I have of things nuclear is a live TV broadcast of a test explosion. I remember watching this some afternoon in the air-conditioned darkness of our family basement. I had a heightened sensation, that this was momentous and something weighty. The black and white stark imagery of ground zero some desert landscape, I can't recall in detail-- more the impression, the countdown monotone of the announcer and especially the pregnant silence between count. That I was about to witness something that made our country "great". That what I was about to see "should"affect me. I can see the cloud, the camera image just lingering there, as if in that slowly evolving explosion there was a story being burned into my retinae. This was power. I never took part in air raid drills. I am a 1977 high school graduate. Currently a veterinarian living amongst many military in Virginia Beach. I learned the standard feed on our country' s use of the bombs. It has been only recently (5-10 years) that I have begun to re-think and take in new ideas on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During the second half of the 1980' s I became truly frightened, reaching the point of middle of the night "scaries", that nuclear holocaust was iminent. Reagan at the helm. Physicians for Social Responsibility's woman leader name lecture at Hollin's College in Roanoke, VA. was a fire starter for my repainting consciousness. --Ronald Ulfohn
I first became aware of the bomb as a school-age child. I was born in 1947, after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I remember asking my parents about it at an early age. I asked them because I was frightened and wanted to learn more but be reassured. I can' t remember what I heard or saw or read that made be scared, but scared I was. It seemed that the more I learned the more scared I got, and the more helpless I felt as it slowly dawned upon me how vulnerable I and everything and everyone that I knew was.I had a gnawing fear, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis, that the Bomb would be used again, that it was just a matter of time. As I' ve grown older, I' ve become more of an optimist, perhaps because now that I have children of my own, it's inconceivable to me that any other father, including the military and political leaders of nuclear powers, would permit a nuclear war to happen. I'm more concerned now about the use of a nuclear bomb by a terrorist group, or a political leader with a terrorist agenda, than I am about the use of these weapons as part of a nuclear power's political/military strategy.
My name is Lar Gand and I remember thinking about big bombs such as the atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb as a child. These were not the dangerous things to me. In fact, as a child with very little knowledge, they seemed to be weapons of destruction, but I really didn't understand the meaning of such things until I moved to Vietnam as a nine year old. Then the "little" weapons like 122mm rockets shelling the peripheral areas of Saigon were way too destructive and violent for my daily existence, let alone the BIG bombs I had imagined playing with in my more peaceful and safe days in the United States.
Atom. At age eight I thought the word was Adam.
When the war ended, my sister and younger brother and I marched around
the blcock in Detroit making a commotion by beating on pots and pans. The
kids next door from second floor bannisters let fly wads of spit, first
proclaiming "This is for the Japs. And this is for the Germans."
And we all smiled and laughed. We were glad the war was over for it frightened
us. It also meant that our uncles, segregated in the Army and discriminated
against in the Navy, would be coming home. Beyond that, we had no idea what
those August explosions meant.
I was born in the late 1950's to parents who lived through WWII. My father spent several years in the South Pacific in the United States Navy, and used to tell me stories of how he and his shipmates picked up the allied prisoners captured in Singapore by the Japanese who were forced to build a railroad between Bangkok and Rangoon. My father was also in the Philippines after the war ended, and told me about the atrocities inflicted on civilians by Japanese soldiers. I grew up believing that the atomic bombing of Japan was necessary to end the war quickly and prevent the loss of lives of American soldiers and Japanese soldiers and civilians. Of course, this is open to debate. I am horrified at the pictures of children and women killed or wounded in Hiroshima an Nagasaki. However, I am also horrified at the thought of so many people in China, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and elsewhere that died at the hands of the Japanese. It may have been immoral for the United States to bomb Japan with atomic weapons. But I can not separate the issue from Japan's actions during the war. Eric Berube
I knew about the bomb attack from elders, when I was a child of 6
or 7. For me the atom bomb was a big cracker like thing, at that time. I
therefore admired the US for making such a great thing. later when I saw
the pictures, got to know more about it from books and publictions, I really
felt sorry. I feel that, what happened was some thing should never have.
I would also like to impress upon the admistrators that, it is their prime
duty to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen in the future.
