Nagasaki Commemoration, History and Hope, by Jay Kvale

Given on August 8, 2011 at Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota in commemoration of Nagasaki Day

             As we all know, a single B-29 appeared over Hiroshima, Japan on the morning ofAugust 6, 1945 and dropped the first atomic bomb, which obliterated most of the city, killing about 60,000 people in the immediate blast and about 90,000 more from radiation in subsequent  months and years.

            But there was also a second atomic  bomb available for use on the island of Tinian.  There was little doubt it would also be used since, as President Truman explained, when you are trying to win a war and you have a better weapon, you use it.  The second bomb was originally scheduled for August 11 against the city of Kokura.

            Some American leaders hoped to receive a surrender message from Japan before that date but several unfortunate events intervened.  It took more than a day for Tokyo to realize the Hiroshima bomb was a new event instead of the usual B-29 raid.  Then fanatics blocked surrender initiatives.  Then the mission was moved up two days to beat a week-long bad weather front that was moving in more rapidly than expected. 

            When pilot Charles Sweeney arrived at Kokura, the city was covered with clouds and haze.  Radar was considered unreliable so Kokura, which had been a secondary target for the Hiroshima mission, escaped the bomb a second time.

            The plane headed for Nagasaki, one of the few Japanese cities that hadn’t been bombed since it was far to the west.  Arriving at 11 a.m., the crew saw that Nagasaki was also covered by clouds, but they were determined to drop the bomb, so they prepared their radar equipment.  But the bombardier suddenly saw an opening and decided to drop the bomb visually.

            This bomb was even more powerful than the first, but it missed the aiming point by two miles and exploded over a valley between two high hills at the edge of the city.  A tremendous blast was funnelled down into the center of the city, killing about 20,000 people, but large areas to the east and west were shielded by the hillsides.  But there was no shield against the deadly radiation so more than 100,000  people died from radiation in subsequent  months and years.

            With a huge Russian army ready to invade from the north, Japanese leaders knew it was time to surrender.   The Emperor broadcast the surrender message to the world on August 15.

            The Nagasaki bombing was the last use of nuclear weapons in wartime, although the world has had several close calls since, most notably the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.  The end of the Cold War has reduced the threat of nuclear holocaust, but we should never become complacent about nuclear weapons.  Just three or four events, especially in the volatile Middle East, could once again bring us to the brink.

            There are currently nine nations with nuclear weapons . . . the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.  Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan has distributed nuclear material to several more and there is a remote possibility a terrorist outfit likeal Qaeda could obtain a nuclear weapon.

            Yet there has been encouraging progress in recent years in the drive to eliminate nuclear weapons.  From a high of almost 70.000 thirty years ago, the total number in the world now is about 20, 500 . . . a 70 percent decrease. 

            Senators Dick Lugar and Sam Nunn did outstanding work in dismantling 7,000 nukes in the former Soviet Union and Obama and Medvedev agreed to get rid of 1,200 more with the signing of the new START treaty.

            Here are some of the key steps needed for further disarmament:

♦   we should prevent any more nations from acquiring nukes by enforcing the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

♦   we should complete ratification of the the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has been signed but not ratified by the U.S.  This treaty completes the work of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, one of John Kennedy’s greatest achievements.

♦   we should establish a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East.  This is a daunting challenge that will take many years but the work has begun.  See the Ploughshares Fund website for updates.

♦   we should ban weapons in space.  Check the website Global Network Against Weapons in Space for updates on this  issue.

♦   we should promote bilateral  reductions of nuclear missiles and nuclear-armed submarines by the U.S. and Russia.  Since these two countries have almost of 95 percent of the world’s nukes, they must take the lead in the disarmament process.

            We also need to change our way of thinking.  The old Us vs. Them, Mutually Assured Destruction, and Enemy Nations paradigms need to be broken down and replaced by a new paradigm of Universal Human Security.  Remember that phrase . . . Universal Human Security.  Students should continually be encouraged to participate in exchange programs to learn about our common humanity and desire to live in peace.   Since St. Paul and Nagasaki are sister cities, residents are encouraged to follow the lead of the mayors in exchanging visits and forming bonds of friendship.

            To our visitors from Nagasaki I say . . . you are not Them . . . you are one with Us.   And all of Us should oppose the real enemy — nuclear weapons.

            Eliminating nuclear weapons will be a difficult ,challenge that may take decades with many setbacks along the way.  We will need visionary, courageous political leadership.  We will need expert scientists, engineers, and inspectors.  But most of all, we will need an upwelling of public support for the disarmament process.

           Consider the children who play in this beautiful park . . . or in similar parks in Nagasaki, TelAviv, Tehran, or New York.  Do they think of Enemy Nations or Foreign Threats?  No. they just want to play in the sunshine, safe and free.

            As the proverb says, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Let’s take a few of these steps toward a world free of these terrible weapons, a world safe for the children.

 Hiroshima and Nagasaki. . . NEVER AGAIN!

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