Nov 02, 2007 Hiroshima atomic bomb pilot dies
The Hiroshima atomic bomb pilot died yesterday. He was Paul Tibbetts, who piloted the Enola Gay bomber that flattened Hiroshima, killed countless people (many of them through slow and excruciating deaths, sometimes months and years later), and left countless survivors permanently scarred physically and psychologically.
Certainly, America’s atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came in the context of unspeakable and repeated brutality by Japanese soldiers against civilians and opposing soldiers. To this day, Americans debate whether the atomic bombings were justified. I believe they were not, believe that Nagasaki was bombed much too close in time to the bombing of Hiroshima (as opposed to giving the Japanese government more time to decide whether to surrender prior to a second atomic bombing), and wonder whether Hiroshima was targeted to test out the effects of the atomic bomb on a city that had been left mainly untouched by war damage before the atomic bomb was dropped.
No matter how much anybody has or has not tried to make Hiroshima a propaganda piece, even stripped of any propaganda, my 1999 visit to the center of the bombing is seared in my memory with deep sadness.
In 2002, I got together in Washington, D.C., with some peace walkers who had carried a flame from embers left burning by the atomic bombing, originating their journey in Hiroshima. More on this peace walk is here.
Here, I briefly recount my brief time with the Hiroshima Peace Flame walkers.
Here is a brief excerpt about the peace walkers’ April 22, 2002, evening gathering at the church that was their Washington, DC, home base:
"We gathered for a poetry semi-circle around the peace flame, with poet Sayuri Miyazaki . Her first poem left an indelible mark on me- ‘Enola Gay’. Read first in the original Japanese, and written about six years ago at the airplane’s then site at the Air and Space Museum, Sayuri’s Japanese made clear to the speaker of any language her feelings and sadness and pain not just about the Enola Gay, but about war itself. Although not a full pacifist, I’ve been very influenced by numerous peace activists; my visit three years ago to Hiroshima was very sad.
"Today the peace walkers proceeded to visit the Enola Gay that Sayuri introduced us to through poetry, now in pieces — the symbolism blares out– at a federal building in or near Suitland, Maryland. Before the drum-beating procession to the Enola Gay, I assisted with the four-car caravan that brought the 30 walkers’ belongings from their DC location this morning to their College Park location where they will stay tonight, on their way to Jessup tomorrow, Baltimore Thursday, and ultimately Manhattan."
Long after the Hiroshima bombing, Paul Tibbetts confirmed he felt it was the right thing to do; he has the company of many others in this view, just not mine. Jon Katz.