-Binto George Age 25 Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, India
How could one not have been aware of the Bomb, any one of my generation? I am 45, born after the War ended, but that war is "my" war, I am its product just as surely as I am my parents' child. It is not history, it is part of my life and always will be. I grew up in its shadow.
Images? Brightness, darkness, pain and confusion, death of the innocents. Everyone has seen the photographs -- the forever shadows on the wall, the twisted wreckage of buildings and lives. I will remember -- I cannot forget.
But then I see the photographs of my own family. My grandfathers -- the gentle man who took his daughters on bicycle rides and contemplated the stars and died in the stinking hold of some transport ship, or on the dirt floor of some hut on the way to Burma -- we don't even know; and the old man who baked such wonderful pastries and played chess and, long crippled by stroke, was beaten to death by Japanese soldiers. I never even had the chance to know them.
I cannot forget these things.
And I see my mother, a pretty young woman still in her teens, who with her mother and two younger sisters were being moved from camp to camp, closer and closer to the shore -- closer to Japan? She knew about the sex slaves -- there was a separate barracks just outside the confines of the camp, and the women knew what was going on there.
And my father -- I have a photograph of him, I don't really ever want to see it again but I have it and will keep it safe, as he looked when he came out of the Japanese prison camp: a skeleton with taut skin and haunted eyes.
I cannot forget these things.
And I hear, too. I hear an old friend talking about being taken from his mother at eleven, even though she was a widow and he her only child, because at eleven a boy was considered sexually mature and had to go into the men's camps -- where he was put to work stoking the fires for the cremation ovens. Before my eyes, he became again an eleven year old child, alone in his world, describing how bodies twitch and dance in the flames... I hear an old soldier talk of how a youth, a neighbour, an old schoolmate of my mother's, was thrown overboard because he was too ill to work, and he tried to hold on to the sides, so the Japanese soldiers laughingly chopped his hands off ... his father jumped into the see to try to hold him up, to save him, pleading for their lives, and the boat kept going, leaving them both to drown.
I cannot forget these things.
Please, yes, show the pictures of what an atom bomb can do. There must NEVER be another. But please, also, show the other side. Women and children and innocents died on BOTH sides. They starved, they burned, they were massacred ... Don't make just one side the noble martyrs to the other side's racism. That is a horrible perversion of history and a dishonour to those who suffered at the hands of that enemy.
Yes, those bombs killed. Yes, it was horror. Yes, we must KNOW about these things -- no one should ever be in a position to use those bombs again without KNOWING what he's doing. But he must also know the WHY of it. And so must you.
We must REMEMBER -- but we must remember it ALL, not just selectively to conform to some afterward philosophising and the changed and changing culture of a later age.
The bomb dropped. The Japanese army did NOT want to surrender -- they even tried to deny the extent of what had happened. The second bomb dropped, and the Emperor said hold, enough, and overruled his officers. This was a culture of MILITARISM, and a culture where surrender was shameful, a disgrace one could never erase. Thousands died -- but then it was OVER. Not more and more death over the space of months, hundreds here, thousands there, their side, our side, while their prisoners died by murder or neglect and their soldiers raped and killed with impunity.
Truth is never one sided, nor is it facile. War is all hell.
I can never forget any of these things. Neither should any of you.
I honestly mourn the innocents who died at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But I feel no shame, no retrospective remorse. I remember too much, and have seen too many &other pictures. Their innocents did not deserve to die. But neither did ours.
I was born in 1954. My father was a USA Marine with the rank of Sergeant during WWII. He was stationed and fought on Hiroshima and Okinawa. Over the years as I was growing up he often spoke of his hate and distaste for the Japanese people. He was at the front lines and at times experienced hand to hand combat. He saw many of his boyhood friends killed in front of him. He himself (thankfully) did not receive any serious wounds of the physical nature. However, his 4 years overseas left a mark on his psychological well-being.
Now, at the age of 73 he seems to recall quite frequently and vividly his experiences of the fighting and dying in those cities. At times he even crys.
It is very hard (impossible, frankly) for me to try to put myself in his place and understand what he and others like him went through. I can only listen to what he has to say and support him as I know how.
