Time stamp: 7 December 1941, 07:48 a.m.
Kronos roared and time stood still. Japan launched two waves of bombers, fighter and torpedo aircrafts off the decks of six aircraft carriers. The combined forces of 353 flying ships laid waste to all eight U.S. Navy battleships with damage to additional ships which were part of the battle groups. America lost 2,403 of her countrymen and 1,178 additional personnel suffered combat injuries consistent with the fire rained down from the sky.
Pearl Harbor gave conception to war. Hiroshima brought about a terrible birth.
Time stamp: 6 August 1945, 08:15 a.m.
Kronos roared once again. But this time the roar came from deep within the belly of the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-19 Superfortress bomber.
Pulitzer prize-winning author John Hersey penned the work “Hiroshima”. It first appeared in “The New Yorker” in 1946. He traveled to Hiroshima during the immediate aftermath of what became the advent of a nuclear age and interviewed survivors of the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy”. His work was later formatted to paperback and I have the 34th edition on my shelf. What Mr. Hersey conveyed is seen through the eyes of the survivors.
“A flash of light like a sheet of sun… a large meteor colliding with the earth….” And in a moment of time 100,000 souls were clutched into the arms of eternity by the isotope god. They were the first casualties and many others would follow. Out of a total of 150 physicians in the city, sixty-five were dead and a majority of the remaining were wounded. The death and injury rate for nurses was also substantial. Along the streets wounded people supported maimed people. The skin of deceased women sported the shapes of the flowers from kimonos which had burnt off from the heat of the blast. It was unbelievable carnage – no less a carnage than the world had borne for too many years.
War is always the worst of all options and the bloody history of mankind continues to affirm our need for redemption. But there is one thing which is sure and of this I remain certain. The best hope for the avoidance of a future nuclear winter is the maintenance of strong nuclear arsenals under the purview of stable national powers. And we must take a look back to the days of long rifles and muskets to examine this truth.
William Blake was born in London on November 28th, 1757. Best known for his poetry, his critical political thought is woven into his magnificent lifetime body of work. His command of the English language is noted in his more recognized works such as The Prophetic Books and The Four Zoas. On my shelf is the book, The Poetical Works of William Blake. It contains a poem, “The Human Abstract”. Within this simple five stanza work are four words which shout out: “mutual fear brings peace”.
Although Blake lived prior to an atomic age, he grasped a deep truth regarding human nature. There is no greater fear than that of individual and/or collective annihilation. And the road to peace is never paved with good intentions. The road to peace is usually preceded by a brutal hell.
The combined military and civilian deaths during World War II can be reviewed in the attached link. When looking at the chart, imagine the tragedy in three-dimensional manner. Imagine the families affected, the bloodlines cut off, and the mother’s hearts ripped from their very chests. Think of the Sullivan brothers and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
It has been approximately one month since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Japan and made a stop at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. No seated American president has visited this site. It took sixty-five years for a U.S. ambassador to visit the memorial service and a window of six additional years prior to Secretary of State Kerry’s visit. These visits remain sensitive. And while there can never be an apology there must be credence given to the words of William Blake. “Little Boy” heralded the beginning of peace.
Time stamp: 2 September 1945 09:08 a.m.
Kronos gave a deep sigh of relief. He was aboard the deck of the USS Missouri as the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in a live broadcast lasting twenty-three minutes. At 09:08 a.m., General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers accepted the surrender of the Imperial Japanese government on behalf of the Allied Powers. A brutal global war was laid to rest. The grief would remain. But what transpired in Tokyo Bay brought respite from an unspeakable global conflict.
At a rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana (2 May) the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stated regarding our nuclear power, “We never want to use it.” That is a given. But it must also be understood that while we never want to use it, nor do we want to give it away. We have shown trustworthy stewardship of our nuclear arsenal since the declining days of World War II. Other nations have also managed to join the Nuclear Club. But there are others, which should never have access to these weapons of mass destruction. Yemen comes readily to mind. Throw in the Sudan. We will do all that is within our power to keep the list exclusive.
We also understand the words of William Shakespeare, “The common curse of mankind, folly and ignorance.” And for this reason, neither can we destroy nor substantially diminish our own nuclear stockpiles. Our humanity allows us to shed a tear for Hiroshima. But that humanity means that the tears which preceded it – the tears for Pearl Harbor – must also be acknowledged and accepted as fact.
Mutual fear brings peace. Equality of military strength allows for mutual respect. And the maintenance of vibrant nuclear arsenals in the right hands makes our world a safer place.