To Hell and Back: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and American Nuclear Denial

“To Hell and Back” is a phrase that can bear a pretty heavy metaphorical load when it comes to talking about the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It’s also the title of a book by Charles Pellegrino.

Pellegrino’s book is a moving and grueling close-up look at the horrors experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki both on the day of the bombing and in the days and years afterward. I have the heart of a dried-up raisin but even I got a little teary in places.

There are few opportunities for inspiring “triumph of the human spirit” narratives amid the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings were titanic, apocalyptic events that mock human scale and comprehension. Pellegrino depicts dazed “ant-trails” of survivors threading through the instantaneously blasted landscapes and past heaps of the dead, dying, and horrifically maimed in the shadow of an eight-mile high radioactive cloud. Fate and the desperate efforts of the rescuers saved some, but many lives literally disintegrated in seconds, minutes, days, and years after the bombs were dropped.

Near the hypocenter, the experience of death was overwhelming and random in a dehumanizing way. For some, it came down to the decision to wear a white shirt or a dark shirt. The white shirt might reflect the intense, instantaneous radiation of the blast with remarkable efficacy; a black shirt absorbed the radiation and incinerated the wearer. For others it was their location at the time of the blast, even near the hypocenter.

The bottom line for many survivors is that their families, their communities, their city, most of the world they knew, their health, their spiritual equilibrium, even their social status had been annihilated in an event of overwhelming horror. The survivors experienced physical and mental trauma; ostracization; guilt; shame; and lingering illness.

Nevertheless, Pellegrino documents instances of courage, compassion, and ingenuity and people sustaining their humanity through acts of love and sacrifice.

An inspiration for the title of the book is the “double” hibakusha, people who experienced and survived both the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One survivor of Hiroshima goes back home to Nagasaki and tells his co-workers of the awful weapon he had experienced; he warns them if they see a blinding flash—the pika—they must use it as a signal they have a few seconds to seek shelter before the don—the crash, the massive shock wave created by the bomb, arrives.

And so “duck and cover” was born.

A document of human horror, To Hell and Back is also a memorial to the survivors and their struggle to restore sanity and meaning to their lives with little outside help. And it also sounds like a backhanded reference to Pellegrino’s own travails at the hands of the nuclear denialists.

His book was originally published in 2010 as The Last Train to Hiroshima. But the book—and Pellegrino himself– became a piñata for indignant veterans, nuclear denialists, and atomic bomb fanboys.

The substantive problem with Last Train was that an informant who claimed to have been part of the squadron of planes escorting the Enola Gay and provided several pages of gripping detail had made up his story.

Pellegrino acknowledged the error and retracted, but it became clear that the intention of his opponents was not to correct errors; it was discredit Pellegrino, the book, and the idea that the sufferings of the victims should be remembered when considering the bomb and its legacy.

The attacks on the book went beyond scientific nitpicking along the lines of “could a human really be vaporized by an atomic bomb?” and snowballed into attacks on Pellegrino, his credentials, and his integrity. The New York Times provided a platform for the anti-Pellegrino crowd, helping stampede the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, into withdrawing Last Train to Hiroshima.

The battle continued on various message boards; Pellegrino held his own, especially after it transpired that the New York Times and other media outlets, while pursuing their ambitions to serve as journalistic gatekeepers and bring a literary malefactor to justice, had themselves been gulled by a series of malicious forgeries supplied by Pellegrino’s enemies.

The attack on Last Train appears to have been very much of a piece, both in themes and protagonists, with longstanding U.S. government and military veteran groups’ efforts to suppress the more disturbing issues and viewpoints surrounding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On the scientific side, the US government had a vested interest in suppressing the details of pervasive and persistent radiation effects that undercut the usability of nuclear weapons and threatened to deliver a gigantic bill for human and environmental remediation.

Here’s one of the first important U.S. military documentaries on Hiroshima/Nagasaki, A Tale of Two Cities from 1946. There’s a lot of image management going on; for instance, the Nagasaki bombardier missed the designated bull’s eye by 3 miles, which is spun as a judicious decision to drop the nuke right between two major targets to get both!

A Tale of Two Cities, 1946

What’s very interesting is the very early interest in poo-pooing radiation effects. Physicists suspected from the outset that radioactive contamination from a nuclear blast was a pervasive, unmanageable problem; the Pentagon has always been, in a rather unscientific and immoral way, committed to advertising the fiction that contamination issues are manageable and the health impacts minimal.

