US un­leashes new war­fare era by drop­ping A-bombs

Some key events from this week in his­tory are re­flected in the fol­low­ing reports from the archives of the Ar­gus’s 160-year-old ti­tles

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL MOR­RIS

THREE sim­ple con­cepts were linked in a triple-decker head­line in the first week of Au­gust, 1945 to con­vey the im­port of an event which – quite un­usu­ally for news – re­ally was un­prece­dented.

Yet, who could doubt that “Facts that stag­ger. No cri­te­rion of ex­pe­ri­ence. World changed overnight” were the chill­ing truths of the mo­ment.

And it was a mo­ment that would re­shape the rest of the cen­tury, the geopo­lit­i­cal Zeit­geist, the mind­set of a whole gen­er­a­tion – and even their chil­dren – and give an icy edge to its most men­ac­ing out­come, the Cold War.

One has a sense of the shat­ter­ing ef­fect of the first atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima – a name, like Auschwitz, ever since etched into hu­man con­scious­ness– from the al­most poignantly bland line in a news re­port on Au­gust 7, 1945: “Osaka ra­dio, with­out re­fer­ring to any dam­age caused by the bomb, an­nounced the can­cel­la­tion of var­i­ous trains in the Hiroshima pre­fec­ture.”

That Reuters re­port added other de­tails: “Last night the United States War Depart­ment an­nounced that an im­pen­e­tra­ble cloud of dust and smoke cov­ered the tar­get area mak­ing ac­cu­rate reports of the dam­age im­pos­si­ble.”

It also re­vealed how the US hoped to cap­i­talise on the atomic ter­ror.

“Drama­tised in leaflet form, de­tails of the new bomb will soon be scat­tered over the Ja­panese home is­lands. Ex­perts in Washington think the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect of the bomb may be even more dev­as­tat­ing than the physical. They are likely to use their ‘ youare-next’ tech­nique of warn­ing par­tic­u­lar tar­get ar­eas once the power of the new bomb has been driven into the Ja­panese mind.”

It was the Daily Mail that ob­served: “The facts stag­ger the imag­i­na­tion. We have no ad­e­quate cri­te­rion whereby to mea­sure in our own ex­pe­ri­ence this aw­ful thing.”

Vic­tory over Ja­pan, which had con­ducted a bru­tal war, was doubt­less to be cel­e­brated in Au­gust 1945, but it came with the un­nerv­ing cer­tainty that a new, very dif­fer­ent era had be­gun. The risks were plainly spelled out in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished after the sec­ond atomic at­tack, on Na­gasaki, on Au­gust 9.

“Fic­tion of the most lurid and fan­tas­tic char­ac­ter, is made pale by the flood of spec­u­la­tion that has been re­leased with news of the use of atomic bombs against Ja­pan. The pos­si­bil­i­ties un­der­ly­ing the dis­cov­ery are cer­tainly im­mense, and it may be that the dis­tant fu­ture will bring ful­fil­ment of many of the pre­dic­tions now be­ing made. For the present, how­ever, the im­me­di­ate im­pli­ca­tions of the per­fec­tion of a new and ter­ri­ble weapon of de­struc­tion pro­vide ma­te­rial for much dis­turb­ing thought.”

It went on: “Few of us have stan­dards by which we can as­sess the real mean­ing of state­ments that the bomb has 2 000 times the blast power of the Bri­tish ‘ grand- slam’ bomb and is ca­pa­ble of more de­struc­tion than 20 000 tons of TNT. But ex­pert opin­ion seems con­vinced that ‘no power now on earth can stand up against such an­ni­hi­la­tion’ as that which can be wrought by this weapon.

“And when the end has been achieved, the means to it will con­tinue to ex­ist. A sec­tion of the hu­man race will re­main in pos­ses­sion of a de­struc­tive force far more ter­ri­ble than the ac­cu­mu­lated hor­rors of years devoted to the study of meth­ods of an­ni­hi­la­tion.

“Who­ever mo­nop­o­lises the se­cret of that power will have the means of hold­ing the world in sub­jec­tion. That is not a cause for un­qual­i­fied ela­tion. We are told that the con­trol of atomic en­ergy will ul­ti­mately rev­o­lu­tionise ev­ery­day ex­is­tence, and rosy pic­tures are painted of the con­struc­tive uses to which the dis­cov­ery can be put.

“Upon those who will di­rect that work, and upon those who know the se­cret of the de­struc­tive uses of atomic en­ergy, there rests a ter­ri­ble re­spon­si­bil­ity. When the im­me­di­ate task of restor­ing peace has been com­pleted, ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble must be done to pre­vent abuse of the newly found knowl­edge… ”


The plumes of the atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshima, left, and Na­gasaki.

Civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in a Hiroshima street. Be­low is a page from The Cape Ar­gus which car­ried a re­port on the ex­plo­sion.

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