Remembering Aug. 6, 1945
This year we have been marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II – VE Day on May 8, 1945, and VJ Day on Aug. 15, 1945. Japan’s surrender was signed on Sept. 2, 1945, my 8th birthday. However, the dates Aug. 6 and 9 stand out most in my mind even today.
Back then my playmates and I were the East 154th Street army ready to protect our neighbors with our toy weapons. When the news broke that the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, we were beside ourselves celebrating our nation’s power that led to the Japanese surrender. We paraded about believing that we had the ultimate weapon to beat any enemy who tried to mess with America.
Looking back, my perspective has changed. The atomic bombs killed over 200 thousand people, roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day’s bombing. Large numbers of people continued to die for months afterward from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military. I shudder to think if Japan had the bomb and targeted the Cadillac Tank Plant (now Cleveland’s IX Center). In either case the great majority of those casualties were or would be non-combatants.
I have come to believe that in war there are no real winners or losers, only victims.
Since the U.S. initiated the use of a weapon of mass destruction, the family of nuclear nations has mushroomed to nine nations with Iran and North Korea trying to join the club. In addition, the U.S. has warheads deployed in five NATO countries. Together they have 13,685 nuclear warheads with the U.S. and Russia having 90 percent of them. That is enough to end life on planet earth many times over.
At what cost is our nuclear arsenal? From 1940 to 1996 U.S. taxpayers paid $9.9 trillion for nukes. Today the government is asking for another trillion dollars over 30 years to renovate our country’s stockpile. At the same time, the Defense Department pursues new WMDs and more ways to deliver them.
Rather than continue to pursue the means for our mutual destruction I urge that we as a nation we establish and aggressively pursue reduction of and elimination of nuclear weapons through diplomatic means and reinvest the savings into humanitarian programs at home and in areas of the world in desperate need of aid.
– Robert F. Erzen, Westlake
Retired marketing/communications professional. My wife Ellen and I enjoy gardening, yoga, reading and bird watching