Category Archives: Atomic Veterans

Lanterns for Peace 2020

Join us from your home for this family friendly event to commemorate the lives lost in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings 75 years ago and make sure that such nuclear attacks never again take place. We remember the past, so that we can envision and work for a peaceful, just and nuclear-free future. Due to COVID-19, there will be no public gathering for Lanterns for Peace but we will still be holding a lantern launch streamed online.

Lanterns for Peace 2020 Youtube Video

Lanterns for Peace: Physicians for Social Responsibility-Wisconsin

 

 

The use of nuclear weapons is a war crime.  The use of nuclear weapons violates multiple parts of the Laws of Armed Conflict.


Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum—America’s shrine to the technological leading edge of the military industrial complex—hear a familiar narrative from the tour guides in front of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped an atomic weapon on the civilians of Hiroshima 70 years ago today.

The bomb was dropped, they say, to save the lives of thousands of Americans who would otherwise have been killed in an invasion of the Home Islands. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were largely destroyed and the lives of between 135,000 and 300,000 mostly Japanese women, children, and old people were sacrificed—most young men were away at war—as the result of a terrible but morally just calculus aimed at bringing an intractable war to a close.

This story may assuage the conscience of the air museum visitor, but it is largely myth, fashioned to buttress our memories of the “good” war. By and large, the top generals and admirals who managed World War II knew better. Consider the small and little-noticed plaque hanging in the National Museum of the US Navy that accompanies the replica of “Little Boy,” the weapon used against the people of Hiroshima: In its one paragraph, it makes clear that Truman’s “political advisors” overruled the military in determining the way in which the end of the war in Japan would be approached. Furthermore, contrary to the popular myths around the atomic bomb’s nearly magical power to end the war, the Navy Museum’s explication of the history clearly indicates that “the vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military.”
Indeed, it would have been surprising if they had: Despite the terrible concentrated power of atomic weapons, the firebombing of Tokyo earlier in 1945 and the destruction of numerous Japanese cities by conventional bombing had killed far more people. The Navy Museum acknowledges what many historians have long known: It was only with the entry of the Soviet Union’s Red Army into the war two days after the bombing of Hiroshima that the Japanese moved to finally surrender. Japan was used to losing cities to American bombing; what their military leaders feared more was the destruction of the country’s military by an all-out Red Army assault.

The top American military leaders who fought World War II, much to the surprise of many who are not aware of the record, were quite clear that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, and—for many—that the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral. Most were also conservatives, not liberals. Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir I Was There that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.… in being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

The commanding general of the US Army Air Forces, Henry “Hap” Arnold, gave a strong indication of his views in a public statement only eleven days after Hiroshima was attacked. Asked on August 17 by a New York Times reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said that “the Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.”

Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, stated in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings that “the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan…” Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., Commander of the US Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946 that “the first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…. It was a mistake to ever drop it…. [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it…”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, for his part, stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives…” He later publicly declared “…it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Even the famous “hawk” Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”
The record is quite clear: From the perspective of an overwhelming number of key contemporary leaders in the US military, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not a matter of military necessity. American intelligence had broken the Japanese codes, knew the Japanese government was trying to negotiate surrender through Moscow, and had long advised that the expected early August Russian declaration of war, along with assurances that Japan’s Emperor would be allowed to stay as a powerless figurehead, would bring surrender long before the first step in a November US invasion, three months later, could begin.

Historians still do not have a definitive answer to why the bomb was used. Given that US intelligence advised the war would likely end if Japan were given assurances regarding the Emperor—and given that the US military knew it would have to keep the Emperor to help control occupied Japan in any event—something else clearly seems to have been important. We do know that some of President Truman’s closest advisers viewed the bomb as a diplomatic and not simply a military weapon. Secretary of State James Byrnes, for instance, believed that the use of atomic weapons would help the United States more strongly dominate the postwar era. According to Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard, who met with him on May 28, 1945, “[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior…[and thought] that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia.

”History is rarely simple, and confronting it head-on, with critical honesty, is often quite painful. Myths, no matter how oversimplified or blatantly false, are too often far more likely to be embraced than inconvenient and unsettling truths.

Even now, for instance, we see how difficult it is for the average US citizen to come to terms with the brutal record of slavery and white supremacy that underlies so much of our national story. Remaking our popular understanding of the “good” war’s climactic act is likely to be just as hard. But if the Confederate battle flag can come down in South Carolina, we can perhaps one day begin to ask ourselves more challenging questions about the nature of America’s global power, and what is true and what is false about why we really dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.”

No Nukes in Madison ~ Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)

Back from the Brink Background

Back from the Brink Page – Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Wisconsin

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Wisconsin is launching a campaign calling on Madison to support a “Back from the Brink” resolution.

