A lot of Americans in their hearts and spirits will fly with President Barack Obama when he visits Hiroshima, Japan, this month.
As his White House term winds down to its final months, Obama will become the first sitting president to visit the city, where the U.S. on Aug. 6, 1945, during World War II dropped an atomic bomb, killing an estimated 140,000 people directly or from radiation poisoning. On Aug. 9, 1945, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing up to 80,000.
Japan agreed to surrender on Aug. 14, 1945, and formally did so on Sept. 2, 1945, ending World War II.
People worldwide have held solemn ceremonies in August in remembrance. These are folks who are dedicated to a world that is free of nuclear weapons.
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They will cheer Obama’s visit on May 27 to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park after his trip to another U.S. war zone – Vietnam. Some people have worried about the president apologizing to Japan for the devastation the atomic bombs caused.
President Harry S. Truman made the decision to drop the devastating nuclear weapons, fearing that World War II would drag on otherwise, and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers would die in any attempt to invade Japan.
Japan is the only country on the planet where nuclear weapons were used on the population. The resulting horrors they caused in loss of lives, massive injuries and property destruction have been enough to deter the use of any more nuclear bombs even during the tensest days of the Cold War.
The problem, however, is that more powerful nuclear weapons have been developed with each having greater killing power.
The first atomic bomb test released energy equivalent to about 20,000 tons of TNT. Tests of the hydrogen bomb show that it released the same amount of energy as 10 million tons of TNT.
There also are vastly more nuclear weapons than had existed in 1945 – six back then and all of them were in the United States – versus 15,700 worldwide now in the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
The number of nuclear weapons is down now from a high of nearly 60,000 in 1990.
Fortunately treaties have helped nations – particularly the U.S. and Russia – reduce their nuclear arsenals. But diplomatic talks need to be ongoing to continue to reduce the number of nuclear bombs.
Any of the nuclear weapons would unleash a devastation unlike the world has ever seen or would ever want to witness. The problem with such weaponry is that if something were to go wrong and one country fired a nuke, it would likely trigger other nations firing their weapons.
Soon there could be nothing left of life as we know it today. It’s the stuff that end-of-the-world movies are made of.
That’s also what Obama wants to head off in his trip to Hiroshima. The hopes of many people wanting peace and a nuclear-free planet will fly with him.
Lewis Diuguid is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.