I pray that our country and other countries never have to experience something as horrible as WWII again. I would hate to think that my sons and someday my son's sons would have to relive such a horrible rememberance as my father and others of his generation have to do.
I don't recall learning about the bomb in grade school. My first memories of learning about the bomb are a pastiche from books and magazines--I've always been a bookworm, so some of the likely candidates for my first sources of information about the bomb are any number of encyclopedias that I browsed through eagerly during the 70's--Cowell's Comprehensive Encyclopedia (a massive single volume), Funk & Wagnalls' Childrens' Encyclopedia, and of course, World Book. Starting in 2nd grade with my first visits to the school library I developed a keen interest in World War II, specifically with the great carrier battles associated with the Pacific War, and anything at all to do with the air war as it was fought in any theater of the war. Mustangs, Zeros, F4U Corsairs (I loved seeing the Corsairs in the Robert Conrad TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep), P-47s, P-38s--I could then and still can name dozens of different airplanes used in the war. Bombers weren't so exciting, but of course, I couldn't avoid learning about them, too, and about that special class of bombers, the Superfortresses, that carried the atomic bombs to Japan. I don't remember feeling, as a grade school child in the 1970s, the fear that has been described by people growing up in the 50's and 60's. The "duck-and-cover" drills that we did were tornado drills because the real 1974 twisters that destroyed much of Xenia, Ohio, were much more real to us in nearby Englewood, Ohio, than any imagined atomic bomb attack. I clearly remember, though, rummaging through some stacks of books belonging to an adult friend of my mother's and finding the book _Trinity_ which was one the accounts about the making of the atomic bomb, preceding by a number of years Richard Rhodes more famous account (which I haven't read). I also remember being confused by an episode of Hogan's Heros (a TV comedy show set, oddly enough, in a WW II German camp for Allied POW's) in which the major plot element was an attempt by the Allied prisoners to keep the Germans from putting through a shipment of heavy water. The prisoners didn't want them to get the heavy water because it could be used to help make a bomb, but I knew then that you only needed two pieces of uranium of the right size to make a bomb, so I didn't understand what all the fuss was about the heavy water (which they depicted as a huge wooden tank with "wasser" painted on the side).
The fear came later. In the Reagan 80's I experienced much more intellectual and emotional input about the bomb. Talk of "windows of vulnerability" and "winnable nuclear war" and "the evil empire" were commingled with those movies depicting the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the US, the most well known being the TV movie "The Day After," but one that really still haunts me is _Testament_. Even now I'm haunted by the voice of the ham radio operator in Kansas trying to contact someone, anyone, after the bombs have gone off. I learned then too of the less publicized effects of atomic blasts--besides the heat and the blast and the radioactivity there's also the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which knocks out any delicate electronics. Sometimes, when a TV or radio station would go off the air I would think--this is what would happen if a bomb went off near the station. Perhaps the bomb related "media event" that was most real to me, though, was a fictionalized news-broadcast of the events surrounding a terrorist threat in Charleston, South Carolina. In the story, which was broadcast as if it were a real news broadcast, terrorists bring a boat into Charleston harbor and make some demands. Their demands were not met, and they detonated the bomb. I especially remember this show because all of the broadcasts were done from the fantail of the USS Yorktown, which sits in Charleston as a museum. I had visited the museum when I was younger, and remember it quite vividly, and had for many years after that a picture taken of my family standing together with the Yorktown in the background. Now, years later, I remember it as a vivid example of the danger still inherent in a world that contains nuclear weapons--a danger that instead of diminishing has actually become more possible with the end of the Cold War.
Then during the 80's I also got a much better intellectual appreciation of the complicated political context surrounding the bomb. As someone else has pointed out, there was this fascination with the bomb in debate circles, and arms control was one of the topics when I tried my hand at high school academic debate. Then I learned about the terminology of the time--the ABM treaty, what MIRV stands for, and of course, the reigning doctrine of the day, MAD, which had somehow counterintuitively worked out to keep us alive. We learned about START and SALT and the problems of treaty verification by "national technical means." The problem of how to prevent nuclear war seemd like the most crucial yet most impossible problem.
