As Hiroshima bombing turns 75, a look at 6 changes to nuclear arms under Trump

Kim Hjelm­gaard USA TODAY­Pub­lished 4:27 AM EDT Aug 6, 2020

Sev­en­ty-five years ago Thurs­day,  the U.S. became – and remains  – the only coun­try in the world to det­o­nate a nuclear weapon against an ene­my. 

At 8:15 a.m. local time on Aug. 6, 1945, an Amer­i­can Boe­ing B‑29 air­craft named Eno­la Gay dropped a 9,700-pound ura­ni­um bomb nick­named “Lit­tle Boy” over Hiroshi­ma, Japan. About 70,000 peo­ple were killed instant­ly by the explo­sion, which had a radius of around a mile.

Three days lat­er, on Aug. 9 at 11:02 a.m. local time, a sec­ond atom­ic bomb, named “Fat Man,” was unleashed by the U.S. over Nagasa­ki, Japan. This time, 40,000 peo­ple died straight away – with­in five years, the num­ber of deaths approached 140,000, accord­ing to archived esti­mates by the U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy. The Hiroshi­ma death toll reached an esti­mat­ed 200,000 by 1950 as those who sur­vived the blast suc­cumbed to fatal burns, radi­a­tion sick­ness and var­i­ous can­cers.

On Aug. 14, 1945, Japan sur­ren­dered uncon­di­tion­al­ly, effec­tive­ly bring­ing an end to World War II.  

Three-quar­ters of a cen­tu­ry lat­er, ten­sions, com­pli­ca­tions and uncer­tain­ties over nuclear weapons and how to ensure they are not used again are still very much with us. 

Among the recent devel­op­ments: 

  • The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has with­drawn from a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and world pow­ers designed to lim­it Tehran’s nuclear capa­bil­i­ties.
  • Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump-led talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un aimed at denu­cleariza­tion on the Kore­an Penin­su­la have stalled.
  • The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has sus­pend­ed com­pli­ance with the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion-era ini­tia­tive that slashed the num­ber of midrange mis­siles held by the U.S. and Rus­sia.
  • Trump has aban­doned the Open Skies Treaty – nego­ti­at­ed by Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush after the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union and designed to be a check on nuclear weapons by allow­ing sur­veil­lance flights over sig­na­to­ries’ ter­ri­to­ries.
  • Trump has sig­naled he may not renew New START, the last major U.S.-Russia nuclear arms con­trol treaty, unless Chi­na also agrees to be bound by its con­straints. Bei­jing has not com­mit­ted either way. New START expires in Feb­ru­ary, just weeks after there’s a new, or renewed, U.S. pres­i­dent in the White House.
  • Mar­shall Billingslea, the top U.S. envoy for nuclear nego­ti­a­tions, has con­firmed the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has dis­cussed hold­ing the first nuclear test since 1992. “I won’t shut the door on it, because why would we,” Billingslea said in late June in Vien­na, Aus­tria, although he said there is no rea­son to car­ry out a test “at this time.”

Fred Car­riere, who teach­es inter­na­tion­al rela­tions at Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty, said that one of the major imped­i­ments to get­ting coun­tries to denu­clearize, whether the U.S., North Korea or Iran, is that “every­body always wants every­thing up front, with the promise that good things will fol­low lat­er on, but few will ever be able to accept this strat­e­gy.”

In the case of North Korea, for exam­ple, nego­ti­a­tions broke down over Pyongyang’s insis­tence that Wash­ing­ton imme­di­ate­ly halt eco­nom­ic sanc­tions.  

North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons unless it can be absolute­ly con­fi­dent that it has turned over a new leaf with the U.S,” said Car­riere.

Fad­ed away into a dark night­mare’: North Korea says Trump’s diplo­ma­cy has failed

My God, what have we done?’

Mean­while, the sto­ries of atom­ic bomb sur­vivors, a dwin­dling num­ber, have shaped the way we think about the con­se­quences of using nuclear weapons.

