A first hand account: Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bomb

In 1945, Ploughshares Fund supporter Reid Dennis was sent by the Navy to Japan. While there he visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after their bombing. Reid has kindly shared his remembrances of that visit with us, below. 

I volunteered for the U.S. Navy in May 1944, just before my 18th birthday. I had been accepted for a training program to become a radio or radar technician. In June, literally the day after graduating from high school, I was on a troop train headed for Great Lakes Naval Training Base near Chicago. Basic training together with the technical training program kept me busy for the next thirteen months with the last month being devoted to LORAN, a new Long Range Navigation system that was highly classified.

After training, I was based at the Naval Repair Station in San Diego. One or two days after "VJ" Day in August 1945, I received orders to report on board the U.S.S. Baltimore, a Heavy Cruiser, in Long Beach harbor. They needed a LORAN technician. I went on board one evening, and we sailed for Japan early the next morning! We did not stop en-route and were refueled at sea. We went straight to Japan, into the Inland Sea and on to Kure which was about 20 miles from Hiroshima. Kure, at some point, had been the largest operational naval base in the world, but it was now completely devastated.

In October, the Navy began sending voluntary "sight-seeing" trips down to Hiroshima in landing craft. No one knew anything about residual radiation. We were free to roam about in the rubble and pick up anything that looked interesting. I remember climbing over blocks of fallen masonry inside the steel frame of a building that has now been turned into a shrine.They had cleared the rubble out of some of the main streets, but all of the cross streets were still blocked. The devastation was horrific, but so was the devastation in Kure and other nearby communities. We were used to devastation. The only big difference was that Hiroshima was the result of one "big" bomb.

Our reaction to our visit to Nagasaki some weeks later was much the same. "One bomb did all of this?"

What is incomprehensible today is that the nuclear bombs of today are 1,000 times more powerful than the ones that were used in 1945. If that is true, then the world cannot afford to have even one more such device explode. It would be the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.

Reid and his wife Peggy became involved with Ploughshares Fund in 1983 at the gentle persistence of founder Sally Lilienthal. According to Reid, they “take satisfaction from having supported the organization from the very early days when relatively modest contributions were nevertheless very important.” 

Check out Reid’s photos from his visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in our slideshow, above. Then, help Ploughshares Fund commemorate the 67th anniversary of the bombings by folding a paper crane for peace


Thank you for telling us that the bombs now are 1000 times more powerful and deadly. I had been in denial of the fact that our military, as other militaries are doing, continues to expand the capabilities of its war machine. How horrific to understand the devastation that is possible. Mankind has the choice of total self-destruction or peace.

what many americans still don't know, something i learned in college history, is that the US knew about the japanese planes long before they reached hawaii...it was NOT a surprise attack. the president could have saved many lives. but in order to get americans 'behind' getting involved in the war, something was allowed to take place. then americans were gung ho. it has happened again, and again through american history: gulf of tongken, the maine, and yes, even the attacks of 9/11. all to get the people to buy into the wars. in the case of japan all those years ago, a conditional surrender was already on the president's desk. the japanese were already beaten. but the bombs flew. unnecessarily! except to showcase the horror that US scientists had been covertly developing. ours is a nightmarish culture, and is beginning to reap the awful seeds it has sown. no big surprise when our young soldiers are brainwashed, turned into monsters that kill innocent people halfway cross the globe, then are ignored and cast away...who cares about ptsd, homeless vets etc. the mass killings wrought here in our own land pale in comparison to the kill-list peace prize winner president's drone murders of people in there own countries...or americans he deems fit to bomb. we must say NO. to nukes, to war, to drone strikes, to corporate controlled congress and politics dictating policy to better line their coffers! we must embrace peace! before it's too late

Amen, brother/sister, amen... just like Gore Vidal said before his recent death "America is rotting away, and don't expect President Obama to save it."

