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August 14, 2012
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

This past week, a pair of anniversaries received little fanfare, yet the two anniversaries actually led up to a more well known anniversary tomorrow that should never be forgotten.

On a sunny August morning in 1945 August 6, to be exact, a single bomb fell from a high-flying B-29 bomber of the U.S. Army Air Force. The target of the "Enola Gay's" mission a city on the mainland of Japan, Hiroshima. The world's first atomic weapon detonated over the city and eventually led to the deaths of between 90,000 and 166,000 people through various injuries, including radiation poisoning.

Just three day's later, a B-29, "Bock's Car", dropped a second atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Nagasaki, and the resulting blast led to the deaths of 60,000 to 80,000 people.

On August 15, 1945, the nation of Japan agreed to end hostilities, bringing World War II to a close.

In the 67 years since the two air raids of August 6 and August 9, 1945, the debate on the merit of the use of the atomic bomb has been ongoing. Like any argument, there are two sides. One side condemns the massive loss of innocent life in the city and the subsequent specter of nuclear holocaust that has existed ever since.

The other side of the argument points out that if the weapons had not been deployed, the war in the Pacific would have continued even longer, with greater loss of life through the inevitable invasion of the Japanese homeland, for both the Allied forces as well as the Japanese.

The one common denominator in both arguments is the tremendous loss of life in both arguments.

Thankfully, in the 67 years since those wartime days, the use of nuclear weapons has never been repeated threatened, on numerous occasions, and used to create an entire era of fear of the unthinkable.

The Cold War era, from the late 1940's into the 1980's showed how our society has learned from those lessons learned in Japan back in 1945. The Cuban Missle Crisis in 1962 had school children drilling to take cover under their classroom desks in case of nuclear blasts from an attack. Such a gesture would have been nearly futile, but at the time, it was a way for our society to "feel good" about something so terrible to comprehend that it was the only way to live with such a thought.

But, as history shows, our leaders learned of the futility of any type of nuclear warfare. While the threat has never totally gone away, it has been greatly reduced. Today, we still have fears of nuclear holocaust not from conflict between world powers, but rather from radical organizations, rouge nations, terrorists or anyone who wants to have all the power. Given the consequences of such an act, that knowledge has provided the greatest deterrent of all over time: the fact that in nuclear conflict, when the nuclear fallout ends, there is no winner.

Along the way, there have been other little nudges to the social conscience about the dangers of nuclear exposure coming specifically from peaceful use of atomic energy in nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, those reminders are not easily forgotten: most notably Chernobyl and Fukushima.

While the specter of total nuclear Armageddon seems most unlikely on the planet, the need to remember the absolute finality of such action must not be ignored. I've retained enough high school science to remember about radioactive half-life, the amount of time it takes for a radioactive element to lose one-half of its potency. When you consider that some of the radioactive elements have half-lives of tens of thousands of years, common sense should let you imagine the futility of trying to use such weapons.

Maybe the best thing is to remember is one simple, yet devastating truth - in nuclear war, no one really wins.



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