As I learned more about computer science, and about my chosen field of science, chemistry, I read and learned more about the times and the people involved in developing the bomb. Some of my heroes are Freeman Dyson, Richard Feynman and John von Neumann. Dyson wanted to use atom bombs as fuel to send a ship to the stars, and was later a great voice for arms control. Though famous for other great achievements, Feynman and von Neumann were both involved in the Manhattan Project.
As I sit now close to finishing my Ph.D. work in chemistry I'm acutely aware of the legacy of the bomb in so many ways. Some of the funding for research here comes from the Department of Energy, which is the direct descendant of the Manhattan Project (though absolutely none of our work has anything to do with the bomb or nuclear physics). By some accounts, the whole system of big federal funding for science now in place grew out of the great success of the Manhattan project. And I sit typing now just a few hundred yards away from the site where many people in the early years of the nuclear research were injected, without their knowledge or consent, with plutonium and other radioactive compounds as part of that nuclear research. Just several weeks ago, one of the people in charge of trying to clean up the massive amount of radioactive waste from bomb production at Hanford gave a talk here. In beginning chemistry classes, which I've helped teach, one of the best examples of a fundamental idea in chemistry and physics, the kinetic theory of gases, is best illustrated by the method used at Oak Ridge to enrich uranium for the first atomic bomb.
There are so many what-ifs about the bombing. To me, it was both
incredibly tragic yet terribly necessary. Sure, people argue that the war
could have ended without use of the bomb, but use of the bomb in war was,
I think, an inevitability. The taboo against use of atomic weapons wouldn't
have developed without the awful display of their power and it was better
that that display was done with the only bombs then in existence. I hate
to think what would have happened if the first use of atomic weapons in
war came when both the Soviets and the Americans had a significant stockpile
of atomic bombs.
--Joe Anderson (b. 1968) Rochester, New York.
My first real awareness of the realities of nuclear war came when my church hosted two young women who came to New York for medical treatment as part of something called The Hiroshima Maidens Project. I was six or seven years old in the early 50s, when two very strange looking women began coming to our Sunday worship services. They dressed in a strange fashion, and spoke a strange language. They moved slowly and awkwardly, they spoke slowly, and one in particular seemed to have a good deal of trouble saying anything. But their most conspicuous characteristic was that their arms, legs and faces were covered with the burn scarring, which I had never seen before. I saw them on Sundays for a few months, and then they went home.
The Hiroshima Maidens Project was organized by a group of clergy and others as a humanitarian effort to provide medical treatment to roughly two dozen young women who, for the most part, were so badly burned that they lacked the physical mobility or dexterity required to earn a living. Many were so impaired that they could barely perform daily personal chores such as brushing one,s hair. And, of course, they were horribly disfigured.
Their condition was made much worse because, at the time of their injury, Hiroshima,s medical infrastructure was as devastated as the rest of the city. Much of the work done by the American surgeons was repairing the damage caused by injuries left to heal without proper treatment. Each of these young women received multiple surgeries, ranging from skin grafts to restoring mobility to immobilized fingers and elbows.
As a young child, I did not immediately grasp the extent of their suffering. I saw only their extreme strangeness. But learning to understand that strangeness was perhaps a more effective lesson about nuclear realities than I could ever get from all the stories of megadeaths and physical devastation. If, at that age, I had met any woman dressed in a kimono and speaking Japanese, I would have found her to be more than a bit strange. And I had to learn to distinguish between that "normal strangeness, and the unique strangeness caused by impaired mobility, damaged speech organs, and burn scarring. I learned. I learned to hate wars and killing. I hate them with a passion which began with these early childhood memories. Mankind's ability to wreak destruction has progressed far more swiftly than it,s ability to resolve conflicts in a positive fashion. And our ability to rationalize is far stronger than our sense of morality.
For me, the reality of war was elsewhere - which made it all the more glamorous. My friend and I would make-believe that we were American spies infiltrating the Soviet Union on a secret mission (of course, we always had to fight our way out, and always did make it out.). I had never known any other enemy than the Russians. As I grew older, I began to learn, inevitably, about nuclear weapons. I recall, very vividly, attending a veteran's event with my grandfather, who was in the merchant marines in the Pacific during WWII. I stood before a booth there, watching a video about the blast radii of atomic bombs, how to store food, and prepare for a holocaust. For the first time, war involved me. I took a pamphlet from that booth, and kept it in my room. For years to come, I feared a nuclear war (although I still fear it, the impression of this scene made a profound impact on me).
