MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (5.46): Sixty-nine years ago today, a US bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima City. The entire city was devastated by the blast. Today is Hiroshima Day, the day that we remember the moment that changed the world forever.
At 8.15 am on 6 August 1945, a bomber called the Enola Gay dropped its deadly cargo. The bomb fell for 43 seconds before detonating at 580 metres above Shima hospital, near the centre of Hiroshima City, with an explosive force of some 12½ thousand tonnes of TNT. The blast, the heat and the fires that ensued levelled the entire city. Some 140,000 people perished as a result of that terrible day. Schools and hospitals were destroyed. Students, teachers, doctors and patients, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons were obliterated. It was the destruction of an entire civilian population in a single act with a single weapon.
At 8.15 this morning the peace bell was rung in the Hiroshima peace memorial park, where the Genbaku Dome stands as the only remaining structure near the hypocentre of the bomb and a powerful symbol of hope and human resilience.
This afternoon the Hiroshima Day peace declaration was presented, pleading for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons and the realisation of lasting world peace, just as it has been every year since 1947 when the mayor of the day, Shinzo Hamai, made this poignant appeal:
This horrible weapon … has convinced us of the necessity and the value of lasting peace. That is to say, because of this atomic bomb, the people of the world have become aware that a global war in which atomic energy would be used would lead to the end of our civilization and extinction of mankind. This revolution in thinking ought to be the basis for an absolute peace, and imply the birth of new life and a new world. What we have to do at this moment is to strive with all our might towards peace, becoming forerunners of a new civilization. Let us join to sweep away from this earth the horror of war, and to build a true peace … Here, under this peace tower, we thus make a declaration of peace.
Unfortunately, world leaders did not heed the warning of the mayor of Hiroshima. Nearly seven decades later, there are around 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world, according to the Medical Association for Prevention of War. Nuclear weapons are owned by just nine nations, with Russia and the United States possessing over 94 per cent of today’s nuclear arsenal.
The struggle for nuclear disarmament continues. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—ICAN—is a community campaign bringing together civil society groups, non-government organisations, churches and citizens to build a groundswell of public opinion to demand an end to nuclear weapons. ICAN aims to achieve a nuclear weapons convention to ban the development, possession and use of nuclear weapons.
One of their campaigns is the mayors for peace program, a worldwide network for mayors and local governments which aims to expedite the decommissioning of nuclear weapons under existing non-proliferation agreements and which encourages full disarmament by 2020. It also seeks to build cultures of peace in member cities. Membership currently stands at 6,206 cities in 160 countries, and I understand that Canberra is a member city of this program.
Sixty-nine years after that fateful day, the voices of the bomb survivors, or “hibakusha”, as they are known in Japanese, continue to be a source of information and inspiration for those who are trying to understand and learn from what happened in Hiroshima and, of course, Nagasaki. The Atomic Bomb Museum has this testimony from survivor Shizuko Nishimoto:
Alas, August 6 comes ’round again. That horrible A-bomb, that scorched earth, the fire that left all Hiroshima in ashes, these are all vivid in my memory. No words or pictures could ever express the cruelty of the atomic bomb.
On this day, we heed the words of someone who saw that cruelty with her own eyes and remember those who did not survive that horrible atomic bomb. Indeed it is apt that we also take this opportunity to honour all the civilian victims of all the wars, including the innocent people that have lost their lives in conflicts of our own time. They are not forgotten.
08/06/2014 – 17:53