Hiroshima Day was observed on the 6th August, and in 2019 this day marks 74 years since an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. This was the world’s first ever use of nuclear weapons – done so by the US at the end of WW1 – and it is estimated that between 60,000 and 70,000 people were killed instantly in this attack. The toll rose to 200,000 when including those that suffered radiation sickness, according to the Department of Energy’s history of the Manhattan Project. This was followed by a further attack on Nagasaki, on August 9th 1945 which is thought to have killed around 75,000 people.
To commemorate the day, around 50,000 people – including representatives from around the world – attended a ceremony on Tuesday at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima to honor the memory of the victims of these attacks. In reflection of the day and its history, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui in a speech called on the international community to work to rid the world of atomic weapons and urged Japan to join a U.N treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Matsui said: “I call on the government of the only country to experience a nuclear weapon in war to accede to the hibakushas’ (survivors of Hiroshima and anti-nuclear activists) request that the TPNW be signed and ratified,” here referring to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was passed in 2017 with the support of 122 other nations, but has not yet been ratified upon lacking the support of 50 required states. He continued: “Around the world today, we see self-centered nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill…I urge Japan’s leaders to manifest the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution by displaying leadership in taking the next step toward a world free from nuclear weapons”.
CND General Secretary, Kate Hudson, also spoke about the global campaign towards nuclear disarmament in reaction to Hiroshima Day, commenting specifically on the UK’s responsibility: “We mourn the loss of those who died as a result of these horrific attacks, and remember those whose lives have been blighted by their effects. On this poignant anniversary we must reaffirm our determination that this should never happen again. The British Government can play its part by scrapping Trident and kick starting global abolition”. The UK is too yet to sign the U.N treaty banning nuclear weapons, with Hudson referring to trident – the UK’s nuclear weapon system – in relation to this.
It’s vitally important to ensure the atrocities that happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not forgotten, with Hiroshima Day a vital chance for the global community to reflect on what happened and allow this to motivate us to ensure it never happens again. It’s vital that we stress nuclear weapons mean devastation unlike anything else in the history of warfare. The effects of the events in Hiroshima were described in a Guardian Report in 1945, with quotes taken from a Tokyo radio station: “The impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things – human and animal – were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure set up by the blast. All the dead and injured were burned beyond recognition. Those outdoors were burned to death, while those indoors were killed by the indescribable pressure and heat”. To add to the suffering, the radiation from the bombs caused cancer in thousands.
The power of the atomic bomb, and this demonstration of its destructive power continues to alter geopolitics to this day, with various countries still attempting to use or threaten the use of this technology. In order to ensure this never happens again, and prevent another detonation – by accident or intention – we must ultimately ensure that no nuclear weapons remain present in our world. We must motivate the international community in the campaign for nuclear disarmament by stressing the momentous and devastating human impact such heinous weapons can have. Hiroshima Day acts as both a mark of respect for those that lost their lives and an emotive call to urge the international community to prevent such events from ever happening again.
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