Nagasaki. Europe's peace organisations are reminding us that we should do the same. Christopher Rails finds out what they are doing, and how we can join in.
THERE ARE two dates marked idelibly in the Japanese calendar. The first, August 6, commemorates the bombing of Hiroshima; the second, August 9, the bombing of Nagasaki.
It is now 36 years since that fateful day in 1945 when the Enola Gay. an aircraft of the US Air Force's 393rd Squadron, released the bomb that was to signify a drastic change in the nature of major warfare.
It was not simply the physical devastation caused that made this attack so different. More than 60,000 people had been killed in a conventional fire-bombing raid on Dresden, perhaps the worst of the Second World War. But it took 15 hours of continuous saturation bombing. The single uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima instantly killed 70,000 people and injured 51,000. It also destroyed more than 70,000 buildings and made homeless more than 170.000 people.
The implosion caused by the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki killed at least 40,000 people.
However, the two atomic bomb attacks had another. equally shocking, but more sinister effect which was to make the Japanese realise that it was not just massive doses of TNT that had been unleashed on their cities.
It was. of course, radiation, and its effects are still apparent to this day. Small wonder that Japan will have no truck with nuclear "defence", But the anniversaries have a wider significance for the whole world. Because they constitute the only record of what would happen to the populations of any country that suffered a nuclear attack, they are a pointer towards the urgent need for disarmament. More than this. they illustrate what would happen to any city in the future that suffered (in present day terms) only a minor assault with atomic weapons.
The one megaton bombs envisaged in a war over Western Europe. (small, compared with existing strategic weapons) are about 50 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb, and would cause equivalent damage across an area roughly 13 times as large.
With good reason. then. peace and anti-nuclear organisations in Europe. are encouraging us to share Japan's sad memories. All over the country local groups of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are planning to launch Japanese-style paper boats, each topped with a small candle, on lakes. rivers and canals to draw attention to the anniversaries. This will be followed with a short explanation from a member on why its happening. CND are also issuing remembrance armbands.
You could give CND support by attending any local rally. and by launching a boat yourself. You can get them by post from CND at 11 Goodwin Street, London N4. If there is no local event near you, ring them on 01-263 4954/8546, and ask for details now on how to go about it. Armbands are £20 per hundred, or 25p each "No more Hiroshimas" badges are 15p each (pamphlets 300. Posters and paper boats are free — but hurry, stocks will not last.
The Catholic peace organisation, Pax Christi, have a number of suggestions for their members here are a few: • Organise a prayer vigil in your local church. or a symbolic action such as a two-minutes silence or wear black armbands from August 6-9.
• Collect the names of those in your parish and among your friends who will fast from at least • one full meal. You could give the money saved to Pax Christi's disarmament work, or, get sponsors for a personal fast of up to 48 hours.
• Organise a film show and discussion. Pax Christi can suggest speakers and films. Pax Christi is holding a vigil in Westminster Cathedral on August 6 from 8 am. the time the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, until 8 pm.
Not everyone who is opposed to nuclear arms supports total disarmament, but the Fellowship of Reconciliation invites those who are prepared to make a commitment to living without the protection of military forces to sign a declaration to this effect. They are not specifically remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki. but they remind us that even conventional weapons are part of a wargame that is played on a devastating scale.
European Nuclear Disarmament is supporting a march organised by a group of Norwegian women. Called the Peace March, 1981. it is a public march from Copenhagen to Paris. They left Copenhagen on June 21. and plan to arrive in Paris by August 6. Anyone can join at any point. They are marching through Denmark, West Germany, the Netherlands. Belgium and France. END can tell you the cheapest way to get to Paris, if you feel able to give them moral support at the Paris festival from August 6-9. Their address is 6 Endsleigh Street. London WC11-1 ODX. Tel. 01380 0532.
"To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future,said Pope John Paul in his address in Hiroshima on February 23.
"To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace," said the Pope.
We would do well to take his words to heart before it is too late.