Introduction

The First Atom Bomb by Marcel Junod recounts the trails of destruction left behind by the dropping of the first atom bomb. In Hiroshima on 6th August 1945. It talks about the aftermath of the atomic bomb explosion and the horror in the horror in the eyes of both the Americans and the Japanese.

Summary

The after-effects of the destruction

The whole world fell into dead silence when the U.S. aircraft dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945. It was called the most barbarous act in human history which was great destruction to the supreme value of life and human blood. Before dropping the bomb, the dangerous effect and its extraordinary power were broadcasted all over the media. People remembered the warning that for seventy years at least the radioactivity of the earth around the scene of the explosion will prevent all forms of life from existing there.

The essayist, Marcel Junod was a doctor from Switzerland. Before getting on board, ‘Benevolence’ the hospital ship, to take care of the injured in the atomic disaster, he wanted to know about Hiroshima. When he tried to inquire, even hearing the word ‘Hiroshima’ made American people feel an undeniable sense of discomfort. Even the information from the journalist who managed to fly near the terrible destruction remained confidential at the hands of the military and scientists.

Not only Americans but even the Japanese maintained complete silence regarding the disaster which brought them to sudden defeat. It struck the very heart of their pride. Japanese newspaper described a little surface story about the overall event but no one dared to bring out the in-depth details.

The terrifying image of Hiroshima

Nohara, one of the secretaries who was half-Japanese heard rumors from some Japanese that the disaster was like a typhoon of glare heat, and wind that swept away everything, leaving a sea of fire behind it. No one knew the exact number of deaths, some said fifty thousand whereas others said two lakhs. Even after the explosion, the survivors were dying of strange undefinable symptoms.

On 1st September 1945, Marcel Junod received some photographs of the destroyed area from the Gaimucho, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. He compared it to the historical destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79AD. He writes that in fact, it was worse than Pompeii because it destroyed a greater portion for seventy years in the future, and also it was manmade destruction.

Junod was at Maranuchi headquarters to find information about the transportation of the second world war prisoners. He was particularly waiting for Bilfinger, who was one of the six delegates and had gone near Hiroshima. Bilfinger sent an emergency telegram and in his report, it stated that the situation was horrifying, ninety percent of the town was burnt down, Hiroshima hospitals were destroyed and bomb effects were mysterious. Victimized patients would look like they were recovering and suddenly collapse because of the rapid degeneration of white corpuscles (in the white blood cells) or succumb to other internal injuries.

The author flies to Hiroshima

There was a shortage of graves, materials, medicines, and surgical instruments. Bilfinger also requested urgent emergency supplies to be parachuted immediately, like bandages, cotton wool, ointments for burns, sulphamides, blood plasma, transfusion kits, etc. The Yokohama chamber of commerce permitted fifty tons of medicaments and hospital material to be distributed under the aegis of the red cross. 

Marcel Junod was allowed to fly with them to Hiroshima. On his way to the bombarded area, he sat between two Japanese, Miss Ito who was wearing a blue kimono, she was born in Canada, and another Japanese who was a journalist who had lived in the U.S. for more than twenty years. Miss Ito informed Marcel Junod that ‘Hiroshima’ meant ‘a broad island’. It was built on the delta of the River Ota, which flows down to the river Kumari. It had a population of 250,000 people and 150,000 soldiers. The other journalist informed that the town suffered a couple of other minor raids. On 19th March 1945, a squadron of American Naval planes attacked the town, and on 30th April 1945, an American flying fortress raided.

6th August 1945

The sky was clear and visibility was almost perfect for ten to twelve miles. At 9 minutes past 7 in the morning, an air raid warning was sounded and four American B-29 planes appeared. Two of them turned towards the Shoho sea and disappeared, the two others circled the neighborhood of Shukai and flew towards Bingo Sea. At around 7:31, the people thought it was safe and came out of their shelters to continue their busy day. But all of a sudden, a glaring whitish. Pinkish light appeared in the sky, accompanied by an unnatural tremor (like an earthquake) and a wave of suffocating heat wind that swept away everything.

Within a few seconds, thousands were burnt in the streets. Instantly killing many, and others screaming in agony. Even large gigantic walls, houses, and factories were annihilated. Trains were tossed in the air like toys. Even people who survived died 20 or 30 days later due to the harmful effects of the ‘deadly gamma rays’. Half an hour later, there was a slight rain, followed by a heavy storm that spread the fire and burnt down all the Japanese houses made of timber and straw, and Hiroshima ceased to exist.

The explosion area

The explosion area looked like a necropolis (a graveyard), there was no survivor no one looking among the ruins. Only a group of soldiers inspect the debris. Professor Tsusuki, a leading surgeon in Japan said that people must open their minds, they must try to understand everything that there was a hospital in that place with two hundred beds, eight doctors and, twenty nurses, every single one and all the patients were killed. That is what an atom bomb does.

General MacArthur was a very decorated military officer, who was the chief architect of the American victory in the Pacific. He said that the supreme value of human life and human blood has been forgotten and human dignity too. Though General MacArthur was a professional soldier, he spoke against force and said that force is not a solution to man’s problems, force on its own is nothing. It never has the last word, even with present weapons of war a new war should not leave anything worth mentioning. He also said that many have been destroyed by this war, and the physical exhaustion is too great. The world is too tired to wage another war for the next twenty to twenty-five years.

He also spoke about the need to teach and educate the future generation ‘to save mankind from itself’. Because all these destructions and devastations are brought about on humans by none other than humans themselves.

Conclusion

War leaves unrest among people, both on the winning and losing sides. The victims are not only those who die in the war but also those who survive. The aftermath of war is so horrendous that many have to live with disabilities, not only physical but emotional, mental, and even social. By the end of 1945, the bombing had killed an estimated 140,000 people in Hiroshima, and a further 74,000 in Nagasaki. In the years that followed, many of the survivors would face leukemia, cancer, or other terrible side effects from the radiation.