The movie pushes the “clean blast” story (bomb detonated above ground to minimize fallout, which is I think a bit of a stretch; some scientists decided a ground detonation would soak up too much of the shock wave to yield a psychologically satisfying degree of devastation & proposed an airburst instead); presents the statement of a Jesuit priest that he worked in Hiroshima with no ill effects after the attack; and offers the reassuring observation that that it was back to business as usual on the roads of Nagasaki after the massive radiation release: “people using them without ill effects shortly after the explosion”.

Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US military has been kept busy in its crusade to assert the sanitary and housebroken character of nuclear events. In 1954 it faced a particular challenge when eggheads miscalculated the yield of the Castle Bravo shot, a sizable chunk of Bikini Atoll was vaporized into radioactive dust, the Lucky Dragon No. 5 got contaminated, and Godzilla was born (no lie; read it here).

The Hiroshima Bomb at Bikini 1954: Deadly Miscalculation at Castle Bravo

Managing and covering up the consequences of atmospheric nuclear releases is also very much a contemporary problem for the US, as I’ve discussed in my CounterPunch piece on the U.S. apparent coverup of the radiation problems of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was contaminated offshore of Fukushima during post-earthquake/tsunami rescue operations.

My piece picks apart the peacetime radiation effects issue in history, from one of the most significant fallout events in U.S. history—in Albany, New York—and the Chernobyl disaster, in addition to Fukushima, to describe the U.S. government “long war” on unfavorable radiation effects science and its concerted effort to minimize the accounting of radiation casualties to the absolute, irrefutable bare minumum.

The Reagan has never been completely decontaminated, several hundred members of the crew and other U.S. military personnel are suing for compensation for medical issues, and the Reagan has been sitting in the naval base at Yokosuka for a suspiciously long time for an aircraft carrier that’s supposed to be pivoting all over the western Pacific at this crucial juncture (the USS John Stennis out of San Diego & aircraft carriers transiting from the Middle East are picking up the d*ck-swinging slack).

But Hiroshima/Nagasaki denialists are only peripherally interested in issues of radiation effects. They want to suppress or minimize all accounts of human suffering in order to pre-empt discussions of the morality of U.S. tactics in the ultimate “good war”.

Like the coverup of radiation effects, feel-good denialism has been a factor in attitudes toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the start.

Douglas MacArthur believed that the A-bomb got too much credit, especially since it threatened to dilute the glory of Douglas MacArthur’s victory in the Pacific, and his team devoted a significant effort to poor-mouthing the strategic significance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as dismissing the magnitude of human suffering it caused. In the words of MacArthur’s point man for spinning the public health effects of the attacks, Crawford Sams, the A-bomb was “a poor killer”.

Milestones in U.S. denialism include MacArthur’s imposition of censorship on reporting from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the suppression of gruesome footage of the medical consequences of the bombings, recorded shortly after the surrender both by a Japanese newsreel company and the U.S. Army’s own lavishly-funded Technicolor documentary unit.

As chronicled by Greg Mitchell, the footage has emerged fitfully and incompletely.

Erik Barnouw of Columbia University edited the two hours and forty five minutes of the Japanese footage into a 15 minute piece shown on US television in 1969.

Some of the U.S. Army footage, known as the McGovern footage after the unit director, found its way onto the Internet.

Be warned before clicking: these two videos, especially the McGovern footage, are essentially medical atrocity videos.

But also, if you can sit through the videos, you notice that to the amateur observer much of the movie documents horrific burn trauma that, aside from footage of people whose eyes got melted by the flash, doesn’t look demonstrably and exclusively like radiation effects.

It just looks awful and inhumane. And that’s probably why the films were suppressed.

The bombings were assaults on soft, primarily civilian targets with minor military value. Per the recommendation of the Manhattan Project Targeting Committee, the US Army Air Force refrained from attacking Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and two other sites so the power of the atomic weapon could be demonstrated on relatively undamaged cities in order to terrify and demoralize the Japanese people and government to the maximum.

