Anniversaries, atomic and otherwise

So my memory for myself and history must be sagging because I completely forgot about the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped by the United States on Japan on August 6, 1945. I read a news story about the anniversary late last night as I was surfing through my Twitter feed before trying to fall asleep.

I’ve always been morbidly fascinated by the anniversary of the atomic bomb for almost as long as I can remember. One of my first historical fascinations was reading about World War Two during elementary school. I remember checking out tens of books about D-Day, Midway, and other bits of history. I’m not a big fan of military history today, the fascination was short-lived; today I’m much more likely to pick up a book on the history of science than of a war. The psychoanalyst in me might point to my father’s military service in Vietnam as a cause for my early fascination with warfare, or perhaps it was just a young male impulse for conflict filtered through an unusually intellectual approach to life.

I’m also a child of the 1980s when fears about nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were high. I still remember being scared out of my mind by the Day After when it aired on TV in 1983. I had nightmares for many days afterwards. I even wrote an essay in favor of arms control which I planned to send to Newsweek at the time.

I remember posting something about the Hiroshima anniversary to an earlier incarnation of my weblog but I couldn’t find the link in my current database, nor in the Internet Archive. I guess I should chalk that up to another case of the internet forgetting more than we think it does.

I’m a bit heartened to see a bit more questioning about the justification for dropping the bomb as time marches onward. Twenty years ago the fiftieth anniversary exhibit at the Smithsonian created quite a controversy. Today the Washington Post published a list of 5 myths about the atomic bomb debunking the idea that using the bomb was the only way to end the war or that an invasion of Japan would have killed half-a-million American soldiers. And a recent poll suggests the percentage of people who think dropping the bomb was justified has declined to 56%. I think this is a good thing but I wish it didn’t take so long.