Friday, August 05, 2005

Hiroshima Remembered?

Saturday, August 6th, marks the 60th anniversary of the United States dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

There is no question about the devastation that the bombing caused...but there are lingering questions about the devastation that the bomb may have prevented. Due to the anniversary, there is already (and will continue to be) a lot of media coverage of the bombing and the conttroversy surrounding it.

This morning, NPR carried an especially interesting Hiroshima story on Morning Edition. The piece - you can listen to here: How Is Hiroshima Remembered in America? - is not about the bombing itself, or the question related to was it right/was it wrong?

Instead, it is about the public response and opinion to the bombing of Hiroshima - and how that opinion has evolved over time. A fascinating study of what caused that evolution of people's thinking - from the day after the drop up to recent times. Some information gleaned:

In the period just after the bomb was dropped, public opinion was overwhelmingly positive and relieved. 85% supported the attack, and there was a general sense of relief that it ended the Pacific War.

But it didn't take long for the first notes of doubt. By the '50s there grew a feeling that we had created a Frankenstein in our midst, the public became somewhat more doubting and questioning what we had done. This discomfort arguably resulted from a growing recognition that the entire species was faced with anihilation due to the proliferation of atomic and eventually nuclear weaponry. For the first time during the 1950s, the bombing was renounced on both political sides as well as by some military leaders.

Polls during the 1960s showed that African- and Asian-Americans tended to oppose the strikes more than whites; and women were more uneasy with it than men. Older folks, who had more instant memories of the War, and living through the War, were still strongly supportive, but those under 30 were much more critical and uneasy with the results of the bombing. As this younger generation - the baby boom - became the leaders ... critically including the historians ... they discovered more evidence related to the strikes and increasingly became more critical.

Another factor, which is not directly addressed by the NPR piece, is that over the past 40 years, those minorities of the 60s (African- and Asian-Americans and women) who tended to poll in less support of the bombings, were able to take on a much larger role in the leadership of America. I found it interesting to think about Hiroshima in this different perspective - how the changes in our culture, and frankly the passing of the World War II generation, have contributed to the changing opinions of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Here is more NPR coverage of Remembering Hiroshima.

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