In fact, the bombings come uncomfortably close to acts of international terrorism as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331 of the U.S. Code: “Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”

Key punctuation points in the war against humanitarian and pacifist attempts to detail the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the campaigns against plans for a historically accurate setting for the Enola Gay exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute in 1994 and 2003. The result was replacing the nuanced exhibit with a single presentation of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the Hiroshima bomb.

Many of the same protagonists emerged with the same themes to savage Pellegrino in 2010.

One of the interesting and melancholy developments is that the denialist campaign to minimize the human consequences of the atomic bombings seems to be losing some of its heat in 2016. Not necessarily because understanding, reflection, and compassion (in Japanese omoiyari, a concept embraced by some hibakusha that Pellegrino celebrates in his book) are finally prevailing; it’s because the World War II generation is dying and it’s easier to ignore a bygone horror when the living, human legacy of injury and suffering is no longer before our eyes.

The good news is that Pellegrino’s book is back, new and improved, expanded, documented, fact-checked, and footnoted and published by Rowman & Littlefield thanks to the efforts of Mark Selden of Cornell. You can do the publisher a favor by buying the book direct from the R&L website. And for the most complete and authoritative reporting on nuclear/radiation issues in Japan, bookmark the Asia-Pacific Journal/Japan Focus e-journal.

This is a revised and expanded version of an article that appeared in Asia Times and CounterPunch.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US global policy. He is the moving force behind the Asian affairs website China Matters which provides continuing critical updates on China and Asia-Pacific policies. His work frequently appears at Asia Times.


Originally published on 2016-06-01

Author: Peter Lee

Source: APJJF.org

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

 

