“On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we must calmly reflect upon the road to war, the path we have taken since it ended, and the era of the 20th century. We must learn from the lessons of history the wisdom for our future.” Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
August 6, 1945:
The Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber, left the airfield in the Pacific heading toward Japan. On board was a new bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” created in secret as part of the Manhattan Project.
Hiroshima, a city of 350,000, was the target. At 8:15 am Little Boy was dropped destroying the city and taking 70,000 men, women and children. The death toll would increase to over 200,000 because of injuries and radioactive fallout.
August 9, 1945:
“Bock’s Car”, another B-29 bomber, left its base in the Pacific and headed toward Kokura, the primary target. Because of dense cloud cover, the plane proceeded to its second target Nagasaki. At 11:02 am “Fat Man” the second atomic bomb exploded 500 meters above the city killing between 60-80 thousand people and injuring thousands more who would suffer and die in the coming weeks as well in the decades to come.
The numbers above can only be estimates since the actual number of men, women and children killed in these cities are based on what is surmised from what remain of records and the recollections of survivors. The old saying, “War is Hell”, saw its fulfillment in these cities.
It is estimated that approximately 3 million Japanese military and civilians died during the war. In China which saw fierce fighting with the Japanese the official number is 20 million, but many believe the actual number of civilians killed may be as high as 50 million.
Japan did surrender under the terms of the Potsdam Conference of “unconditional surrender”. On August 15 Emperor Hirohito addressed his nation via radio to announce the surrender:
“…the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
“Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers…
“Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.
“Devote your united strength to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.”
The people of Japan were stunned. Of course not everyone in the country accepted the news of surrender.
Jubilation broke out in the Allies cities. President Harry Truman said to a crowd at the White House,
“This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.”
King George VI said to a rain drenched crowd,
“Our hearts are full to overflowing, as are your own. Yet there is not one of us who has experienced this terrible war who does not realise that we shall feel its inevitable consequences long after we have all forgotten our rejoicings today.”
August 16, 2015:
How we learned anything from the lessons of war? War is a harsh teacher with many demands.
Today, this planet traversing the cosmos faces many human challenges. Wars continue. Cruel bombs take the lives of the innocents.
Poverty rages. Sufferings on a global scale are daily realities.
Climate change is debated as the planet undergoes major upheavals. Nature seems to be striking back at the arrogance of human achievement.
Natural resources become scare in many geopolitical regions. Fresh water is becoming as previous as gold.
Religious fanaticism increases. Political fanaticism is the flip side of the same human currency.
We are far from New Year Resolutions for 2015. It is the middle of August as Summer begins its last hurrah in the Northern Hemisphere.
Perhaps, we should ponder on what we want the world to be in 2016. However, much can be accomplished in the remaining months of 2015.
G. D. Williams © 2015
VJ Day: Queen leads 70th anniversary commemorations
Dr Wells, vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, told the congregation as the service began: “The struggles, the suffering and the sacrifice of the war in the Far East are a defining experience in our nation’s history.
“We stand in awe of those who were tried in ways beyond what most of us ever have to go through and greater than many of us can ever imagine.
“People who lost life, limb and liberty that we might know peace.”
Japan’s Emperor Akihito
“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” Akihito, 81, said at a memorial service on the anniversary of the day his father, Hirohito, announced Japan’s defeat.
“Together with all of our people, I now pay my heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war, both on the battlefields and elsewhere, and pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Emperor Hirohito’s Radio Broadcast August 15 1945
First, contrary to what countless people have long believed, the photo of the sailor kissing the nurse did not appear on the cover of LIFE. It did warrant a full page of its own inside the magazine (page 27 of the August 27, 1945, issue, to be exact) but was part of a larger, multi-page feature titled, simply, “Victory Celebrations.”
Closely tied to that first point is the fact that, while the conclusion of the Second World War might be something LIFE magazine, of all publications, could be expected to feature on its cover for weeks on end, the magazine’s editors clearly had other ideas. In fact, not only did Eisensteadt’s Times Square photo not make the cover of the August 27th issue; no image related to the war, or the peace, graced the cover. Instead the magazine carried a striking photograph of a ballet dancer. An underwater ballet dancer.
War is over! that cover seems to say. After years of brutal, global slaughter, our lives—-in all their frivolous, mysterious beauty—can finally begin again.
BBC On This Day
At midnight, the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee confirmed the news in a broadcast saying, “The last of our enemies is laid low.”
He expressed gratitude to Britain’s allies, in the Dominions of Australia and New Zealand, India, Burma, all countries occupied by Japan and to the USSR. But special thanks went to the United States “without whose prodigious efforts the war in the East would still have many years to run”.
The day coincides with the state opening of Parliament which took on an air of a victory parade.
Thousands braved the rain to watch King George VI and the queen driven down the Mall in an open carriage.
December 12, 1946 Letter
“… the use of the atomic bomb was deliberated for long hours and many days and weeks, and it was discussed with the Secretary of State, The Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy and the General Staff of the Allied Armies, as well as with Mr. Churchill and Mr. Attlee.
“When it was finally demonstrated in New Mexico that the operation of the bomb was a successful one, it was decided to give the Japanese ample warning before the bomb was dropped. I have no qualms about it whatever for the simple reason that it was believed that the dropping of not more than two of these bombs would bring the war to a close. The Japanese in their conduct of the war had been vicious and cruel savages and I came to the conclusion that if two hundred and fifty thousand young Americans could be saved from slaughter the bomb should be dropped, and it was. “