Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Peace Museum of Hiroshima

Honestly, if walking through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is particularly disturbing then you will not be ready for the actual Peace Museum just to the south. You've come this far, however, so go all the way but steel yourself well before going inside.

The museum, a flat slab of a building suspended two stories above a huge expanse of undeveloped land is where artifacts and recreations from the first atomic bomb attack are kept along with models of the city before and after the attack. I don't know if this was the intent but the barren expanse to me evoked what it looked like after the attack, pebbled rubble and pulverized stone. Where the grounds were barren, after paying a nominal entrance fee and heading up to the exhibit level was going in to the throat of hell itself.

Decorum and sheer awe prevented all but the most desensitized individuals from taking pictures of every little thing on display. There were two three-dimensional recreations of the city at the time, the "Before" and the "After." Where the "Before" showed a densely built and thickly populated metropolis like any other would be in the country, the "After" grabs the throat and tightens its grip with each second of staring. The first thought in my mind was to get oriented to where I was standing in relation to the map, to find the "T-Bridge" that was the target of the bomb.

That was easy, really, since it was right under the huge red ball suspended in the air above the city, the relative position of the bomb when it exploded. Maybe a dozen large structures are seen at ground level, the only ones to survive the blast. All else is a street grid of incineration in every direction. Eighty thousand died instantly and nearly double that over the course of time from the direct after effects. Things were only just beginning.

Brooding darkly in a corner and above the visitors is a full scale replica of "Little Boy," the atomic bomb delivered by the B-29 "Enola Gay" that fateful morning. It is primitive compared to the sleek, needle nosed warheads of today, looking as if Lego had designed a kit for a six year old but without a doubt the most sinister thing in the room. The next few exhibits depicted the results of "the little gadget."

One was a set of concrete steps that flashed white from the blast. In the center of the top step was the shadowed outline of a human bottom, marking the spot where a woman sat waiting to hear from her daughter when the bomb went off and incinerating her. A display case contained a wrist watch with the hands frozen at 8:15AM, the moment the bomb exploded over the city. Near to that some glass panels that did not shattered were nonetheless covered with long, thin vertical streaks of what looked like black soot.

It was rain. "Black rain" created from the pressure effects of the mushroom cloud over the city that included rain water and the soot and ash from the destruction sucked up in to the boiling cloud. Even with that it was hard to tell if the photos or the recreated models were the worse to look at. One famous photo shows the back of a women with the pattern of her dressed burned in to her flesh. A model showed a young mother with children walking the streets, hair off to one side, flesh melting off her forearm and fingers in droplets on to the ground beneath her exposed feet.

They had no idea what was coming or what had hit them. Winds up to 1000 miles per hour were recorded along with a blast temperature exceeding one million degrees Celsius. Communications to Tokyo were cut, what help was available was slow in coming. Leukemia slowly killed thousands of survivors over the years after while physical disfigurement and emotional scars took care of the rest.

I will not use this forum to debate whether Hiroshima or Nagasaki should have been attacked in such fashion. I will say that it is impossible to come away from such images of destruction and not ask why it had to happen in the first place.

No man or country is weak for wanting peace. Neither are they absolved if they have engaged in wrong-doing.

Gotta go.

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