When Robert Oppen­heimer, an Amer­i­can the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist and one of the design­ers of the atom­ic bomb, was asked in an NBC tele­vi­sion inter­view in 1965 to reflect on the lega­cy of what’s known as the Trin­i­ty test – the code name for the first det­o­na­tion of a nuclear device on July 16, 1945 – Oppen­heimer respond­ed to the ques­tion by say­ing that as he watched the huge blast wave rip­ple out over a remote desert area of New Mex­i­co, a line from the Hin­du scrip­ture Bha­gavad Gita ran through his head:

Now I am become Death, the destroy­er of worlds.”

Koko Tan­i­mo­to Kon­do, 75, is one per­son  whose world was destroyed on Aug. 6, 1945. 

A recent pho­to of Koko Tan­i­mo­to Kon­do in Hiroshi­ma, Japan.ICAN

Kon­do was 8 months old and with her moth­er when the house in Hiroshi­ma they were in, a par­son­age of the church where her father was a min­is­ter, caved in and buried them under mounds of twist­ed met­al and rub­ble as Japan’s most indus­tri­al­ized city was con­sumed by the sear­ing heat of the world’s first nuclear attack.

Opin­ion: We mon­i­tor every­one in charge of nuclear weapons except pres­i­dents

They escaped after her moth­er, who flit­ted in and out of con­scious­ness, saw a tiny crack of light through the wreck­age and, work­ing the hole big­ger bit by bit, was even­tu­al­ly able to make an open­ing large enough to push her baby out and then crawl out her­self. 

In a recent Zoom call, Kon­do described how a med­ical stu­dent told her par­ents that he did not think that their baby,  racked with fever and injuries, would sur­vive.

But here I am today, 75 years lat­er,” she said. 

For years, Kon­do under­went annu­al exam­i­na­tions so doc­tors and sci­en­tists could study the impact of radi­a­tion on the human body, a process she described as “humil­i­at­ing.”

In 1946, Kondo’s father, Kiyoshi Tan­i­mo­to, made an appear­ance in “Hiroshi­ma,” a book about sur­vivors by Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist John Hersey. In Hersey’s account, Tan­i­mo­to is described in the wake of the blast as fran­ti­cal­ly run­ning around try­ing to help the wound­ed and dying and encoun­ter­ing “rank on rank of the burned and bleed­ing.”

Tan­i­mo­to lat­er start­ed a pro­gram called Hiroshi­ma Maid­ens that enabled Japan­ese girls phys­i­cal­ly altered by the bomb­ing to trav­el to the U.S. to have cor­rec­tive plas­tic surgery. 

In the Zoom call, Kon­do, who has devot­ed her life to cam­paign­ing for peace with var­i­ous orga­ni­za­tions and civ­il soci­ety groups, said that one of her ear­li­est mem­o­ries of Hiroshi­ma was being com­fort­ed by a group of teenage girls – Hiroshi­ma Maid­ens.  

I could not see their faces. Their lips were seared to their chins. Their eyes would not close because of the burns. One girl, I recall, was try­ing to comb my hair but when I turned to look at her hand I saw that all her fin­gers had been melt­ed away,” she said.  

Kon­do said she vowed that day to find the per­son who dropped the bomb on Hiroshi­ma.

I want­ed to kick or bite or punch this per­son,” she said. 

Some years lat­er, in 1955, Kon­do would get her chance when, on a trip to the U.S. with her fam­i­ly, she appeared on an NBC show called “This Is Your Life.”

Also appear­ing on the show that day was Capt. Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Eno­la Gay, the Amer­i­can Boe­ing B‑29  that dropped the bomb on Hiroshi­ma.

Kon­do changed her mind about revenge as she watched the show’s host ask Lewis how he felt after drop­ping the bomb. With tears welling up in his eyes, the pilot said that he had writ­ten in his flight log on Aug. 6, 1945: “My God, what have we done?”

On the Zoom call, her voice crack­ing and tears welling up in her own eyes, Kon­do said her encounter with Lewis made her real­ize she “should­n’t hate this per­son. If I should hate any­thing, I should hate the war itself.”

In a fol­low-up email, Kon­do said: “I con­stant­ly remind young peo­ple that they need to learn from his­to­ry, that what hap­pened in Hiroshi­ma must nev­er hap­pen again.”

Nuclear anni­hi­la­tion: See what would hap­pen if a nuclear blast hit your ZIP­Pub­lished 4:27 AM EDT Aug 6, 2020

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