The Common Good

Freedom from Nuclear Weapons

Sixty-seven years ago today, at 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, it was a sunny morning in Hiroshima, Japan, a city of more than 300,000 people. Some were on their way to work, children were playing in the streets. Suddenly the sky exploded in a brilliant and hellish flash of light as a 15 kiloton nuclear bomb was dropped from a U.S. plane in the sky overhead. More than 70,000 people were instantly killed, some with their bodies etched into the pavement like eerie shadows. By the end of the year, as many as 140,000 had died, after five years, the toll was estimated as high as 200,000. Three days after Hiroshima, on August 9, 1945, a second nuclear bomb was used against Nagasaki, Japan. An estimated 75,000 people were killed in that explosion.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images
Paper lanterns float on the Motoyasu River in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

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Today, according to the Associated Press, the annual ceremonies held in Hiroshima’s peace park to commemorate the bombing were attended by 50,000 people, including representatives from 70 countries. Two Americans with family ties to the bombings also attended.

AP reported that Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry Truman, the U.S. President who ordered the bomb dropped; and Ari Beser, grandson of Jacob Beser, a radar operator who was on both of the planes that dropped the atomic bombs, joined in the memorial. In a news conference, Mr. Daniel said that he decided to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he needed to know the consequences of his grandfather's decision as part of his own efforts to help achieve a nuclear-free world.

"I'm two generations down the line,” he said, “It's now my responsibility to do all I can to make sure we never use nuclear weapons again."

All of us should make the same pledge. Yet, the organization Global Zero estimates that the countries of the world will spend $105 billion on nuclear weapons and the related infrastructure in the coming year. Nearly two-thirds of that, $61 billion, is estimated U.S. spending. The best way to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki is to put teeth into the words “never again” by working to eliminate those weapons of mass destruction.

And, as we do, we can also make the words of Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui our own: “I firmly believe that the demand for freedom from nuclear weapons will soon spread out from Hiroshima, encircle the globe, and lead us to genuine world peace.”   

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Adviser for Sojourners. Portions of this post were originally published in August 2010.

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