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Shadow of victory: Hiroshima

NOS 75 years of liberation
The shadow of an atomic bomb victim (USSBS)
The shadow of an atomic bomb victim (USSBS)
There are two place names that always invoke the devastation of World War Two. The first is Auschwitz, the other Hiroshima. Prelude to the end of the war the total destruction of this city with the power of a weapon unknown to the world. The radiation of the nuclear weapon even burned the silhouette of a victim into the stone of the very stairway the person was sitting on.
It took Japan more than a day to respond to the destruction brought to Hiroshima. Almost half of the city was destroyed, 80 000 people died in a matter of seconds. “Almost every living person or animal was left scorched’, is what Radio Tokyo said. “Medical teams could not even distinguish the living from the dead. Everyone was burned beyond recognition.”
The newsletter discussed “bombs”; nobody could yet believe that all this damage was caused by a single bomb.
Victims in Hiroshima (Getty)
Victims in Hiroshima (Getty)
The pilot who had dropped the bomb told reporters upon returning to the American air force base that he had seen the city disappear in a sea of fire and smoke underneath him. Paul Tibbets was one of only three men on board who knew what their explosive Little Boy was capable of.
“We dropped the bomb and turned around to get the best view possible. But we made sure to create the biggest distance possible between us and the great ball of fire”, is what Tibbets said. “Even though we were wearing protective goggles we could still see the explosion. Then when the shockwave hit us it felt as if we were getting shot at.”
Tibbets, who passed away in 2007 aged 92, would never regret his part in the destruction. A necessary evil he called it. “Thousands of soldiers have told me that they would not have survived the war of they would have had to invade Japan”, he said in 2005. “I sleep fine every night.”
Tsutomu Yamaguchi would his entire life be haunted by what he went through in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Together with two colleagues he had arrived home exactly in time to experience the second nuclear bomb there. His mother did not recognize him trough his bandages and severe burns. “Show your feet!”, is what she demanded, because ghosts do not have feet in Japan.
Yamaguchi was talking to his boss the moment the second bomb exploded; his boss did not believe a single bomb could have caused so much damage in Hiroshima. “Then at 11:02 I saw a bright flash. The same one that I had seen in Hiroshima. I really believed I was a dead man walking”, he said. “The bandages that I was wearing, that were difficult to remove, were blown from my body.”
Yamaguchi survived together with his wife and child. But his home was destroyed and for a week he floated between life and death. “Due to the infections my body was invested with maggots. Children later on told me that chickens had pecked them from my body. I never felt a thing, but I did see the scars that they left behind.”
The double doses of radiation would cause Yamaguchi to get leukemia. But he survived until 2010, when he died aged 93. All his life he campagined against atomic warfare. “Countries that hold nuclear weapons should only be ruled by mothers with newborns.”
The “shadow rock” is now located in an exhibibtion in the Hiroshima Museum (Neepster - CC by/sa)
The “shadow rock” is now located in an exhibibtion in the Hiroshima Museum (Neepster - CC by/sa)
The war against Japan was notablly absent from a communiqué from the Conference of Potsdam. Many experts expected that Russia would declare war on Japan (now Hitler-Germany had been defeated) but it never came to that. Such a declaration of war would speed up the pace of the war. But it seems as if the Allies want to see how Japan reacts to the atomic violence.
Meanwhile the Netherlands is facing possible loss of controlde in the Dutch East Indies due to these rapid developments. Our country assumed to have more than enough time to train troops in Australia. But that chance appears to be lost now Australia is rethinking the deals we struck.
Beach fun in Noordwijk
Beach fun in Noordwijk
The Netherlands is enjoying the first liberated summer: people are sunbathing between landmines. Now the travel ban has been lifted between different parts of our country many see the opportunity to visit family, or to finally make a trip. But some places do not welcome guests yet: for example the inundated areas of Wieringmeer or Walcheren are still off limits. Recovery will take months or even years in these area’s.
The KNVB is assessing where the soccer season can start again. This would be very limited, since travel is still quite difficult, and in some places the damage done is just too much: pitched in Arnhem are left in ruins, Jewish clubs have been decimated. Also, famed sports reporter Han Hollander is found to have fallen victim to the nazi’s.
The discussion on which roll KNVB-leader Lotsy played during the war continued until long after his passing in 1959. The Cleansing commission for Sport dropped charges of collaboration against him in 1945. But during the 70s journalists Frits Barend and Henk van Dorp argued he was not without blemishes. In 1992 a thesis appeared in which Lotsy described as “implementor of anti-Jewish politics from the occupier”. Due to the commotion Amsterdam decided to rename the Karel Lotsylaan to the Gustav Mahlerlaan. In 2009 a biography once again exonerated him.
In The Hague people are thinking about how the dismantled democratic institutions can be restored. Question is how the members of parliament who have fallen victim to the occupation are supposed to be replaced. The Cabinet is working on forming an emergency parliament because elections are not yet an option.
The line between justice and settling accounts is rather thin, as is evidenced by the harsh detention for the NSB-members and other collaborators. No wonder camp De Vergulde Hand (‘The guilded hand’) received the nickname De IJzeren Vuist (‘the iron fist’): prisoners would be chained together in iron chains 24 hours per day. After research into the abuse the chains ended up in the National Archive, where they can still be found.
War reports
Other messages this week:
Not used on the site
Weirdly, satirical propaganda magazine De Gil had already discussed the atomic bomb in January 1941. Next to a picture of a comma the paper discussed “the most secret weapon” that made use of a new element. “This new element (atomic mass 250) is radioactive and has an accurately determinable emanation time. The deteriorating takes place according to a geometric progression! Which causes it to create a temperature close to that of the sun at a certain time.” Total gibberish of course but it does share a noticeable amount of comparisons with the real weapon.
The last Liberation Newscasts
For the fifth and final time the Liberation Newscasts will air on television. Mainly discussing the atomic attacks on Japan, the final battles in Asia and the reconstruction summer of 1945 in our country. The last broadcast will air on August 15th, the day that emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan. This newsletter and the articles on our site will continue until September 2nd, the day that the peace treaty was officially signed.
The broadcasts will once again we presented by Herman van Zandt in collaboration with military historicist Chris Klep and NOS-correspondents from Indonesia, Japan, and the US.
All liberation newscasts can be found here.
75 years later: WO ll and liberation news from 2020
On our regular website this week: the story of André Schram, who at a later age found out what his father had experienced as a prisoner of war in Nagasaki. “You had to be lucky to have survived it.”
Last Tuesday was the last day that people could regsiter for a NS-compensation for deported. More than 7600 people did.
And burglars create havoc in war-museum Eyewitness in the town of Beek, looking for several high value pieces from the collection.
Preview
Next week the story of the Dutch prisoners that survived an atomic bomb in Nagasaki, the exiting story of the Dutchmen helping pilots escape the country and the war on our smallest inhabited island in the Waddenzee, Rottum.
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