6. Hiroshima in Japan; Hiroshima in America

Another “history war” – Hiroshima

What sorts of issues do you think exist?

  1. Was the bomb necessary?

  2. Were two bombs necessary?

  3. Why Hiroshima? Military target?

  4. How was the bomb justified? Did the bomb save lives?

  5. Was the dropping of the bomb a “war crime”?

Different (alternative) narratives of the bomb – in Japan and in the US

  1. Triumph

  2. Tragedy

  3. Victimhood

War has been one of the dominate themes of the twentieth century – more people killed in war in the twentieth century than all war deaths of previous centuries. War has become total, involving civilians as well as soldiers, total mobilization for total war, new destructive technologies, new weapons of mass destruction: biological warfare, gas warfare, and new bombs, incendiary bombs, atomic bombs and on and on.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the story of two bombs dropped on Japan in August 1945; but at the same time the central story of modern global history. The bombs brought the Second World War to an end, but ushered in a new and grave threat for everyone on the planet Earth. We must understand the decision to use the bomb; people now, 63 years later, are still confronted with the choice: to use or not to use nuclear weapons. Are we to perpetuate the mind-set that allowed Hiroshima to take place — that would allow another Hiroshima — or can we create a way of thinking that prevents another Hiroshima and enhances human life?

The legacy of the bomb. How is the bomb remembered? In America? In Japan?

John Dower, “The Bombed: Hiroshimas and Nagasakis in Japanese Memory,” in Michael J. Hogan, ed., Hiroshima in History and Memory, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Robert J. Lifton, and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial, Grosset/Putnam, 1995.

An American “history war”: 1995 controversy over an attempt to display the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Institution (National Museum of Space and Aviation). Historians challenged the assumption that “the bomb saved lives.” In the end, the exhibition was cancelled. History and memory do not rest easy with each other.

For an overview of the controversy: http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/enola/about/