Friday, July 10, 2015

America's Story (part 19) - Trinity and "The Long Peace"

70 years ago .... July 16, 1945

It was a lifetime ago, 70 years. It was then the world's first atom bomb exploded. It was a test in the desert of New Mexico, near the end of World War II. And the silent film below shows what happened :

Ground Zero ... Trinity

A few years ago, I visited the Trinity site and stood at Ground Zero. I wrote about it here: The Trinity Site: Where the first atomic bomb was exploded

Less than a month after this atomic test, Japan was bombed with this new weapon: Hiroshima on August 6th, and Nagasaki on August 9th. And Japan's Emperor Hirohito unconditionally surrendered on August 14/15, citing this "new and most cruel bomb." This date became known as V-J Day (Victory over Japan) and was followed by the formal surrender was on the US battleship Missouri off the coast of Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, officially ending World War II.  [reference: Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - World War II - ]

The Casualties:

Some calculate the causalities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as much as 200,000. And of course, there was more after the literal fallout.  [reference: Total Casualties | The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki | Historical Documents | ]

What history overlooks is the B-29 firebombings of Japan the previous months of March - August 1945) under command of General Curtis LeMay. Those bombing killed far more combatants and civilians than the two atomic bombs.  [reference: Curtis LeMay | World War II Database ] Yet, because of the shock of this "new and most cruel bomb" those deaths seemed eclipsed.

Yet, the bombing ended the war, most likely the most terrible war in recorded human history. Some put the total deaths of World War II over 70 million, with virtually no part of the planet untouched by this global conflict. [reference: World War 2 statistics ]

The Enormity of that War:

The one nation that really took a hit was the former Soviet Union at 25 million deaths, followed by China at 15 million, and Germany at 8 million.

The video shows the perspective of World War II death counts. It compares to other wars and ongoing conflicts since World War II:

Also, here is a reference the interactive of this presentation:

The Long Peace?

Since then, in the United States we had conflicts and wars:  Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II, as well as the Cold War and other conflicts throughout the world.  All these are tragic, especially to those who lost loved ones. But the video shows these were minor in comparison to World War Two.  Same case can be made for the other countries of the world.

Professor John Gaddis referred to this period of lack of major conflict among the world's great powers as "The Long Peace." [reference: An assessment of Gaddis’ suggestion that MAD secured a ‘long peace’ ]

The Long Peace is debated, but it asks the question: Are we living in a modern Pax Romana?


Giving Peace a Chance

Peace is hard to quantify as it has a qualitative meaning as well as lack of immense global conflict. But during the 1960s and 1970s this theme of peace was echoed in the Baby Boomer generation. There was no World War III, at least on the scale of World War II, but it seemed we all seemed to live under a specter of an imminent nuclear holocaust during the Cold War.

John Lennon's music, Give Peace a Chance (1969), reflects some of this angst:

Anyone who watches the news - if it bleeds, it leads - sees we still are fighting each other. But the scale is nothing like it was over 70 years ago.

May the Long Peace continue as we Give Peace a Chance ...


Other posts in this series:


Photo from: Wikipedia/Trinity

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