Our President at His Best!

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds




August 6 is the 74th anniversary of the first use of an atomic weapon; the day we bombed Hiroshima.  3 days later we bombed Nagasaki.  But, as usual in today’s propaganda, we are inundated with selective exaggeration and characterizations.


In the CNN website posting “Why did the U.S. bomb Hiroshima?”, in 2016, the story went like this:


At least 70,000 people were killed in the initial blast, while approximately 70,000 more died from radiation exposure. "The five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects took hold…"  (Citing a Department of Energy's history of the Manhattan Project.)

The U.S. dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, killing up to 80,000 people. Japan unconditionally agreed to accept the terms of surrender on August 14.


I have also read other reports of each of these bombs killing in excess of 100 thousand people.  Most of the focus is on the deadly effects of fallout radiation that inflicted many thousands more casualties. 


The official records, such as the Air Force assessments of the effects in the decades following these blasts, tell a different story.  Yes, the nukes were more deadly, by far, than any other weapons in history.   We need to understand by just how much, though, and not fall into the ignorance and inappropriate policies regarding nuclear energy promoted by the exaggerations.


Air Force nuclear safety and survival research, motivated by a need to avoid accidental or wartime detonations, and to survive those that might happen, give us a more careful assessment, exposing some of the falsehoods.


The Hiroshima deaths, from blast, fire and immediate radiation, was 68,000.  Nagasaki was 38,000.


Perhaps the first thing we need to note is that these bombs did not do as much damage and killing as previous raids.  Tokyo alone was thrashed by 15 raids using conventional bombs.  The March 9, 1945 raid burned 16 square miles, killing maybe 120,000 (only estimates are available) – and leaving over 1 million homeless.   But that took 334 American bombers.  The atom bombs each required only 1.


The second thing we need to know is that the trembling stories of Japanese deaths from fallout radiation are fiction.


How dare I say that?  Because there were no fallout casualties in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  While there were many radiation casualties, these were all from exposure to the flash, which emits instant and intense radiation. 


There is a simple reason for this:  fallout consists of vaporized and condensed material that is actually in contact with the fireball of the nuclear explosion.  The Japan bombs were “air burst” attacks, designed to maximize blast effects.  They detonated at an altitude where the fireball did not contact the ground – so the only solids consumed and lifted in the mushroom cloud were the bomb’s own components.  No material from buildings and such were sucked up, to later float down as tiny particles of dust.  A 1997 (June 27) Time Magazine article reviews the long years of measuring the radiation effects from the Japan nukes – and reported that the popular stories, where mutant children and lingering sicknesses inspire terror, are false.  For some types of cancer, the history is that the people exposed to the flash radiation actually had slightly fewer cancers.


Postwar testing, though, did have “ground bursts”, and in 1954 a test near the Marshall Islands exposed many downwind islands and their inhabitants to serious fallout from a ground burst in our early testing, due to simple bad planning.  Fallout, when it occurs, can inflict painful injuries and death.


Yes, nuclear weapons and their potential fallout are a serious issue.  Nuclear power plants have been scandalized by inaccurate association with such weapons.  But their process for release of energy – and potential radiation – are very different, and we handicap ourselves by accepting the mythologies when clean power is so necessary.