As a veteran of World War II and someone who lived through that entire period, I am deeply offended by the statement that the U.S. and its president knew about the bombing of Pearl Harbor before it happened and more-or-less welcomed it. I wonder what school taught such stuff to this anonymous young man.

Fukushima is not an isolated problem, but affects the whole world, especially the US, which is "the next stop" in the jet stream and ocean currents. A complete Harley Davidson motorcycle from Sendai washed up in Canada. Cesium 137 showed up in seaweed at the California coast and ground beef from grass-fed cattle in Nebraska. Therefore, nobody can say that it is NOT their problem, it effects you and your children as well; so please listen and if you can afford to donate some dollars for this project, please do that. You can start with one dollar. People all over Japan are taking part in the activities of NPOs like http://www.sunflower-fukushima.com/ and multiply sunflower seeds. They want to plant 120 million. We have started to become engaged in this "phyto-remediation" program for reducing the cesium in the soil of Fukushima. The Japanese government had belittled the efforts of the NGOs in Fukushima and stated that sunflowers were not efficient in collecting cesium. However, research in the US by Prof. Leon Kochian's team, with whom we are already in contact, the primary limitation to removing cesium from soils with plants was its bioavailability. The form of the element made it unavailable to the plants for uptake. He has shown that it is possible to "super-charge" specific plants to become hyperaccumulators. In a series of soil extraction studies, Kochian's team found the ammonium ion (in form of ammonium nitrate) was most effective in dissolving cesium-137 in soils. This treatment increased the availability of cesium-137 for root uptake and significantly stimulated radioactive cesium accumulation in plant shoots. One species, Amaranthus retroflexus, was up to 40 times (!) more effective than others tested in removing radiocesium from soil. It was possible to remove 3 percent of the total amount in just one 3-month growing season. With two or three yearly crops, the plant could clean up the contaminated site in less than 15 years! (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/jun00/soil0600.htm) In other words, using his methods could reduce the radiation in the soil within five years to about 50% of the current level. That still leaves the question, what to do with the biomass. With the BOC system, proposed by us, we can efficiently separate the cesium from the biomass and contain it in radiation-tight containers made from TALBOR, which can completely shield the environment from radiation. As the BOC process produces renewable diesel fuel or heating oil, another problem can be resolved - financing. It is estimated that cleaning up the soil with phytoremediation costs about $100 per ton of decontaminated soil. An acre has about 120 tons of contaminated soil (at 2.5 inch depth), which means $12,000 costs per acre. If we assume 50 tons of bone-dry biomass per annum, the BOC process can produce about 6 tons (or 1900 gallons) of diesel per annum. This will reduce the cost dramatically and make it much more feasible to use phytoremediation. With our combined efforts, we can make Fukushima livable again, for the sake of the children. We therefore ask you to support this important demonstration. Like the tiny town of Schoenau in Germany bought out the grid from the unwilling utility company with donations from the anti-nuclear community, switched completely to renewable energy and received last year the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize from President Obama (http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/awards-season-for-environmentalists/), we appeal to the anti-nuclear community to not let the activists in Japan alone and help with small contributions. A bucket full of water is made up from drops. Please consider feeding this information to your social or professional network. Best regards, Hans-Henning Judek

I served in the 505 Heavy Bomb Group on the island of Tinian prior to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was no need to drop the A bomb on these two cities. The Japanese were ready to surrender according to Russians. We dropped them to make Russia aware that we had the nuclear device.

To need to drop the A bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese were ready to surrender according to Russian reports at the time. We dropped the bombs to let the world know we possessed nuclear devices.

This reminds me of the facts I've watched in NatGeo channel.

back in my college days, i had taken up a topic on social studies and the chapter on WWII was hard to digest (not talking about the factual accounts here). it is really sad that the US had to resort to the 2 bombs before the japanese could surrender.. also included in our textbooks were pictures of newly born (deformed) babies who had suffered from the after-effects of the bomb. extremely heartwrenching.. here's to peace.

what do we exspect now the bombs are 100 times more powerful we are so dumb

Add new comment