History of the Second World War, Volume 7

Counsel for the Personnel Security Board Robb: Doctor in your work and discussions in 1942 in your work on the thermonuclear weapon at Los Alamos in 1943 to 1945 and in your advice which you as chairman of the GAC gave to the Commission to get on with the work on this thermo­nuclear at all those times and on all of those occasions, were you suffering from or deterred by any moral scruples or qualms about the development of this weapon? Oppenheimer: Of course. Robb: But you still got on with the work didnt you? Oppenheimer: Yes because this was a work of exploration. It was not the preparation of a weapon Robb: Did you propose to spend any such sums [millions of dollars for a mere academic excursion? Oppenheimer: No. It is not an academic thing whether you can make a hydrogen bomb. It is a matter of life and death. Robb: Beginning in 1942 and running through at least the first year or the first meeting of the GAC you were actively and consciously pushing the development of the thermonuclear bomb werent you? Isnt that your testimony? Oppenheimer: Pushing is not the right word. Supporting and working on it yes. Robb: Yes. When did these moral qualms become so strong that you opposed the development of the thermonuclear bomb? Oppenheimer: When it was suggested that it bethe policy of the United States to make these things at all costs without regard to the balance between these weapons and atomic weapons as apart of our arsenal. Robb: What did moral qualms have to do with that? Oppenheimer: What did moral qualms have to do with it? Robb: Yes sir. Oppenheimer: We freely used the atomic bomb. Robb:In fact doctor you testified did you not that you assisted in selecting the target for the drop of the bomb on Japan? Oppenheimer: Right. Robb: You knew did you not that the dropping of the atomic bomb on the target you had selected would kill or injure thousands of civilians is that correct? Oppenheimer: Not as many as turned out. Robb: How many were killed or injured? Oppenheimer: 70000. Robb: Did you have moral scruples about that? Oppenheimer: Terrible ones. .it was a revelation of the unlimited power of man to destroy himself. Wounded beyond endurance What of those who experienced this revela­tion and lived? What was the immediate impact on the human mind of this new in­strument of mass annihilation? What was the reality behind the triumphant imagery of President Truman —'the force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East? It needs no strenuous effort of the imagin­ation to believe that among those who ruled Japan consternation degenerated quickly into despair. After an immediate Cabinet meeting on the day of the Hiroshima raid the government issued a statement to be broadcast in the overseas services of Tokyo radio (but not for home consumption). It carried none of the flat statistics of casualties, percentages and blast effects. It was the cry of a people wounded beyond endurance. Most o f Hiroshima no longer exists. The impact o f the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things human and animal were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure engendered by the blast. Buildings were crushed or wiped out. Those outdoors were burned to death and those indoors killed by the in­describable pressure and heat. The city is a disastrous ruin. The destructive force of the new bomb is indescribable as is the terrible devastation caused. The dead were burned beyond recognition. The authorities are unable to obtain a definite check-up on casualties. In apathetic attempt toward off the ter­rible Eumenides of American nuclear power, the Domei Agency accused the USA of viola­ting The Hague Convention and the laws of war by the use of the atomic bomb and said that a protest would be made through neutral channels. King Canutes advisers would have relished this despairing little attempt to hold back the solemn advance of military science. While the government in Tokyo wrung its hands and cried for the kind of mercy which it had shown to no one else for many years, the people left alive in Hiroshima and Naga­saki contemplated the ruins —'great masses of people as Clement Attlee said to the United States Congress in November 1945, 'driven from their habitations seeking somewhere to lay their heads the work of centuries of human endeavour destroyed in a few hours Yet there is no evidence of widespread panic or of any dramatic deteri­oration in national morale. Nowhere has the grotesque heresy of the strategic bomb­ing concept with its mentally-enclosed fallacies about 'the will of the people to fight’ been more clearly exposed than at Hiro­shima. In spite of the appalling shock of what had happened the people of this ruined city did not lose interest in the outcome of the war. Their own pain and misery mat­tered less to them than victory for Japan. In his Hiroshima Diary Michihiko Hachiya reports that in one of the citys hospitals, where patients badly wounded were dying in pain without much in the way of nursing or medical care they were cheered by a false rumour that Japan also had the new weapon and that there had been retaliatory raids on San Francisco San Diego and Los Angeles: 'The whole atmosphere in the ward changed and for the first time since Hiro­shima was bombed everyone became cheer­ful and bright. Those who had been burnt most were the happiest. In his account of the Nagasaki raid Takashi Nagai reports: 'In an atom-bomb war I realised there were just too many dead people there werent enough living ones to take care of the dead. They had to leave the bodies where they were. People got used to seeing corpses lying around they came to take it as perfectly natural they came to joke about it. These demonstrations of the strange in­destructibility of some of mans less attrac­tive instincts even in the face of outrageous destruction call into question some of the calculations about the effect of nuclear weapons on the outcome of a war. Even in a liberal democracy it is govern­ments that make decisions in wartime —not the people they govern. In a highly cent­ ralised military oligarchy there is not even a remote possibility that a people can be bombed or terrorised into rising against their rulers and bringing a war to an end. Whether it was the bomb or the Russian declaration of war that caused the Japanese 2691
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