Hiroshima and Nagasaki
by Gordon Lamont
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To remember and reflect on the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan 70 years ago.
Preparation and materials
- This can be delivered either as a class assembly with a variety of voices or by one person. If you are going to have readers, it works well if they are stationed at different points around the space. If you decide to have one voice - reading the facts out in the 'Assembly', Step 2, yourself or having one reader to do so - for greatest impact, include a short pause after each one. Alternatively, you might consider playing some appropriate music at a low volume for a moment or two between each fact to create this pause, such as 'Nimrod', from Elgar's Enigma Variations.
- Have available the video 'Japan remembers Nagasaki bomb, 70 years on', BBC News (at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-33839055) and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.03 minutes long.
- It is a good idea to research the topic in order to be able to answer questions (for the source of the key facts included in the assembly, see 'Fact File: Hiroshima and Nagasaki', archived content for the History section of the BBC's website at: http://tinyurl.com/7no6nel).
- Similarly, you can read more about the story of Tanaka (the information included in the assembly is based on the article 'Hiroshima A-bomb survivors reflect on horror, healing', by Biz Carson, The Virginian-Pilot, on the Hamptonroads.com and PilotOnline.com website at: http://tinyurl.com/n9hj5sc).
- You might also like to link this assembly with other remembrance events (search for other assemblies on this topic on the Assemblies Website at: http://www.assemblies.org.uk).
- August 2015 marked the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This is the only time that such weapons have been used in warfare.
Listen now to some facts about this event.
- The following facts are to be read out by you, one or more readers, as decided in your preparation, with a pause or music being played after each one.
The global conflict of the Second World War claimed millions of lives.
America and Japan had been at war since December 1941.
In 1942, American scientists began work on a powerful and terrifying new weapon codenamed the 'Manhattan Project’.
On the morning of 6 August 1945, an American B-29 bomber, the 'Enola Gay', dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The bomb was named ‘Little Boy’.
Between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly.
The heat from the bomb was so intense that some people simply vanished in the explosion.
Many more died of the long-term effects of radiation sickness.
The final death toll was calculated as 135,000.
On the morning of 9 August 1945, the Americans dropped a second, bigger atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki.
The bomb was named, ‘Fat Man’.
The final death toll in the city was calculated as at least 50,000.
The original target was Kokura, but it was obscured by cloud and so escaped.
A few days later, Japan surrendered.
Some believe that the use of these weapons greatly shortened the war and saved lives in the long run.
Others believe that this new kind of warfare should never have been used.
Some have pointed out that Japan was a relentless and ruthless enemy, citing the terrible treatment of prisoners of war as evidence.
- Perhaps we cannot know or fully weigh up the rights and wrongs of past events, but we can let them affect our beliefs, attitudes and actions now and in the future.
We cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through this experience or to live on after it, perhaps sick and injured; perhaps having lost love ones. One thing is clear, for those involved and for the world in general, things were never the same afterwards.
- Here is the story of one survivor.
On the morning of the bombing, six-year-old Tanaka, her clothes clean and her hair brushed, was standing in the street with friends before heading to school. Moments after the bombers passed overhead, she was thrown to the ground by the force of the bomb, which exploded in mid-air over the city.
She awoke with her face and arms burned and her hair singed. She wandered back to her half-destroyed home. When her mother came outside, she didn't even recognize her own daughter, whom she had sent to school 15 minutes earlier. Soon, burned relatives started arriving. Tanaka walked inside and looked up through a giant hole in the roof.
'Maybe only a child feels like this, but, even though I was in pain, when I looked up at the sky I thought, "Oh, it's a beautiful blue sky today."' Then she collapsed.
For a week, she drifted in and out of consciousness.
When she awoke, the first thing she noticed was the smell. Cremation fires burned around the clock near her house, less than a mile and a half from the hypocentre (centre of the blast).
Tanaka, now in her seventies, never left Hiroshima. She married, raised a daughter and a son and found joy in being an enamel artist. Her home sits a few hundred yards from the site of her old house.
- Listen to the following quotes.
After Hiroshima was bombed, I saw a photograph of the side of a house with the shadows of the people who had lived there burned into the wall from the intensity of the bomb. The people were gone, but their shadows remained.
(Ray Bradbury, writer)
I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.
(J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, here slightly misquoting Hindu scripture)
- Perhaps what is most striking is that Japan recovered and went on to become a successful nation, a world leader in innovation. It is also a committed advocate of world peace and the annihilation of all nuclear weapons.
Time for reflection
I would like you now to quietly watch and reflect on a video I am going to show you about the remembrance ceremony that took place in Nagasaki in August 2015 on the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on the city.
Play the video ''Japan remembers Nagasaki bomb, 70 years on', BBC News (at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-33839055).
Now remember, too, the people for whom Japan was an enemy and, in particular, those who were imprisoned by the Japanese and subjected to terrible conditions and treatment.
Now spend a moment thinking about how each of us could choose to work for peace today.
‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations by Elgar