President Obama spoke movingly today in Hiroshima about war and peace.
From The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, here is an eyewitness account from an US serviceman on a plane accompanying the plane that dropped the bomb:
“Radioman Abe Spitzer watched from the accompanying plane, the Great Artiste, and thought he was hallucinating. He provided the most graphic and terrifying description of what crew members witnessed and one worth quoting at length:
‘Below us, spread out almost as far as I could see, was a great fire, but it was like no ordinary fire. It contained a dozen colors, all of them blindingly bright, more colors than I imagined existed, and in the center and brightest of all, a gigantic red ball of flame that seemed larger than the sun. Indeed, it seemed that, somehow, the sun had been knocked out of the sky and was on the ground below us and beginning to rise again, only coming straight up toward us–and fast.
‘At the same time, the ball itself spread outward, too, until it seemed to cover the entire city, and on every side the flame was shrouded, half-hidden by a thick, impenetrable column of grey-white smoke, extending into the foothills beyond the city and bursting outward and rising toward us with unbelievable speed.
‘Then the ship rocked again, and it sounded as if a giant gun–some large artillery or cannon–were firing at us and hitting us from every direction.
‘The purple light was changing to a green-blue now, with just a tinge of yellow at the edges, and from below the ball of fire, the upside down sun, seemed to be following the smoke upward, racing to us with immeasurably fast speed–although, we at the same time, though not so quickly–were speeding away from what was left of the city.'”
By the end of the year, an estimated 140,000 were dead, from the relatively small atomic bomb of an estimated 16 kilotons. At the time, we were told by our leaders that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortened the war and saved American lives. Today, opinion has changed and many believe that we did not need to use atomic bombs at all–Japan was eager to end the war if we allowed them to retain their emperor, which we did.