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!
Vietnam War and Yemen False Flags
The missile attack on a US ship off the coast of Yemen was a major news event, but the subsequent follow up story, that it may never have happened, was either ignored by mainstream media or intentionally covered up. The whole thing has the same odor as the Gulf of Tonkin incident that never occurred. Does history repeat itself?  Sure does seem like it. That is if you compare America’s entry into the Vietnam civil war, with America’s latest entry into the war in Yemen. Don’t be mistaken, we have been at war with Yemen for a year now. America sided with ...
READ MORE
Ms. Clinton, Stop Russian ‘Bear Hunting’!
It is now September 2016, just two months before the Presidential elections, and both political camps have already managed to disgust a great number of the US voters, by offering almost no comprehensive political or economic program, by offering… close to nothing! While Donald Trump is lashing out at the ‘enemy within’, during his dark moments that are increasingly resembling an advanced stage of delirium tremens (complete with a mad chase after white mice and promises to cleanse society from some imaginary and filthy rapists and social benefits guzzlers, that are constantly pouring from the south), Ms. Clinton is saddling her ...
READ MORE
What is a Politics?
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 Vietnam War is not History for Victims of Agent Orange
Watching the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick 18-hour series, “The Vietnam War,” is an emotional experience. Whether you served in the US military during the war or marched in the streets to end it, you cannot remain untouched by this documentary. The battle scenes are powerful, the stories of US veterans and Vietnamese soldiers who fought on both sides of the war compelling. The toll in human terms caused by the war is staggering.  Nearly 58,000 Americans and 2 to 3 million Vietnamese, many of them civilians, were killed in the war. Untold numbers were wounded. Many US veterans of the war suffer ...
READ MORE
Stepan Bandera: The Legacy of Self-Loathing Nazi’s in America
Stepan Bandera’s 106th birthday celebration passed on New Year’s day 2015 and the question of what it means in Ukraine is front and center again. Are there really nazis in Ukraine today? When the Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseni Yatsenyuk can say on German News “We cannot allow Russia to attack Ukraine and Germany again like the Soviet Union did in 1941” – Isn’t that case closed regarding ideology? Yet history and the facts are clear that the Bandera legacy has little to do with Ukrainian history except mass murder. Instead history shows the mass murderer and torturer Bandera’s greatest impact on the ...
READ MORE
Libya: Ten Things about Gaddafi They don’t want You to Know
What do you think of when you hear the name Colonel Gaddafi? Tyrant? Dictator? Terrorist? Well, a national citizen of Libya may disagree but we want you to decide. For 41 years until his demise in October 2011, Muammar Gaddafi did some truly amazing things for his country and repeatedly tried to unite and empower the whole of Africa. So despite what you’ve heard on the radio, seen in the media or on the TV, Gaddafi did some powerful things that are not characteristic of a “vicious dictator” as portrayed by the western media. Here are ten things Gaddafi did for Libya that you may not know about… 1. In Libya a home is ...
READ MORE
Cold War, Today, Tomorrow, Every Day till the End of the World
“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.” That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew? But of course, that’s the way Commies are – Oh wait, I forgot, they’re no longer Commies. So what are they? Ah yes, they still have that awful old hangup so worthy ...
READ MORE
Crimea: Was it Seized by Russia, or did Russia Block its Seizure by the U.S.?
Both before and after Crimea left Ukraine and joined Russia in a public referendum on 16 March 2014, the Gallup Organization polled Crimeans on behalf of the U.S. Government, and found them to be extremely pro-Russian and anti-American, and also anti-Ukrainian. (Neither poll was subsequently publicized, because the results of each were the opposite of what the sponsor had wished.) Both polls were done on behalf of the U.S. Government, in order to find Crimeans’ attitudes toward the United States and toward Russia, and also toward Ukraine, not only before but also after the planned U.S. coup in Ukraine, which occurred ...
READ MORE
Past All Reason: The Vietnam War
Well-intentioned and artfully executed, The Vietnam War—Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10-part, 18-hour-long documentary series on PBS—is not history, but rather story-telling and remembrance. Balanced, exhaustive, and relentlessly solemn, it glides along the surface of things, even when that surface is crowded with arrogance, miscalculation, deceit, and bloodletting on an epic scale. According to one promotional trailer prepared for the series, “In war there is no single truth.” Embedded within every war (as in other forms of human endeavor) are multiple truths—some of them trivial, others very important indeed. The purpose of history is to unearth and engage with those truths ...
READ MORE
100 Years Ago US Troops Attacked Russia’s Pacific Coast and Committed Atrocities
Four men, accused of being partisans, are alleged to have been buried alive. The wife of a partisan is said to have been “pierced by bayonets and drowned in a garbage pit” [искололи тело штыками и утопили в помойной яме]. The author (who is unnamed) states that his own elderly father was taken as a hostage by Allied forces from the town of Kharitonovka [Харитоновка]. He was returned home alive but in a bloodied condition. He is said to have died a few days later, after asking “Why did they torture me…”? [За что меня замучили]. The man is said to ...
READ MORE
Airstrikes Without Justice
To describe the US attack on Syria as a serious development is to be guilty of understatement. Without any recourse to international law or the United Nations, the Trump administration has embarked on an act of international aggression against yet another sovereign state in the Middle East, confirming that neocons have reasserted their dominance over US foreign policy in Washington. It is an act of aggression that ends any prospect of détente between Washington and Moscow in the foreseeable future, considerably increasing tensions between Russia and the US not only in the Middle East but also in Eastern Europe, where NATO ...
