Reflecting on the 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima
When the first atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Father Pedro Arrupe was master of novices in a suburb on the outskirts of the city. A medical student before entering the Jesuits, he responded to the extraordinary events unfolding around him by transforming the novitiate into a hospital and his novices into nurses. He headed one of the first rescue teams into Hiroshima after the devastation. Together they cared for about 200 people suffering from traumatic injuries as well as the mysterious burns and sickness associated with radiation poisoning.
An excerpt from The Essential Writings of Pedro Arrupe:
I was in my room with another priest …when suddenly we saw a flash of magnesium. Naturally we were surprised and jumped up to see what was happening. As I opened the door which faced the city, we heard a formidable explosion similar to the blast of a hurricane. At the same time doors, windows, and walls fell upon us in smithereens…
A shock in time of war, a terrible explosion of extraordinary power, these always leave an impression. For me, at that first moment, it was just one more explosion. What did we know of the atomic bomb? We were ignorant of what that solitary B-29 had carefully laid, at a height of 1700 feet, in the semi-transparent atmosphere, on that cloudy August morning….
Los Alamos replica of the atom bomb code-named “Little Boy” dropped on Hiroshima – bruce witzel photo
The roof tiles, bits of glass, and beams had scarcely ceased falling, and the deafening roar died away, when I rose from the ground and saw before me the wall clock still hanging in its place but motionless. Its pendulum seemed nailed down. It was ten minutes past eight. For me that silent and motionless clock has been a symbol. The explosion of the first atomic bomb has become a para-historical phenomenon. It is not a memory, it is a perpetual experience, outside history, which does not pass with the ticking of the clock. The pendulum stopped and Hiroshima has remained engraved on my mind. It has no relation with time. It belongs to motionless eternity…
I shall never forget my first sight of what was the result of the atomic bomb: a group of young women, eighteen or twenty years old, clinging to one another as they dragged themselves along the road. One had a blister that almost covered her chest; she had burns across half of her face, and a cut in her scalp caused probably by a falling tile, while great quantities of blood coursed freely down here face. On on and they came, a steady procession numbering some 150,000. This gives some idea of the scene of horror.
It is at such times that one feels most a priest, when one knows that in the city there are 50,000 bodies which, unless they are cremated, will cause a terrible plague. There were besides some 120,000 wounded to care for. In light of these facts, a priest cannot remain outside the city just to preserve his life. Of course, when one is told that in the city there is a gas that kills, one must be very determined to ignore that fact and go in. And we did. And we soon began to raise pyramids of bodies and pour fuel on them to set them afire…
We did the only thing that could be done in the presence of such mass slaughter: we fell on our knees and prayed for guidance, as we were destitute of all human help.
Nevada Nuclear Test Site (photo is public domain)
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was estimated to equal 15 kilotons on TNT. One B83 warhead in todays US nuclear arsenal is 80 times more destructive – equal to 120 kilotons of TNT. Many major nations throughout the world continue to spend Billions, even Trillions, annually “upgrading” crazy weapons of war.
Currently at least 1 Billion people throughout the globe (more during the pandemic) don’t have access to running water and suffer from chronic hunger. In my view, this doesn’t jive for the earth to survive. Where do you stand on this issue?
Father Pedro Arrupe later became the Superior of the Jesuits and is a dearly remembered advocate for nuclear disarmament and impoverished people everywhere.
Peace ~ Bruce
Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, Weed California created by war veteran Dennis Smith (photo by Bruce Witzel)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~