I also caught on to my mother's fear of the bomb. We were eating dinner at the same grandfather's house when Anwar Sadat was assassinated. I had no idea what that meant, or who Sadat was, but when my mom told grandpa, "We may be using that bomb shelter in your basement tonight," I knew what that meant. She also stored fresh water in our basement, which brought things home to me.
The TV movie 'The Day After' also affected me. It showed real people dealing with the after-effects of a nuclear war. The thing that really hit me was the ending, nothing in particular, just the fact that it wasn't a happy ending. I think that until that point in my life, every movie I saw (or my parents would let me see) had a happy ending.
I did not live through WWII, but its events did change my life. Rather, they didn't change my life. As I said, my grandpa was in the Pacific in the merchant marines. Just after he enlisted (or was drafted, I don't know which), he got his orders to report to San Francisco. On his way, he realized that he was late. Although he rushed to get there, he missed his boat. A week later, a Japanese submarine sank that ship, and no one survived. When I think about that, I get shivers - if he had died, my mother wouldn't have been born, and I would not have even existed...
Even now, war seems distant, because of the security here in the United States. I read about Bosnia, the middle east, Zaire, and other nations in conflict, and while I can imagine their plight and stand for what I think is the right thing to do, I won't probably ever really know war. I pray that nuclear weapons are never used for the mass destruction of populations, but I can never forget that pamphlet with the bright orange cover that I picked up: 'Living in the Nuclear Age.'
Phil Germann, Born 1973
I seem to always have known about the "bomb" but it wasn't until I read about it in the novel Hiroshima that I realized its actual existence. Before that, I had never really given it much thought.
I always think about one scene in the book where a person is in a ditch or just lying on the ground. Someone comes along and grabs his hand to help him up but the outer layer of the skin peels off the hand like a loose glove.
It terrified and sickened me in a way I had never known. I felt guilty and ashamed that the country I had been so proud of could be evil enough to cause so much harm on innocent people. I remeber this was the first time that I ever hated my own country and the first time I ever felt responsible for the actions of it.
I actually never associated the bomb with the technology that created it. I always have associated the devastation with the people who decided to drop it. So, no, I cannot say that it affected my image of science.
I do think that as long as they are around, the possiblity of using them exists - just like a loaded pistol in the house. You may think that your loved ones would never use it on each other or yourself but it happens all the time. It is better to not have one in the house.
Melanie Flores, 23
San Francisco, CA
I first became aware of the "bomb" When I was four years old in my home town of Graysville, AL. I was born November 20, 1959 for reference. We were inside our house eating some "snow" ice cream which is made from fresh snow, condensed milk and sugar. While we were eating this, the evening news came on reporting about the fallout cloud from the first Chinese atomic bomb blast in November of 1964. We were warned by the ABC news broadcast not to eat snow ice cream due to the fact that the fallout cloud was part of the storm that produced the very unusual early November snow in Alabama. We finished our ice cream.
I remember asking about the "bomb" and found out from my mother and grandmother that we and the Russians and now the Chinese had the "bomb". I remember distinctly that I figured out that the "bomb" could destroy 1/4 of the world. Well that was ok because I knew that with us and the Russians and the Chinese using the bomb that there would still be 1/4 of the world left.
I was always very interested in the "bomb" as a child. I am from a Military family and I found out that various members of my family had been in world war II and how glad they were that the "bomb" had been used. Before I was ten years old I had read the book about Hiroshima that had been written by some Japanese folks regarding what happened that day. I read about nuclear effects and I even got to see cows and other farm animals that had been bread after nuclear tests in the pacific. This was in Oak Ridge Tenessee, near where my sister lived. There was a tourist attraction in Rising Fawn Georgia where some of the six legged and two headed cows and dogs with weird deformities were held. I later found out that they had been obtained somehow from Oak Ridge...