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
Political Succession and “The Bush-Clinton Nexus”: Permanent Criminal State
At a spring 2016 Republican debate attended by the Bushes, George H.W. “Poppy” Bush, looked directly at Donald Trump and gave him the “throat slit” gesture.   The Bushes want the Clintons back in the White House.  “Poppy” trusted them with Arkansas in the 1980s, and with the White House in the 1990s, and he can trust them with the marching orders again.  A Hillary Clinton presidency guarantees that all the things that the New World Order wants done will continue to get done. The Clintons and Bushes have been criminal partners for more than 30 years.  They and their colleagues have ...
READ MORE
Donald Trump and the Jewish Question
As news of appointments to the Trump administration flow in, the hard Right is riding high, and anti-Semitism and Zionism are in the news in ways that purveyors of conventional wisdom have to struggle to make sense of.  The Trump phenomenon has undone conventional understandings of both. Trump’s thirty-something son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, embodies a lot of what has put those conventional understandings in doubt. A (modern) orthodox Jew and rabid Zionist, Kushner is not exactly éminence grise material; his is too young and insubstantial to be what Dick Cheney was for George Bush.  Nevertheless, he does seem to be stepping ...
READ MORE
NATO-CIA-Pentagon: Junction of the Real Druglords & Warlords
Are you aware of the heroin epidemic that has been on fire all across America- since 2001? Thanks to the government-corporate media outlets you probably are not. Between 2002 and 2013, heroin-related overdose deaths in the US quadrupled, with more than 10,000 people dying of heroin overdoses in America in 2014 alone. Afghanistan has been the number one source globally of both opium and heroin: Heroin from Afghanistan has killed more people than the 55,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War. An American now gets killed every 32 minutes by Afghan heroin. With US heroin deaths tripling every four years, an American ...
READ MORE
Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria
Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, a little more than a year ago, in July 2014 were the focus of attention in Europe and North America, accused, without a shred of forensic evidence, of shooting down an unarmed civilian Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. The Russians were deemed out to restore the Soviet Union with their agreement to the popular referendum of Crimean citizens to annex into the Russian Federation and not Ukraine. Western sanctions were being thrown at Russia by both Washington and the EU. People spoke of a new Cold War. Today the picture is changing, and profoundly. ...
READ MORE
Authentic Video on the U.S. Democratization of Afghanistan
The US marines in the mission of democratization of the Afghan Talibans. An authentic video clip. No comment, except: Can you imagine reaction by the CNN in the case of the Russian marines are doing the same in Syria with the fighters of the ISIL? Enjoy 38 sec. of the documentary clip on democratization of Afghanistan. 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
Ukraine Atrocities: The Illegal Use of White Phosphorous Fire Bombs Against Donetsk Civilians
A report on August 15th from Russian Television alleged that the Ukrainian government that the U.S. installed in February of this year was resorting to internationally banned white phosphorous firebombs in order to help destroy the million people who lived in the now Ukrainian separatist capital of Donetsk. It lands super-hot and starts fires and burns to death almost anyone it touches. The Ukrainian separatists are the residents in Ukraine’s southeast, where Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President, was elected overwhelmingly by the votes of the people in this region in 2010. They reject the government that Obama installed, and are therefore seeking independence from it. ...
READ MORE
Are You Confused by the Middle East?
The US, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the Gulf monarchies have all in the recent past supported al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State (ISIS) with arms, money, and/or manpower. The first example of this was in 1979 when the United States began covert operations in Afghanistan, six months before the Russians arrived, promoting Islamic fundamentalism across the southern tier of the Soviet Union against “godless communism”. All the al-Qaeda/Taliban shit then followed. In addition to Afghanistan, the United States has provided support to Islamic militants in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, the Caucasus, and Syria. The United States overthrew the ...
READ MORE
Donald Trumpenstein: Self-Proclaimed “Cop of the World”
History has repeatedly demonstrated the need to view with the greatest skepticism U.S. imperialism’s justifications for its endless wars and interventions. Need we mention the 1964 U.S.-manufactured Tonkin Bay incident, wherein a virtually non-existent Vietnamese navy was accused of attacking a U.S. destroyer? That false flag pretext was employed to launch the Vietnam War, during which four million Vietnamese were slaughtered in a 10-year U.S. conflagration verging on genocide. Or the more recent Iraq “weapons of mass destruction” lie that resulted in the U.S. murder of 1.5 million Iraqis? Even if the latest sarin gas accusations against Syrian President Bashar Assad should ...
READ MORE
Vietnam War and Yemen False Flags
Ms. Clinton, Stop Russian ‘Bear Hunting’!
What is a Politics?
The Vietnam War is not History for Victims of Agent Orange
Stepan Bandera: The Legacy of Self-Loathing Nazi’s in America
Libya: Ten Things about Gaddafi They don’t want You to Know
Cold War, Today, Tomorrow, Every Day till the End of the World
Crimea: Was it Seized by Russia, or did Russia Block its Seizure by the U.S.?
Past All Reason: The Vietnam War
100 Years Ago US Troops Attacked Russia’s Pacific Coast and Committed Atrocities
Airstrikes Without Justice
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
Political Succession and “The Bush-Clinton Nexus”: Permanent Criminal State
Donald Trump and the Jewish Question
NATO-CIA-Pentagon: Junction of the Real Druglords & Warlords
Putin is Defeating More than ISIS in Syria
Authentic Video on the U.S. Democratization of Afghanistan
Ukraine Atrocities: The Illegal Use of White Phosphorous Fire Bombs Against Donetsk Civilians
Are You Confused by the Middle East?
Donald Trumpenstein: Self-Proclaimed “Cop of the World”

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