Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ellsberg's Hiroshima Remembrance

By Daniel Ellsberg
August 6, 2009

It was a hot August day in Detroit. I was standing on a street corner downtown, looking at the front page of The Detroit News in a news rack. I remember a streetcar rattling by on the tracks as I read the headline: A single American bomb had destroyed a Japanese city.

Read on.


George said...


I enjoyed your reminiscence of a 14 year old's perception of using the A bomb on Hiroshima. But I winced when I saw the comparison of your dad with President Truman...

As you likely know, Harry Truman was a bit of a racist and had a mercurial bent. His diary and letters show that he was no humanitarian. Truman was, IMO, a first class war criminal.

Glad to see you're well 65 years after Hiroshima.

George Collins

Michael said...

I will have to respectively both agree and disagree with Mr. Ellsberg's feeling in this matter. I am going to ignore the racist overtones of the bombing, they may have or may not have been a part of the decision.

I think it is important to recognize that based upon the research that was available in 1939, it was certain that the technology of atomic power, and ultimately a weapon based on that technology, would have been developed by any number of countries even after Germany capitulated. So the development of the atomic bomb was inevitable.

This leads to a point I think is most often overlooked which is that because of the devastation caused by the Atomic Bombs used against Japan and the world public exposure to the images of the human suffering and physical destruction, no such bomb has ever been used in the 64 years following it. In fact the knowledge of the effect of such a small yield weapon, magnified by even larger weapons such as the H Bombs has been a restraining leash on the hands of those with the ability to use them. I can think of no other weapon in history of humanity that has had such limited use in war, regardless of its brutality, none.

I can sympathize with Mr. Ellsberg and the scientists who developed the Atomic Bomb and their ambivalence over its use. His reaction, and his fathers, to the book about Hiroshima is shared by many. I think they can take some solace in the fact that because of that, the Atomic Bomb has never been used in anger again. Let us hope we can keep genie in the bottle.