Shinichi Tetsutani was a three year old boy who loved to ride his new red tricycle. 63 years ago this day he was riding his trike in his front yard. He was playing with his friend Kimiko. It was 8:15 in the morning. A quarter mile away there was a bright flash in the sky. Shin was badly burned and buried in the debris of his house. He was still alive when his parents dug him out, his hands still gripping the handlebars of his trike. They were unable to get to his two sisters in time as the wreckage of their home burned. Shin died that night. The next day his parents buried their children in their front yard, they thought they were too young to be buried in a lonely grave far from home. Shin’s friend Kimiko had also been killed in the blast, so they were buried together, holding hands. Shin’s beloved trike was buried with him.
Shin’s parents lived on in their rebuilt home for decades, knowing their children were nearby was of some solace. Then in the eighties they decided to dig them up and bury them in a proper grave. They had forgotten about the trike, and were surprised when they found it. Their children were re-buried, the trike went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where it is on permanent display. A museum devoted to peace, and the memories of the more than two hundred thousand people who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945.
The atomic bombings are easily among the worst war crimes in history, and like all great crimes, they are surrounded by a wall of lies. If the Japanese had gotten the bomb and used it on San Francisco, the perpetrators of the act would have been hung as war criminals, their barbaric crime elaborated in every textbook in America for all eternity. Because of lies, and let’s face it, racism, these crimes are little known in the USA, and for the most part cared about even less. In most American’s minds killing white civilians is an atrocity, killing brown and yellow civilians is payback.
The first lie is that the atomic bombings “saved American lives.” A figure of half a million dead GIs who would have died in the invasion of Japan is routinely bandied about as if it was fact. The absurdity of this number cannot be overstated. The Japanese navy, army, air force, factories, and cities had been utterly destroyed by four years of warfare. Japan was, literally, defenceless. Yet we are to believe that the invasion of Japan would have resulted in twice as many Americans dead than had died in the entire war? It’s beyond ludicrous: the official army estimates for casualties in the invasion of Japan was 46,000. Then of course the perverted idea that it’s OK to slaughter woman and children to save the lives of soldiers, an idea worthy of Osama Bin Laden, is simply glossed over and ignored. If Japanese soldiers had killed American women and children to save the lives of their soldiers, how many Americans would regard their actions as justified?
Another layer of the lies is that the atomic bombings were necessary to end the war. No, they weren’t. The war was over, Japan had been trying to surrender for a year. The only thing that kept the war going was American politician’s insistence that the Japanese surrender unconditionally. No conquerer in history has ever insisted on an enemy’s unconditional surrender, to do so would force them to fight to the last man, what is the point of that? Every person who died in the last year of the War in the Pacific died because of Truman’s arrogance and pride, and the pride of other politicians surrounding him. It’s really even worse than that, since the Japanese were defeated, their homeland starving, they would have surrendered eventually without either nuclear bombing or an invasion. The unthinkable is retroactively justified by simply ignoring inconvenient alternatives.
And it was Truman and company. To our military leader’s credit, they were appalled by the decision to use the bomb and argued against it. Including Eisenhower and MacArthur. The idea that the bombing was a military “necessity” is kind of hard to support when the military itself argued otherwise. That’s modern America though, a land where the “history” our children are taught is so fraught with lies and omissions that it would make Goebbels proud. One could even make the case that this “history” is part and parcel of why even today the death of innocent brown people in foreign lands at our military’s hands barely registers on the national consciousness, and even when it does is considered justified by many.
Am I trying to make some case against America and its people? No. I am trying to point out that warriors deliberately killing little children is always wrong, no matter who the soldiers are, no matter what the war, no matter what the context, no matter what anyone says. Killing children is a crime, not an act of war. Anyone who says differently is at best misinformed. At best.
God rest their little souls. God grant us the wisdom to never do this again. God help us all through the dark days ahead.
(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. And in any event, I’m pretty sure the copyright holder’s won’t object to my use of them here.)