A Day to Pray for Peace

Seventy-five years ago on August 6, the crew of the Enola Gay dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later another bomber crew dropped a plutonium bomb code-named “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. The atom bombs, also called A-bombs, caused massive death and destruction not seen in the world before or since. Let’s take the time to remember and make August 6th a day to pray for peace.

Image of the lanterns in the lantern festival in Hiroshima, a day the Japanese pray for peace
The Paper Lantern Festival in Hiroshima

Hiroshima

An estimated 350,000 citizens lived in Hiroshima in 1945. On August 6th, the city’s citizens went about their daily lives. They filled the streets and the markets.

Image of Hiroshima from the air before the atom bomb "little boy" was dropped shows the bay, rivers, large buildings and many roads.
Pre-Attack image of Hiroshima By War Department. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. Pacific Survey. Physical Damage Division. – National Archives ARC#540225 Record Group:243, Public Domain,

At 8:15 the bomb detonated. The bomb destroyed about 70% of the city. Another 7% suffered severe damage.

Post atom bomb view of hiroshima shows all the area between the rivers to be white--almost every structure and road obliterated.  Please pray for peace
Post-atom bomb By War Department. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. Pacific Survey. Physical Damage Division. – National Archives ARC#540226 Record Group:243, Public Domain,

The detonation killed at least 70,000 Japanese, Korean slaves, and visiting Americans immediately. It’s estimated that less than 10% of the casualties were military.

By the end of the year, thermal burns, injuries from the blast and falling debris, and radiation brought the total number of deaths to between 90,000 and 166,000. An exact count doesn’t exist. The bomb destroyed official records. Survivors fled the city if they were able. During the occupation of Japan, we suppressed information about the devastation. And in some cases, the effects of radiation appeared one or two generations later.

Nagasaki

When cloud cover obscured the pilot’s view of the city Kokura, the United States Army Air Force B-29 Bomber carrying “Fat Boy” flew on to Nagasaki.

Aerial image of ground zero Nagasaki before and after the atomic bomb. After image has circles marked 1000 and 2000. Everything within the 1000 mark is wiped out. A damaged building or two stands in the 2000 circle. Pray for peace
Nagasaki Before and After By Fastfission : U.S. National Archives : RG 77-MDH (according to William Burr, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 162). – File:Nagasaki 1945 – Before and after.jpg, Public Domain,

They dropped the bomb on August 9, 1945, at 11:02 am. It destroyed about 30-40% of the city. An estimated 40,000-75,000 people died immediately. Up to another 40,000 people died within the next few months from thermal burns, blast injuries, injuries from falling debris, and radiation. The death and destruction was reduced because of the amphitheater-like terrain of the harbor and the smaller size of the city, although the “Fat Boy” was the larger of the two bombs.

The Hibakusha 

They perform annual medical assessments on the hibakusha — Japanese for “atomic bomb survivors.”

The hibakusha have lived with physical and emotional injuries and scars for seventy-five years. Some have died of the complications of their physical injuries or the emotional trauma or the radiation. Some of their children and grandchildren have suffered and died from cancer and other genetically passed effects of radiation. A few have survived to old age. We mustn’t forget or overlook their stories.

Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony

Since 1947, the city of Hiroshima holds a memorial each August 6th. It is not a holiday but a day to honor the victims and offer them a promise of peace.

Image of the A-bomb Dome at night with paper lanterns glowing before it.
The former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall near ground zero, now part of the Peace Memorial and called the A-bomb Dome.
Image by Vanvelthem Cédric / CC BY-SA

Thousands of people from across the world gather at the Peace Memorial for the ceremonies. First there are speeches and the laying of ceremonial wreaths. At 8:15 there’s a moment of silence, follows by the release of white doves representing the wish for peace.

The Peace Memorial, a park where an area of the blast is preserved, is on the Motoyasu river. Many victims of the atomic bomb suffered terrible thermal burns and jumped into the river. Most of them did not survive.

Around 1948, some citizens began floating paper lanterns “to console the souls of their friends and family members who had possibly passed away in this river and express their wish that they may rest in peace.”

Every year on August 6, about 10,000 paper lanterns carrying names and dates and wishes for peace float past the park. It’s a beautiful sight. (Don’t worry, down river they remove the lanterns lest they become a hazard or pollutant.)

A Day to Pray for Peace

In The Fellowship Dystopia, I created a world where America did not enter World War II. The Atom bombs weren’t dropped. Still, that fictional world is not a pleasant place. But, our world–our real world–has a lot of unpleasantness, too.

The world, and particularly Americans, should honor the tradition. Remember and honor those who died in the bombings and the hibakusha.

Pray that no one ever uses a nuclear bomb again—ever. Pray for peace to whatever deity or power you believe in. Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and make a wish for peace. And strive to make those wishes come true.

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