By LILI CHI*
“My God! What have we done?” was the exclamation by the Enola Gay’s copilot, when he saw the blinding flash that lit up the plane, one of the three that flew over Japanese territory in the early morning of that day, around the southern part of the archipelago.
The bomb was dropped from the plane that Paul W. Tibbets Jr. flew over Hiroshima, and the code name given to the bomb — what macabre irony — was “Little Boy,” the first uranium bomb tested on humanity.
The newspapers of the time described the events with horror, but without yet discerning the devastating consequences that they would bring later. “It looked as though lava had covered the entire city,” was the description by the crew of the B-29 that bore the name of the pilot (!) responsible for the leveling of Hiroshima.
But both Tibbets and Charles Sweeney (who on August 9 launched Fat Man, the second atomic bomb, over Nagasaki), survived until the prosperous, tranquil old age of businessmen, without being affected in the least by what happened that day — either in their consciences or their lives in general. It was the same for the crew members of the other bomber planes that participated in the attack, but…things were different for Claude Robert Eatherley.
Hiroshima … Without any clouds
On one of the three B-29s, the one that was controlling the timing and leading the operation, Claude R. Eatherley, gave the following report at 6:05 a.m., when the ascent to 25,000 feet began: “Cloud cover over Kokura,” “Cloud cover over Yokohama,” “Nagasaki cloudy…” “Hiroshima without any clouds, very good weather, excellent visibility.”
It was what Paul Tibbets was waiting for in his plane. The place to drop the bomb had been chosen.
Claude Robert Eatherley was tormented for more than three decades before his death in 1978, spending the rest of his life repeating meteorological reports in the place where he was interned for mental disorder and abnormal behavior.
In 1945, he evaded the tributes lavished on him in the United States. He did not want to be a “hero,” in spite of his nation’s insistence on considering him as such. He tried to commit suicide in 1950, when his willpower was gone and the memories of what he had done made him desperate. Mentally affected, he began a sort of self-punishment, writing letters to the land he had assaulted, asking forgiveness and sending a few dollars along with the letters.
In 1953, in a truly incongruent act, he went into a business establishment, pointed a toy gun at the cashiers and later abandoned his booty in the doorway, peacefully giving himself up for arrest by the police, who, instead of taking him to jail, took him to a hospital to be cared for, where he received a “scientific justification” for his conduct on the grounds that he was alienated from reality, was suffering from a loss of feelings and obsessions.
This man, who was not able to overcome his memory of August 6, 1945, lived in torment because of his terrible task, of which he too was a victim, and also because of the incomprehension of his country, where he continued to be designated as “not responsible” for something that he always felt guilty about, and did not know how to atone for his crime.
I’d do it again
However, Paul Tibbets, the pilot who carried out the order to drop the bomb and who was interviewed by US historian and journalist Studs Terkel in 2002, has reasons as blood-curdling as the response he gave when asked what he thought about worldwide comments regarding the “extermination of a people” in Hiroshima. His response is worth considering: “Oh, I wouldn’t hesitate if I had the choice. I’d wipe ’em out. You’re gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we’ve never fought a damn war anywhere in the world where they didn’t kill innocent people….That’s their tough luck for being there… I had no problem with it…I did what I was told.”
Doesn’t it seem that the briefly cited above is a story being repeated these days? Aren’t they the same events that occurred during the 1960s in Viet Nam? Just 20-some years after Hiroshima! Isn’t that what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq? The problems with using napalm (which violates international law) in that Southeast Asian nation with its terrible consequences for the civilian population in terms of unknown — and up until now, incurable — illnesses are some of the afflictions that people in that region are now suffering.
But even the pilots and soldiers that that handled those and other substances are suffering from mental disorders and all types of mutilations as a result of devastating those immense Vietnamese territories on a daily basis.
Still today in Iraq, it is not completely known what the results were (as far a future negative effects on the health and lives of civilians) of the constant bombings and attacks with other highly sophisticated chemical weapons of mass destruction that the occupation troops use as they advance throughout that Islamic territory. The ones they are using today do not have the atomic magnitude that they had in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but are just as destructive as those bombs in intensity, extension and time of application.
Trained to kill, the great majority of US soldiers and pilots of today, with the precedence of a Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago, also believe that they are doing “their duty” by obeying orders that pose no ethical problems for those who issue them, the US government, or for their executors; doubtless…they would do it again.
*Special for Granma International, Havana