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Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki, August 1945 - Exhibition tells story of the bombing which changed the world

by Dilip, 8 August 2013

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The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has polarised opinion for nearly 70 years. For some it is an unforgivable stain on human history, the moment when the world fell to scientific horror. For others it was a necessary evil to bring an end to the Second World War - a conflict which had brought countries around the globe to their knees. What is without doubt is the world was inextricably changed when the Allies decided to drop nuclear weapons on Japanese cities.

On August 6, 1945, the Americans dropped the first atomic bomb - known as ‘Little Boy’ - on Hiroshima. It flattened a five mile area with a mushroom cloud rising thousands of feet into the air. Official estimates put the death toll at 140,000 people from the blast and resulting radiation poisoning. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki leaving a further 74,000 people dead. A week passed, and the Japanese surrendered to the Allied forces.

Now an exhibition of the event and its repercussions is on display at Edinburgh’s Central Library. Hiroshima-Nagasaki atomic bombings has been brought to the city after a partnership between Edinburgh City Libraries and Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA). “A nuclear weapon attack without any shadow of a doubt is the most unimaginable thing that could happen,” said Sean Morris, the secretary of the NFLA. “When you see the relics, the artifacts and some of the terrible destruction that was caused in these cities we start to realise we could never have a war like that. “There would not be much of a world left. By going to Hiroshima, you see the need for a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The NFLA (Nuclear Free Local Authorities) group lobbies for a ban on nuclear weapons and the restriction of the use of nuclear power as an energy source. Edinburgh and Glasgow are amongst 50 councils across the UK which works with the body. The Hiroshima-Nagasaki exhibition has toured schools and libraries across the UK since 2010, with this stop in Edinburgh the first time it has been in the Scottish capital. The presentation features 48 panels on the background of the bombings, photographs of damage to the cities, the human cost and the ongoing challenges both cities face in the aftermath of the disaster.

It also goes into the political aftermath of the incident, from the Cold War to how nuclear weapons are still a prominent issue today. The mushroom cloud about one hour after detonation at Hiroshima, taken from an altitude of approximately five miles and a distance of approximately 50 miles from the hypocenter... The exhibition at the Central Library was opened last week by Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Donald Wilson and the Japanese Consul General, Masataka Tarahara. Mr Tarahara has been the Japanese Consul to Scotland for the past three years. Originally from Osaka, the 59-year-old believes the exhibition is a timely reminder of the issue of nuclear weapons. He said: “For all Japanese people,and the government, we are the only country who has ever suffered from an atomic bombing in human history. We never want the tragedy to ever happen again. “Every visitor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is shocked with the photos. “War itself is a tragedy for human kind. Conflict should be resolved by peaceful means and through diplomacy. “We should abolish weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons. The exhibition is very important and timely. It is meaningful to think about nuclear weapons as recently North Korea made a further nuclear test. “The reality is the number of countries who have nuclear weapons has increased and that is regrettable.”

Mr Wilson added: “The atomic bombings in 1945 devastated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their affects are still being felt today. “It’s vitally important we continue to raise awareness not just the short term destruction but the lasting implications for the people and the planet as a whole. “It is only through a full knowledge of the consequences that we can assure that such a tragic event never happens again.”

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On the morning of 6 August 1945 an American B-29 bomber, the ’Enola Gay’, dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb was dropped by parachute and exploded 580m (1,900ft) above the ground. Between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly. The heat from the bomb was so intense that some people simply vanished in the explosion. Many more died of the long-term effects of radiation sickness. The final death toll was calculated at 135,000. As well as residents of Hiroshima, the victims included Koreans who had been forced to come to Japan as labourers, and American prisoners-of-war who were imprisoned in Hiroshima. The blast destroyed more than ten square kilometres (six square miles) of the city. And the intense heat of the explosion then created many fires, which consumed Hiroshima and lasted for three days, trapping and killing many of the survivors of the initial blast. Thousands of people were made homeless and fled the devastated city. Hiroshima was chosen because it had not been targeted during the US Air Force’s conventional bombing raids on Japan, and was therefore regarded as being a suitable place to test the effects of an atomic bomb. It was also an important military base. The Allies feared that any conventional attempt to invade the Japanese home islands would result in enormous casualties, and the bomb was seen as a way of bringing the war against Japan to a swift conclusion. In addition, it may also have been a way of demonstrating American military superiority over the Soviet Union. On the morning of 9 August, the Americans dropped a second, bigger atomic bomb. The original target was Kokura, but this was obscured by cloud so the bomb was dropped on nearby Nagasaki, an important port. About 40,000 people were killed instantly and a third of the city was destroyed. The final death toll was calculated as at least 50,000.

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955

"In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them."
Max Born
Percy W. Bridgman
Albert Einstein
Leopold Infeld
Frederic Joliot-Curie
Herman J. Muller
Linus Pauling
Cecil F. Powell
Joseph Rotblat
Bertrand Russell
Hideki Yukawa

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