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Hiroshima, Nagasaki mark 65th nuclear attack anniversaries

August 6, 2010 - JAPAN

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 Aug 1945, and a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki on Aug 9. Japan surrendered on 15 Aug, ending WWII. Political upheaval in Japan makes it difficult to predict whether the government will concentrate on the future and not on the attacks, thus resetting the tone in the 65-year-old debate about whether the nuclear attacks were a war crime or a defensive necessity. The shape of the debate could influence whether the United States is represented for the first time at the Hiroshima ceremony.

The city of Hiroshima has issued invitations to the peace ceremony to the world's nuclear powers every year since 1998. For a variety of political reasons, few have accepted. For some, staying away is a gesture of support for the United States which has always argued that the attacks were justified. There is speculation that the United States will be representated at the 65th anniversary ceremony to emphasize President Barak Obama's anti-nuclear pledge in Apr 2009. If the United States sends a representative, France and Britain, which have never attended, are likely to do the same. Typically, NGOs and activist groups assemble on the Hiroshima anniversary, and anti-nuclear protests are held in various capitals and at weapons facilities around the world. The best known are at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the United States and in Scotland at the site of Britain's nuclear submarines. The 65th anniversary ceremony can be expected to take the same or a similar form to the 60th anniversary event: At exactly 8.15 am local time, the moment of the blast, the city's trolleys stopped and some 55,000 people assembled at Peace Memorial Park observed a moment of silence that is broken only by the ringing of a bronze bell. Then, with offerings of water and flowers for the 140,000 dead from a blast that changed warfare. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, officials estimate that about 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within a few months after the Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload over the city, which then had a population of about 350,000. Three days later, another US bomber, Bock's Car, dropped a plutonium bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later. Including those initially listed as missing or who died afterward from a loosely defined set of bomb-related ailments, including cancers, Hiroshima officials now put the total number of the dead in this city alone at 242,437. American author John Hersey's chronicled the horrors of the attack in "Hiroshima" in a New Yorker article in 1946, which was quickly re-published as a book. It has never been out of print.

Atom bomb (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Australia, Japan in nuclear rift (The Age 4 Sep 2009)

Hiroshima, 64 years ago photos ( 5 Aug 2005)

Date written/update: 2010-08-06