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One More Week: Atomic Bomb Photo Poster Exhibition

March 8, 2010

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Photo Poster Exhibition
2 – 6 p.m. Mon., Weds. and Fri.,
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sat.
Noon to 4 p.m. Sun.
Dominican Center at Marywood
2025 East Fulton, Grand Rapids

The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Photo Poster Exhibition remains on display at the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids through March 14. Brought here by the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids, the posters and photographs are on loan from Japan’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The exhibit begins with a poster that depicts photographs of the actual bombs, developed by the order of President Franklin Roosevelt as part of the “Manhattan Project.” Cut-away diagrams and text that explain the mechanics of Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Little boy used uranium 235, Fat Man, plutonium 239. Little boy killed 140,000 people and leveled 76,000 buildings; Fat Man killed 74,000 and leveled 51,000 buildings.

Top: Survivors' art. Bottom: Hiroshima neighborhood before the blast; a 3-year-old boy was riding this tricycle outside of his home when the bomb blast burned him to death; a boy carries his injured brother away from the destruction.

(This brought to this writer’s mind previously classified documents from the era that said one major reason for dropping the bombs was to see how they worked. Targeting a non-white population made the act less objectionable—one US Military propaganda campaign dehumanized Japanese people by calling them lice that needed to be exterminated.  Other documents show that the claim made that bombing the cities would save the lives of US troops and Japanese civilians was a false claim made to enlist public support.)

The next posters reveal the devastation wrought by the weapons. At its epicenter, the blast’s temperature was one million degrees centigrade―on the ground, 3,000 – 4,000 degrees centigrade (5,432 – 7,232 Fahrenheit). Heat rays vaporized people, leaving darkened, body-shaped shadows on the pavement. Next, a shock wave traveling faster than the speed of sound caused winds of up to 1,000 miles an hour, which blew bodies through the air or impaled them with hundreds of tiny shards of glass and metal.

Other victims were scalded by the heat, which burned people crisp down to the bone and major body organs. Even more were trapped in their homes and burned alive by fires, as the heat erupted into a fireball that burnt buildings and homes to the ground throughout an eight square mile area in Hiroshima and a 4.2 square mile area in Nagasaki.

Thousands who thought they escaped injury died from radiation poison in the coming weeks. Purple bruises spotted their skin and they bled through their eyes, ears and mouths. Those in the womb during the blast were born with microencephaly, which causes developmental delays, or other birth defects. Those who have survived until today live in dire straits today as their parental caregivers have since passed away.

This photo taken in the '70s shows persistent scarring.

Many other survivors, especially scarred young girls, committed suicide in the months and years after the blast. A host of survivors have developed cancers over the years. Those who are alive today never know when they, too, will develop cancer.

The exhibition winds up with posters showing US propaganda at its finest: newspaper accounts the US government providing medical aid and helping orphans.

If you have not yet walked through this important glimpse of US history, GRIID strongly urges you to take a half an hour to do so. The Grand Rapids Dominicans also provide a variety of informational handouts about the bombings and the case for global nuclear disarmament. You can also sign a petition to ban nuclear weapons that will be presented to President Obama.

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