3949898611_8a768a7fb1_b_Nuclear-bomb

Save 

READ MORE!
Edward S. Herman: The Srebrenica Massacre was a Gigantic Political Fraud
Eleven Years ago: 11 July 1995, The Srebrenica Massacre First published by GR in February 2013. Renowned author Dr. Edward Herman spoke with John Robles of the Voice of Russia regarding the facts surrounding the Srebrenica Massacre, the pretext for the “humanitarian” invasion of the former Yugoslavia, and takes apart the “official” ; version that has always been promoted by the West. Dr. Herman reveals that there were in fact multiple massacres at Srebrenica, and that the killing of Bosnian-Muslim soldiers at Srebrenica (the West’s pretext) was in response to the killing of over 2,000 Serb civilians, mostly women and children, at ...
READ MORE
What About Apologizing to Ukraine, Mrs. Nuland?
Yesterday’s leak of the flagrant telephone talk between the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt has already hit the international media headlines. In short, it turned out that the US officials were coordinating their actions on how to install a puppet government in Ukraine. In this flagrant telephone talk between the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt agreed to nominate Bat’kyvshchina Party leader Arseniy Yatseniuk as Deputy Prime Minister, to bench Udar Party leader Vitaly Klitschko off the game for a ...
READ MORE
Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
Germany Preparing for War Against Russia?
According to a report issued on June 6th in German Economic News (Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, or DWN), the German government is preparing to go to war against Russia, and has in draft-form a Bundeswehr report declaring Russia to be an enemy nation. DWN says: “The Russian secret services have apparently thoroughly studied the paper. In advance of the paper’s publication, a harsh note of protest has been sent to Berlin: The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, Alexei Puschkow, has posted the Twitter message: ‘The decision of the German government declaring Russia to be an ...
READ MORE
Iraq Invasion – Anniversary of the Biggest Terrorist Attack in Modern History
Since terrorism’s tragedy is again in the news, it is timely to revisit perhaps one of the biggest acts of terrorism in modern history – the illegal invasion and destruction – ongoing – of Iraq. March 20th marked the thirteenth anniversary of an action resulting in the equivalent of a Paris, Brussels, London 7th July 2005, often multiple times daily in Iraq ever since. As for 11th September 2001, there has frequently been that death toll and heart break every several weeks, also ongoing. America and Britain have arguably engaged in and generated the legacy of one of the longest recorded attacks ...
READ MORE
Killary Clinton
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
Early in 1989, China was stirring. A decade of groundbreaking reforms inspired by Deng Xiaoping had brought the moribund economy to life and freed the nation from the ideological shackles imposed by radical Maoists during the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution. Almost everything seemed possible, as Deng proteges Hu Yaobang and then Zhao Ziyang led policymaking on a day-to-day basis. But the changes sweeping China had its dark undersides. Large-scale economic reforms also meant expanded corruption opportunities, which many officials exploited. And Chinese who “got rich first,” under the Dengist dispensation, opened a rapidly expanding wealth gap with fellow citizens. Discontent simmered dangerously. The ...
READ MORE
** FILE ** President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday, May 1, 2007 sent Iraq legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals to President George W. Bush and a certain veto.  On the fourth anniversary of the president's "Mission Accomplished" speech, Senate Majority Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Bush "has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. A change of course is needed."  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.  
READ MORE
The US and China Can Avoid a Collision Course – If the US Gives Up its Empire
The problem is America’s global hegemony comes with insistence on maintaining military and economic dominance right in China’s backyard. To avoid a violent militaristic clash with China, or another cold war rivalry, the United States should pursue a simple solution: give up its empire. Americans fear that China’s rapid economic growth will slowly translate into a more expansive and assertive foreign policy that will inevitably result in a war with the US. Harvard Professor Graham Allison has found: “in 12 of 16 cases in the past 500 years when a rising power challenged a ruling power, the outcome was war.” Chicago University scholar John ...
READ MORE
Trump Bombs Syria and Obliterates His Anti-Interventionist Promises
On the evening of April 6 the U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria. The bombing was a “response” to the alleged chemical weapons attack by the Assad government, which critics of the American deep state and the US imperial agenda have called a false flag attack. The U.S. assault, which was done without congressional approval, marks a complete reversal of Trump’s campaign trail anti-interventionist claims as well as his condemnation of previous US presidents’—Bush and Obama’s –military actions in countries like Syria and Iraq. As Think Progress reports, this action marks a “dramatic reversal from Trump’s position ...
READ MORE
Totalitarian Rule in America
Every day signs are looming larger than life as we know it in the wealthiest nation on earth that it’s about to crash and burn, forever changing not for the better. The latest wake-up call arrived in a Guardian article earlier this week. The story features a secret prison not unlike the CIA torture detention centers all over the world whereby the Chicago police hold rounded up US citizens for hours or days at a time for interrogation. The same internationally illegal roundups of suspected “potential terrorists” (which by latest Gestapo America standards can easily be you or me) that the CIA ...
READ MORE
International Injustice: The Conviction of Radovan Karadzic
Last Thursday, news reports were largely devoted to the March 22 Brussels terror bombings and the US primary campaigns. And so little attention was paid to the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for (former) Yugoslavia (ICTY) finding Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of every crime it could come up with, including “genocide”.  It was a “ho-hum” bit of news.  Karadzic had already been convicted by the media of every possible crime, and nobody ever imagined that he would be declared innocent by the single-issue court set up in The Hague essentially to judge the Serb side in the ...