The resolution endorses the 2017 United Nations ban of nuclear weapons, calls for specific steps to prevent nuclear war, and a commitment to nuclear weapons-free contracts and investments.

Support Back from the Brink  

 


In 1983, the Madison City Council passed an ordinance declaring the city a “nuclear free zone”. We are asking our City Council members (Alders) to pass a Back from the Brink Resolution which builds on this ordinance and commits the city to nuclear weapons free contracts and investments. Our City already has a socially responsible investment policy in place; it no longer invests in fossil fuel companies. We are asking the City do the same regarding nuclear weapons production.

Some say nuclear disarmament is an issue that should be taken up with our Senators and Representatives rather than our City Council members. But national policy has local consequences.

Plans are underway to expand the Truax Air Force base in Madison and bring in F-35 fighter jets designed to carry B61 nuclear bombs. If nuclear capable F-35’s were stationed here, Truax would become a nuclear target.

In the event of a nuclear-armed F-35 crash, Madison could be exposed to air, ground and water contamination with plutonium, even if a nuclear chain reaction did not take place.

No F-35’s – Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin


Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War is a national grassroots initiative seeking to fundamentally change U.S. nuclear weapons policy and lead us away from the dangerous path we are on. The Call lays out five common-sense steps that the United States should take to reform its nuclear policy. We are asking individuals and organizations around the country to endorse The Call and build support for the U.S. government to adopt it as its highest national security priority. Join the effort and help build a safer world for our children to inherit.

 

County Board Honors Atomic Veterans

By Paul McMahon, Chapter 25

On Thursday, July 14, 2016, the Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution honoring “Atomic Veterans”. Beginning on July 16 th , 2016 and every following July 16th henceforth, Dane County honors the service of those who were victimized by the US government in the name of “safe” atomic weapons research between August 1945 through the passage of the nuclear test ban treaty in 1963 which finally out-lawed atmospheric testing.

The success of the County resolution is in no small manner due to the tireless efforts of Chapter 25 member Lincoln Grahlfs over a great number of years. The resolution was introduced and sponsored by his county supervisor Mary Kolar.

Lincoln Grahfls, Chapter 25 member and Atomic Veteran

Lincoln Grahfls, Chapter 25 member and Atomic Veteran

Chapter 25 commends Lincoln—as well as his fellow “atomic veterans”—for this significant accomplishment. We thank Mary Kolar for her sponsorship and support.

What follows is the resolution, including a summary of the historic plight of the atomic veterans. The resolution was read in full and explained by Supervisor Kolar. (Note: See accompanying photographs taken at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Center two days later, at a program presented by Lincoln.)

County Board Supervisor Mary Kolar, sponsor of 2016 RES-139, Dane County Atomic Veterans Recognition Day July 16

County Board Supervisor Mary Kolar, sponsor of 2016 RES-139, Dane County Atomic Veterans Recognition Day July 16

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2016 RES-139

Dane County Atomic Veterans Recognition Day July 16

Millions have served our country through military service including in wartime. Most came home and continued to serve their communities in the best ways they were capable of. Veterans Day acknowledges the military service of our fellow citizens; on Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their lives that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms of life in these United States.

While many military service members could expect to face life threatening conditions on battle fronts, most were not prepared nor expected to be a part of our country’s experiments with weapons of mass destruction.

On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert, the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated. Three weeks later, on the 6th and 9th of August, atomic bombs were exploded over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Though the bombings precipitated the conclusion of war between Japan and the U.S., reaction to the destruction and unfathomable death toll in the two Japanese cities was overwhelming. There were widespread calls from both scientists and lay persons for such weapons to be outlawed.

Yet, there were elements in our government who were intrigued by this new line of weapons. In a short time, the U. S. Navy called for volunteers to participate in a program to test the effectiveness of atomic weapons against naval vessels.

The number of volunteers fell far below expectations, so personnel were simply assigned to this operation, and many others that followed. Between 1945 and 1963, the United States conducted some 235 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the American Southwest.

At least 220,000 American service men and women witnessed and participated in these tests, or served in forces occupying Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately following World War II. They were exposed to the potentially harmful effects of ionizing radiation in these weapons. Many of them have endured serious health consequences.

These service members, who refer to themselves as Atomic Veterans, are generally proud to have served their country.

They feel, however, that they were forced to be subjects in a risky experiment for which they were denied the option of informed consent.

It is only fitting that their dedication to duty be afforded proper recognition by Dane County and be brought to the attention of all Americans.

Be it resolved that July 16th, in this and ensuing years, be known as ATOMIC VETERNS RECOGNITION DAY.

/s/Sharon Corrigan, Chair

Dane County Board of Supervisors

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