Dennis Ray Wingo
Student, University of Alabama in Huntsville
I was aware of it since childhood, and didn't realized what it meant
to all humanity up to now. It brought me scenes of great suffering, images
of burning pain, anihilation and colective death. It reminded me of Sodoma
and Gomorra and the great dead sea that remained afterall. I dont mean people
suffering the bomb were evil, like people from So.-GO were, not even one,
but the evil at this time was distributed everywere it was the world war.
Yes, I consider that the Bomb could be used again against people, innocent
people some of them. Its a matter of statistics. How many good vs how many
bad (unconscious), and of the acting of the good ...worldwide.
Claudio C. Garcia Age, 48
I am 51 yearsbold and live in England. My father esacped from Nazi Germany and thus my memories of the war years were, initially involved with the Jewish experince. Howevber during my adolescence and the years of the cold war the threat of nuclear annihilation became incresaingly important and thretaening and I became acive in the CNDS (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).
Craig Lancaster, New Zealand, age 26. My first recollections are at high school, where more socially conscious teachers would inform us. It sometimes seemed a way for them to feel they were making a difference to the world by teaching the high school children, and making paper cranes. With the large outcry of fear from students reaching the teachers in the early 1980's New Zealand became nuclear free. A change that nobody has ever been quite sure about, but is unlikey to change within the foreseeable future. Possibly through a change in the times, but more likely a numbing as I have grown older, it all seems less important now. I guess constant reminders are needed, because everyone noticed a change in society's attitudes during the dubious 'Gulf War' to that of the others. ANZAC day will always be more important to New Zealand, because of personal involvement.
My name is David C., age 30, a San Francisco resident.I cannot recall a time, an age in my life when I did not know of the atomic weaponry all around the Earth,and the potential for total destruction.It was a simple fact of my life as I grew up in the Seventies.I also was aware of the destructions in Japan during WW2.The shadow, the pallor that these inescapable realities cast over my sense of hope, my sense of a reliable future is hard for me to measure.I have since put into perspective the myriad and conflicting opinions I have surrounding these issues, but my chilhood echos still remain.The awful power of atomic destruction seems to deny all life,all goodness, and make futile constructive human endeavor.I hope now,with all my heart,and all my power to beleive in Humankind that this kind of annhilation of life is never,ever unleashed again in our world.
I was born in August of 1942. I remember nothing about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki three years later, but I do remember my mother weeping when she heard on the radio that VJ Day had been declared. My father was a Naval Officer stationed in the Pacific. The use of these Atomic weapons (a necessity in my view and, of course, in my parents' view as well) meant that my father would be among the millions whose lives were spared -- Americans and Japanese and their allies-- by the surrender of Japan. During the McCarthy Era, I was one of those children who were put through the "duck and cover"drills. The terror of the atom bomb and its use by the "Communists" was a presence in my childhood. I was told horror stories about what would happen to me if I "peeked"at the light during a nuclear attack. My parents assured me that these horror stories were true, not just idle threats, but no one ever suggested that I read stories or historical accounts of the atomic attacks on Japan.
In October of 1962, I was pregnant with my first child during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember feeling that I might not live to see my child born, or, perhaps worse, that I might live to see my child born into a world devastated by a nuclear war. Dr.Edward Teller was my physics professor at Cal. He impressed me as a gentle man, basically compassionate, but forced by political circumstances and the Communist takeover of his native Hungary to immigrate to the U.S. where he would be able to develop weapons of such tremendous power that everyone would be afraid to use them, including us. And it seems to me that among the major powers of the world, Dr.Teller's vision of a nuclear standoff seems to be accurate.
Although I am deeply ashamed of the treatment of Japanese-Americans
during WWII, I am, like many of my generation, convinced that the use of
the atomic bombs was necessary to end the war with "minimal"loss
of life. But what a lesson to us all. There are no winners in any war, no
matter what the weapons used, no matter what the basis may be for the dispute.
We are all members of the same race--the human race--and everyone we harm
is one of our own family. For my grandchildren--I have 11 so far--I wish
a world in which no such terror will exist, and in which forgiveness is
the ultimate goal in any disagreement.