READ MORE
U.S. Airstrikes are Wiping Out Entire Families in Yemen and Syria
The United States is killing entire families in Raqqa, Syria, and enabling Saudi Arabia to do the same in Yemen. In June of this year, the U.S. led a campaign to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS fighters while the Russian and Syrian militaries were also attempting to do the same thing. In the first week of fighting, U.N. war crimes investigators warned that the U.S. had already killed 300 civilians from air strikes alone in that seven day period. Rather than heed that warning, the U.S. has continued the same strategy of pounding Raqqa into the ground despite the likelihood of civilian casualties. Pentagon ...
READ MORE
French Documentary Exposes Ukraine’s Far-Right: “Ukraine – The Masks of the Revolution”
The activities of aggressive nationalist and neo-Nazi armed movements in present-day Ukraine are the focal point of Moreira’s documentary.  Their existence is not denied by any of his leading critics in France — even as they try to find excuses to justify their actions. On Wednesday, 3 February, as I was about to start assembling this article on the very important documentary about the Maidan broadcast by the French independent television channel Canal + on Monday evening, 1 February, I was headed off by breaking news on Russia Insider, carrying links to the first half of the documentary in English voice-over ...
READ MORE
Stalin Deported Crimean Tatars to Protect Them from Punishment for Nazi War Crimes
On Saturday, May 14, in Stockholm’s Globe Arena an event called the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest final will take place. According to the Eurovision Official Rules 2016 posted on eurovision.tv: 1.2) Criteria of eligibility 1.2.1) Songs “The lyrics and/or performance of the songs shall not bring the Shows, the ESC as such or the EBU into disrepute. No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted during the ESC. No swearing or other unacceptable language shall be allowed in the lyrics or in the performances of the songs. No messages promoting any organization, institution, political cause or other, company, brand, ...
READ MORE
Memorial Day Ignores Millions of US Imperial Victims
The day commemorates lost lives of US servicemen and women sent to war for the wrong reasons – from the 18th century to today, notably America’s so-called War of Independence, its Civil War, WW I and II and all subsequent wars of choice. America’s only enemies in the past 70 years and throughout at least most of its history were and remain ones it invents. It could have been a model peaceful nation had it chosen a different path. Instead, its history reflects unbridled militarism, endless wars of choice, related violence and chaos, contempt for rule of law principles, along with unparalleled ...
READ MORE
The Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty
Fifty-one years ago today Israeli fighter aircraft and torpedo boats tried to sink the USS Liberty, a surveillance ship stationed off the coast of Egypt during Israel’s attack on Egypt and Syria. Israel was unable to sink the USS Liberty, but did manage to kill or wound almost the entire crew. Thirty-four Americans were killed and 174 were wounded. There are two explanations for the attack. As Washington has blocked every attempt at an investigation, we do not know which one is correct. Perhaps both are the reasons for the attack. One is that Israel, which was committing a war crime by ...
READ MORE
Croatian President Lauds Ustasha Nazis as the «Fourth Reich Lite» Rears its Ugly Head in Europe
Croatia’s president, the former deputy NATO secretary general for public diplomacy Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, decided to pay homage to Nazis of the Ustasha Nazi puppet regime of Croatia shot by Yugoslav partisans at the end of World War II. Grabar-Kitarovic’s tone deafness in choosing Victory in Europe week to honor dead Nazis shocked the Balkans and the rest of Europe. The Ustasha, along with their Slovenian and Serb loyalists to the Nazi puppet regime, were killed by the partisans under the command of anti-fascist guerrilla leader Josip Broz Tito. Most of the Ustasha were killed in the Austrian town of Bleiburg, as ...
READ MORE
Kosovo History – Fourth Part
The Serbs stepped again onto the historical scene in the years of the European wars that swept the continent from the forests of Ireland to the walls of Constantinople in the late 17th century. The Turks finally withdrew from Hungary and Transylvania when their Ottoman hordes were routed outside Vienna in 1683. The disintegration of Ottoman rule in the southwest limbered up the Serbs, arousing in them hope that the moment was ripe for joint effort to break Turkish dominion in the Balkans. The neighboring Christian powers (Austria and Venice) were the only possible allies. The arrival of the Austrian ...
READ MORE
Europe’s Forgotten ‘Hitler’ Killed over 10 Million Africans
Most people have no idea of who is pictured above, but you should. The sight of this man should cause a similar revulsion to that of seeing Mussolini, Mao, Stalin or Hitler, as he committed an African genocide that resulted in the killing of over 10 million people in the Congo. His name is King Leopold II of Belgium. Most of the people never learned about him in school, and have also most likely never heard about him in the media either. This is because he’s not included in the popular narrative of oppression (which includes things like U.S. slavery and the ...
READ MORE
Edward S. Herman: The Srebrenica Massacre was a Gigantic Political Fraud
What About Apologizing to Ukraine, Mrs. Nuland?
Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia
Germany Preparing for War Against Russia?
Iraq Invasion – Anniversary of the Biggest Terrorist Attack in Modern History
Killary Clinton
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
9/11: The Questions
The US and China Can Avoid a Collision Course – If the US Gives Up its Empire
Trump Bombs Syria and Obliterates His Anti-Interventionist Promises
Totalitarian Rule in America
International Injustice: The Conviction of Radovan Karadzic
U.S. Airstrikes are Wiping Out Entire Families in Yemen and Syria
French Documentary Exposes Ukraine’s Far-Right: “Ukraine – The Masks of the Revolution”
Stalin Deported Crimean Tatars to Protect Them from Punishment for Nazi War Crimes
Memorial Day Ignores Millions of US Imperial Victims
The Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty
Croatian President Lauds Ustasha Nazis as the «Fourth Reich Lite» Rears its Ugly Head in Europe
Kosovo History – Fourth Part
Europe’s Forgotten ‘Hitler’ Killed over 10 Million Africans

Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu