Sunday, May 4, 2008

Seeing is Remembering

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, to hasten the end of a long and difficult war. There can be no question but that the tactic was successful, in the sense that it achieved its goal. Japan offered to surrender on August 10 and the emperor broadcast that decision on August 15.

What is not so clear, nor is it ever in time of war, is whether such a tactic can ever be allowed as humane or justified. The world has gone to great lengths in the years since to avoid a repeat, but it is the Damocles sword that hangs over our heads and of which we do not speak much, except with much finger pointing at other nations.

I've seen photographs of Hiroshima and the mounds of rubble and skeletal trees, and wondered where were all the people. Were they all vaporized? I even remember seeing a photograph showing the outline of a woman against a wall, all that was left.

The reason for this post is the release of 10 never before released photographs of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. The undeveloped film containing these photographs was discovered by a US serviceman in a cave outside of Hiroshima. The photographer is unknown. The soldier's family donated them to the Hoover Library and Archives (which has been collecting first hand accounts of historical events since 1919) with the stipulation that they not be released until 2008. These photographs are not for the squeamish, because they illustrate in a graphic way the human cost of the bombing. I think we have an obligation to remember the past, to remember the suffering, because as the philosophers say, those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

You may view the photographs by clicking on the title of this post.

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