Little Boy and the Fat Man
By Hannah Kim
On Aug. 8, 2010, thousands of Japanese children gathered at the Nagasaki Peace Park and lit nearly 5,000 handmade candles at 7p.m., to pray for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Reportedly, many wrote, ``Let's bring peace to Earth” on their candles, and hoped that ``people in the world will remember that the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.''
Two days earlier, at the site of mankind’s first atomic bombing in Hiroshima, the singing of schoolchildren and the ringing of bells fell silent at 8:15 a.m., in observance of the time the bomb had dropped on August 6, 1945 ― when the earth stood still, and a bright white light seared the sky as the mushroom cloud rose over the city, soon to mute and mutilate what was left of life.
This year’s commemoration at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on Friday is particularly noteworthy, because it was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-moon. Other nuclear powers, such as Britain and France also made their first official appearances at the ceremony, and a total of 74 nations were represented.
What such a gathering symbolizes, as Hiroshima’s Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba captured in his address before the 55,000 attendees, is ``a forward-looking approach.” While it honors the victims and the dead, the memorial emphasizes ``averting any future nuclear attacks” rather than focusing on ``whether the bombing was justified.” And the presence of U.S. and U.N. representatives, Roos and Ban, doubly reinforced this notion.
To this day, the two bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasakai (code-named ``Little Boy” and ``Fat Man,” respectively) remain the only time nuclear weapons have been detonated in human warfare. The U.S. bombing killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, just three days later. More than 500,000 ``hibakushas” (``explosion-affected” people, or surviving victims of the bombings) slowly died as a result of the wounds and radiation in the following months.
Concerns of rekindling painful memories precluded the U.S. attendance at the annual ceremony until this year, but it was deemed that the time has come (as did ``Change”) to ``put an end to Cold War thinking,” as President Barack Obama asserted in his speech in April during a visit to Prague; hence Ambassador Roos became the first U.S. official to attend the ceremony.
This new resolve, of course, follows the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's 190 member countries adoption of a plan in May to speed up arms reductions. The current total world stockpile of nuclear warheads are estimated at more than 22,000 ― almost 70 percent less than the number in the 1980s (at the peak of the Cold War). However, this is still enough for more than 100,000 Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. As Ambassador Roos stated, ``For the sake of future generations, we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons."
Ban was also the first-ever U.N. Secretary-General to attend the memorial ceremony, in which he emphasized we must move from ``Ground Zero, to Global Zero" ― referring to a nuclear-free world.
What was extremely startling was his visit to the Cenotaph for Korean atomic bomb victims. For one thing, it raised awareness of the some 20,000 Koreans who perished in Hiroshima and 2,000 in Nagasaki (some sources estimate upwards to one-fourth of the victims were Korean). Next, it was difficult to determine what to make of the U.N. chief’s comments, ``As a Korean, I am deeply grateful to the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima for erecting these moving tributes.”
While Japan’s tribute to the Korean victims is noble, the whole situation seems mind-boggling: The fact that more than 2 million Koreans were living in Japan at the time, many forcibly brought to work, and thousands of ‘comfort women’ brought to shame during the painful era of Japanese colonial rule … yet a Korean survivor of Hiroshima, claims, ``'It was because of the bomb that we were liberated.''
Seriously, how does one memorialize the excruciating trauma that these people have gone through and make any good out of it?
Sixty-five years after the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, gruesome memories undoubtedly linger and perhaps will never be healed. But many hibakushas believe the reason they have survived is so that they can ``tell the next generation about the equality of life and the importance of peace.”
Make no mistake: ``Little Boy” and ``Fat Man” inflicted irrevocable sufferings upon the Japanese and Korean victims on August 6, and August 9, 1945, when the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But if we can learn from the lessons of the painful past and focus on the possibilities of creating a nuclear-free world in a near future ― and as a result can deter a more atrocious Hiroshima or Nagasaki elsewhere ― then hope for humanity prevails.
Hannah Kim is a 2009 master's graduate at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, specializing in legislative affairs. She spearheaded the passage of the ``Korean War Veterans Recognition Act, U.S. Public Law 111-41," which was signed by President Obama on July 27, 2009. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.