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August 6th, 2006

hibakusha

A large portion of my evening yesterday was spent online, looking up information on a variety of subjects. One of the main topics that drew my interest was the Marshall Islands - an independent state in the Western Pacific best known as the home of Bikini Atoll and the largest nuclear test ever conducted by the United States. That detonation, codenamed Castle Bravo, was expected to have a yield of 4-8 megatons yet resulted in a fusion reaction that released an estimated 15 megatons. The carefully-constructed exclusion zone had only been designed for an explosion half that size and was inadequate at containing the fallout from Castle Bravo. Hundreds of Marshallese citizens have been affected since then, but the first victims were the crew of the Daigo Fukuryū Maru - a fishing boat from Japan. Everyone aboard suffered from radiation poisoning and the ship's captain died of acute radiation sickness six months later.

This might be knowledge that I would keep to myself in normal circumstances, but rosesnchaos posted earlier on how today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. I had been looking at information about the hibakusha (被爆者, literally "people exposed to the bomb") in relation to the Daigo Fukuryū Maru but hadn't noticed a word about either of the attacks during World War Two. Close to 80,000 people died immediately in Hiroshima, and by December of that year an estimated 140,000 had died from either the explosion itself or subsequent radiation exposure. That number includes a dozen American POWs and approximately 2,000 Japanese-American citizens that had been unable to leave Japan after the start of the war, plus roughly 20,000 Koreans brought in as conscripted labor. One in seven victims of the bombing weren't even Japanese citizens. *

It's arguable that those living in a nation at war should not be surprised to find themselves secondary casualties due to their assistance in continuing the war effort, but to deliberately target those individuals as a demonstrative show of power is another matter altogether. Likewise, the Marshallese government rented out Bikini Atoll and should be accountable for any problems there; but are they responsible for those suffering from gross mistakes in estimation from the US military? It's frightening to think that the detonation was twice as powerful as the highest guess - and even more so when you consider that most of the nuclear weapons made in the United States used nuclear material from the Hanford Reactors here in Washington State.

I'm not the type of person to burn candles in my room. They're usually not the best light source when the electricity is working, they don't match the general mood created by any of my other furnishings, and sometimes they can be so fragrant as to be distracting. There are two times a year that I will burn candles though - the first of these is in memory of Holodomor and the second is to remember the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Both of those events occurred in Ukraine and both would have affected my mother's side of the family had they not emigrated when they did. Learning about Castle Bravo yesterday might have been a hint of sorts (if you believe that quantum and/or cosmic relationships work that way), so now I have a memorial candle burning for the third time this year.

Hiroshima Peace MemorialCollapse )