Milwaukee County War Memorial

An Atomic Anniversary

Nagasaki BombSeventy-two years ago this month, the U.S. President faced an extremely difficult dilemma: to use or not to use an atomic bomb. With no simple solutions and mounting losses of American forces, the President acted.

On August 6, 1945, the United States introduced the world to the age of the atomic weapon. On that day, the crew of the Enola Gay dropped the first nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was estimated that 100,000 people were killed that day and perhaps that many also died in the following weeks and months from the effects of radiation.

A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, killing another 70,000. Two bombs; 200,000 dead. With no way to stop further devastating attacks of this nature the Emperor finally surrendered. There were many who argued that those bombs should not have been employed, to include renowned physicist Albert Einstein. In a letter, written to the President long before the bombs were actually used, Mr. Einstein explained the incredible devastation the bombs were capable of causing. Einstein pleaded for American restraint. He knew other nations would soon develop their own nuclear weapons and the stability of the world was at risk. A serious argument, to be sure.

On the other side of the discussion, however, according to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill one million American troops and 250,000 English troops would have died in the Allied plan to invade Japan. This was the dilemma our President faced.

I raise the issue now because America is facing a rising nuclear threat in North Korea (which has the bomb) and Iran (which will in 10 years). The bombs of today are many times more powerful than the WWII devices and are much easier to deliver. No courageous Enola Gay crew necessary – just a simple missile will do.

President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “We should walk softly and carry a big stick.” But, what if the enemy also has a big stick? And unstable leadership? Seventy two years later we still face an uncertain future regarding nuclear weapons. As he did in 1945, May God steer the hand of our President.

On a happier note, I want to mention that on August 27, 1910, Mother Teresa (Agnes Bojaxhiu of Albania) was born. Why would I mention this in our War Memorial newsletter? Who can argue against birthday wishes for someone whose first name is “Mother?” Not me, my friends, not me.

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