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Chaos and agony: the human consequences of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

December 16, 2019

Dr. Masao Tomonaga, IPPNW’s regional Vice President for North Asia, Professor Emeritus of Nagasaki University, and a survivor of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki, has published a new article in the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament entitled “The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Summary of the Human Consequences, 1945-2018, and Lessons for Homo sapiens to End the Nuclear Weapon Age.”

The article is a comprehensive, carefully documented review of the immediate and long-term medical, psychological, and social consequences of the atomic bombings, and a challenge to political leaders to abandon nuclear weapons before they are used again.

“The human consequences of the two atomic bombings,” Dr. Tomonaga writes, “are the history of the struggle by the hibakusha to survive and regenerate their life and families as well as their cities. On the basis of their experience of these consequences, the hibakushahave long been fighting for the elimination of nuclear weapons. They therefore represent the only group in Homo sapiens that has experienced the human consequences of the nuclear bombings, which is related to the survival of humanity. This article considers lessons for Homo sapiens from Hiroshima and Nagasaki for gaining the wisdom to realize a nuclear-weapon-free world and end the nuclear weapon age….

“Under the two gigantic mushroom clouds, approximately 280,000 citizens in Hiroshima and 240,000 in Nagasaki were suddenly thrown into chaos and agony. A total of approximately 140,000 in Hiroshima and 73,000 in Nagasaki died instantaneously or within five months due to the combined effects of three components of physical energy generated by nuclear fissions: blast wind (pressure), radiant heat, and ionizing radiation. A total of more than 210,000 remaining victims, 140,000 in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki, survived the first five months of death and agony and became hibakusha….

“Their experience of the atomic-bomb disaster influenced them profoundly in shaping their basic understanding of the nature of nuclear bombs. Hibakusha faced the question of why and how we human beings created such bombs and used them in war, and why we still cannot abandon them. Because of the use of bombs in the war and Japan’s unconditional surrender to Allied Forces, hibakusha had no way to protest and make claims against the state that used the bombs for the inhumane casualties they caused. Instead, many hibakusha were determined deep in their mind to begin and promote the movement for nuclear abolition. In 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was finally adopted and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), to which hibakusha movement has greatly contributed.

“The hibakusha movement for delivering testimonies and calling for nuclear abolition has created a firm international norm that any political leader of a nuclear-weapon state cannot use nuclear bombs again. Nagasaki continues to be the last atomic bomb-destroyed city. Added to this is the new treaty’s more intense pressure on nuclear-weapon states toward nuclear disarmament and final elimination of their nuclear weapons.”

The full article is available at the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament.

One Comment
  1. Mary-Wynne Ashford permalink
    January 7, 2020 3:32 pm

    Thank you very much, Dr.Tomonaga, for posting your excellent article on Chaos and agony. This is very valuable for us to use as we speak to high school and university students. Warm regards, Mary-Wynne Ashford

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