Pause for Thought

Posted: December 5, 2018 in Chat
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My father-in-law died fairly recently – aged 96, not a bad span.

We are having to sort his house for sale: that is going through slowly. He had saved everything pertaining to his life, from early school reports in the 1930s, to bills, receipts, up to the time he died. We are slowly having to burn the personal papers. There are also tangential papers, news clippings, usually related to the war – he’d kept a very active interest in those issues throughout his life.They were all neatly and methodically filed, except for the last few years where his stamina must have been on the wane.

1.
The other day I came across saved newspaper articles covering a Japanese Prisoner of War testimony. With a lot of trepidation I opened this cache, and read through.

The man had been one of a group in forced labour, working a coal mine for twenty hours out of every twenty-four. In effect, they were being worked to death. As prisoners of war who had chosen to submit, rather than the nobler death, they were subject to the harshest regimes because they were seen as oath-breakers – in Japanese military terms, that is.

The man said that they had just come off shift; it was morning. He collapsed, and his comrade was bending to pick him up because a guard was just about to rifle-club them. They were distracted by a plane high overhead. That was not unusual; what was unusual was the small parachute floating down from it. They watched in fascination.

Then it happened.

That was Hiroshima, 6th August 1945.

When he came round, badly burned, deafened, half-blinded, his comrade was no more than a shadow on the wall, and the guard left only his rifle.
He was collected much later after having been left for dead, with a burst stomach. But he survived, and was later well enough to return home to England.

And this is what most troubles me:
He said, up to that point in the Pacific War, the Japanese military considered themselves invincible.
It was only the H bombs, he said, convinced them otherwise. Without them, those horrors would have carried on relentlessly, endlessly.

The man suffered from radiation sickness, and other connected ailments for the rest of his life, but said he never once doubted the use of those bombs.

I have supported CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) most of my life. I do admit to doubt and dubiousness over unilateralism, nevertheless.
Here was testimony, though, not just conviction, or ideals.
This certainly gives me pause for thought.

Conditions in the world, and between states, now, is very different from those days, the 1940s. Nuclear arms are much more powerful, more strategically aimed, portable, with ranges greater.
It is very doubtful now that the man’s argument would apply in any current or future situation.
The unilateral argument has gained in strength, but I retain doubts.

The newspaper story does knock one of the founding blocks of the nuclear disarmament question, though.
But as I suggest, the modern scaffolding is tough and well-grounded enough to keep the question to the forefront of world concerns.

2

There is another narrative – there are many narratives, but take this one.
Most narratives are based on the role of the two H bombs. Japan did in fact surrender the day after the 9th of August second bomb, on Nagasaki: 10th of August.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/30/the-bomb-didnt-beat-japan-stalin-did/

The Japanese Supreme Council were meeting the day of the second bomb; they were discussing the unprecedented move of surrender.
Was the second bomb’s ‘impact’ superfluous, then?
The above article cites the kilotons of bombs dropped previously on Japanese cities, that they were equivalent to a H bomb in destructive power. That had not swayed the Japanese Supreme Council.
What was the cause of this crisis meeting?
The article puts it down to the levels of Soviet aggression on their doorstep.

There are many narratives.

They should all give us pause for thought.

 

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