K.J.D. Danville, CA
My name is Karen Ostertag and I am a 23-year-old grad student in Medieval Studies and Library Science. I first learned about the atomic bomb in history in elementary school and first discussed its effects in depth in high school. We were shown a picture of the shadow-wall in Hiro-shima an eloquent testament against ever engaging in nuclear war again. It horrified me to think that the major world powers could blow up the earth twenty times over. What was the point? My mother told me about growing up during the Cuban missle crisis-- she remembered seeing the forsythia bloom that spring and wondering if she would ever see them again.
My greatest fear during the Cold War was that some stupid politician would allow his memory of history to lapse would forget the profound horror associated with the use of such a weapon and actually use a nuclear missle as a way of "proving he meant business"-- flaunting his ego and his stupidity more like. I can't blame the scientists for developing the weapon (I' ve read Ten Thousand Monkeys). I blame the politicians who do not pause to question whether having the capability to do something automatically means we have the right to use the technology. "We stand on the shoulders of giants..." as it is said but we didn' t grow up with the knowledge that a misstep might crush lots of little creatures beneath our huge clumsy feet. Today I think people are more aware of the danger of nuclear war and less likely to turn to it. However the fear remains that people will conveniently forget the past...we have exhibits like yours to thank for making sure that won' t happen. -Karen Ostertag grad at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
I was born in 1948 so my association with the bomb has been during the cold war. I remember air raid drills during the cuban missle crisis. I had seen movies showing explosions of atomic and thermonuclear devices and I was old enough and knowledgable enough to have a feeling for the immense power of the bomb. I understood that an all out atomic war would end civilizaton and probably that neither I nor my familoy would survive since we lived near a large urban target. It was quite frightening I had nightmares from watching explosions themselves yet I could not not watch because they were real. I think that unfortunately the world remains as dangerous and perhaps more so now compared to the cold war. The "enemy" is not readily identifiable. Bombs are smaller and more easily delivered you don't even need a missle just drive into town with one in your trunk (Oklahoma City revisited). I suspect that the next use of the bomb (and I'm sure it will be used by some power) will be limited perhaps battlefield or specific political or strategic targets. And of course there are the other weapons of mass destruction chemical and biologicals they too shall someday be used. I just hope that neither me nor my family are nearby. Jim Rooney
Andy Mack, Student, age 19. When I first learnt about the atom bomb being dropped it was not as piece of history, but like a shy admission of guilt that was to be avoided in proper conversation. It was only in the last few years that I learnt that there were two bombs dropped, until then I had heard precious little of the details of what had happened. I wondered why it had never been mentioned at school, as it seemed to me an incredibly important event in recent history. My only conclusion could be that teachers, parents and indeed the rest of our adult population felt it was in someway their fault, that what had happened was an evil act by a superpower on a defenceless population, in a cruel demonstration of revenge tactics. Thankfully, with the 50th anniversaries of the bombings this summer the matter is now one that can be discussed freely, but we must never forget Nagasaki and Hiroshima, or let future generations forget them.
I am a physician and was a child during WWII. I remember watching a PBS program about the bombs and a brief story was presented about a man who lived in Nagasaki and worked in Hiroshima. He was present in Hiroshima at the time of that bombing and he was present in Nagasaki at the time of that bombing. Talk about bad luck or extreme misfortune. Edward Feehan, M.D.
I was born ten years after then end of WWII. My memories of the atomic bomb and its impact were the weekly drills that we had where we all pushed our school desks against the wall and shielded our eyes from the bomb blast. It must have been a sight to see all these five or six year-olds huddled under wooden tables. My parents, one chinese, one japanese have a different image of the war. Here in Hawaii the war had a more immediate impact, and they told stories of eating dinner in the center of the house in the hallway with all the lights turned off except the hallway light. I don' t think they knew about the bomb for quite some time. We never talked about it. Growing up, I felt proud that we were the nation to have so much strength as to destroy an entire city with a single bomb. However, in my college years, as I came to see the pictures and hear the stories of the suffering inflicted upon civilians that pride has turned to shame. Although born of asian ancestry, and half japanese, I have always considered myself american. I watched with jealousy as some of my friends' parents built bomb shelters in their yards; it made the threat of war more real, and it made the fragility of my existence more tangible. My interest in the bomb is partly because of my asian ancestry, but more because of my loathing of the ways that we as human beings have come up with to inflict suffering on other human beings. I wish to be continually reminded of this all-too-human inhumanity that we have as a species, until such time that we have removed it from our being. Thank you for the exhibit.
