Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recommended documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Today Rachel and I watched "White Light, Black Rain", a documentary about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I highly recommend it. I am utterly horrified by what we did there. I can't think of a greater crime against humanity than the one we committed in the name of a quick end to the war. (UPDATE: I clearly got caught up in my reaction to the documentary and lost perspective with that last sentence. See Bronson's comment below to see what I mean.)


  1. Few countries involved in the Second World War, including the United States, had clean hands. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible. However, I can think of a number of crimes against humanity (civilians and POWs especially) from the Second World War alone that were worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese destruction of the Chinese city of Nanking, often called "the rape of Nanking" killed upwards of 200,000 civilians and saw Japanese soldiers participate in mass rape and beheading contests. The Japanese ended up killing millions of Chinese civilians in the war.
    Of course, the Germans killed millions of Soviet civilians during the war as well. The siege of Leningrad was especially awful with over 1 million civilians perishing, many of hunger. One could also add the Soviet treatment of German civilians at the end of the war, especially the expulsion of 12 million Germans from their land and homes and the rapes of hundreds of thousands of German women.
    The Second World War and its aftermath is quite depressing. Sometimes I wonder why I have spent so much time studying it and writing about it. If anything, it has confirmed my belief in the total depravity of man. I have also become very skeptical of notions of progress and more questioning of science and technology, without which Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the Holocaust, would not have been possible. The idea that we moderns are somehow superior to those that came before us is simply hard to maintain if you have spent much time studying the Second World War.
    Anyway, sorry for the depressing information above. Unfortunately, Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't even the worst killings of the Second World War.


  2. Wow. I had heard of those events, but had no idea the killing was on that scale. I guess I lost perspective in my reaction to the film today. Thanks for the comment. What a horrible, horrible time.

  3. Jeremy,

    Yes, a number of other events during the Second World War were worse in terms of the number of civilians killed. Still, that doesn't change the fact that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific. Some historians believe, and I'm not sure if they are correct or not, that president Truman ordered the bombings in part to impress Stalin so that the Soviets wouldn't get any ideas about provoking a war with the United States after the Germans and Japanese were defeated. If this is true, it is reprehensible.

    It has come out that Stalin's spies told him that the Americans were working on an atomic bomb. In fact, Stalin knew about the Manhattan project before Truman did. Strangely enough, FDR never informed his own vice-president about the Manhattan project. Truman only found out about it when FDR died and he became president. Finally, Soviet spies did steal American nuclear secrets. Stalin had his secret police use slave labor to mine out all the uranium they needed for a bomb (the political prisoners that worked in the mines got cancer in large numbers and died), which the Soviets completed in 1949.

    Anyway, the story of the atomic bomb is an interesting and awful one.



About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.