My name is Jason Bosket. I am 27 and lived in Japan for 4 years from 1982 to 1986 in downtown Tokyo. Once, while I was traveling to Kamakura, I was approached by an older gentleman riding a white horse. He was dressed in what seemed like military clothing dating the World War II period. As he rode slowly up to me and my friend, he reached out his hand in a friendly gesture and muttered in poor English, "don't do that again." My uncertainty of what he meant was quickly put to rest when he mentioned the word Nagasaki. I was immediately taken back as I thought about what this gentleman was asking me, a 17 year old blond haired, blue eyed boy, to never drop another bomb on Japan again. I felt like I was shaking at the earnestness that this domineering looking man on his horse was expressing to me. "what can I do to prevent another bomb from being dropped on his beloved country? "I thought to my self. The man just kept saying in rough English, "don't do it again." This experience will never leave me... Jason P. Bosket Austin, Texas
Scott Grenz, age 25, residing currently in Richmond, Virginia - USA. After visiting the Hiroshima war memorial and sites in Nagasaki last year, I discovered a newfound measurement of shame for what my country had committed. As I was walking the hall in the Hiroshima War Mem., I found a small Japanese man, weeping. He was looking over some pictures as I had walked up to him. I did not say anything, but instead took a step back, created space, and bowed my head. He then walked right up to me, and spat in my face. It is an experience that I will never forget.
After returning to the States with my Japanese fiancee, we visited the Enola Gay exhibit, held in the Air and Space Museum, in Washington D.C.. We paid for our tickets, and proceeded to wait in line to see the exhibit. As we waited, there was a large screened t.v., airing a short documentary about the bomb incidents. Perhaps the most disturbing thing of all, was that on that ocumentary, they showed footage of the actual crew, just before the bomb was dropped (on Hiroshima). In the crew, there was a chaplain, who gave a prayer. His prayer went to the effect of "Lord, deliver us from this terrible destructive force that we are about to unleash upon these innocent people.". My mouth dropped, and I could not believe what I had just heard. Not only did that video clip turn me away from all Christian beliefs, but it had started to make my heart pound, in anger and disgust. I looked to my fiancee, and she was in tears, having lost her grandparents to the bomb. I was appalled at how my country could put on display, and charge money to see, such a tool of genocide. We were looking at the plane that dropped the bomb that destroyed her family, and so many other innocent people. I know that I will never actually come to really understand the Japanese as they do each other, but on that day, I had a better understanding of how much suffering these people had endured. Since then, I have studied upon other Japanese WWII subjects, like the infamous Nazi-like Japanese Unit 731. I have come to understand that it was not only the Japanese to have suffered, but several otheres as well. I will say though, our country will never truly understand the meaning of suffering until our home is utterly destroyed, or bombed, or invaded, by another country. - Scott Grenz
My name is Amy. I currently live in England as a student, though I am an American citizen. I am twenty-four years old, and therefore do not personally remember the atomic bomb being dropped. I learned about it on television as a young girl, and my initial impression was awe and a bit of pride that my country could produce something as terrifying and as strong as the atomic bomb. A few years ago, I lived and worked in southern Japan for a year and a half. I learned the language, became immersed in the culture, and gained many, close friends. Naturally, that experience changed my attitudes a great deal. I visited the Peace Park and museum in Hiroshima and came away with an overwhelming feeling of sorrow. People who argue that America did or did not have to drop the bomb are, I think, missing the point. We did what we did. The Japanese forgave us. I never met anyone in Japan, young or old, who treated me grudgingly because of what my country had done. One older woman commented "you did what you thought you had to do. Now it is our job to understand and continue our lives." I feel that it is our job as Americans to not forget what we did. Rather than place blame or argue about whether or not the bomb was necessary, we need to remember that we did it, so that by remembering, we can prevent differences of culture from becoming so great that we no longer understand each other. That, I think, is where the danger lies, in destroying something because we don't understand it.