In view of the number of Dr Strangelove'eque
postings of late advocating nuking, well, nuking
everyone pretty much, it seemed like quite a good time to reflect on the basic human cost of nuclear devices ... (and I hope this is the right
What I've deliberately done is not set this in any kind of geopolitical context, I didn't intend this thread to enter into a discussion about the
rights and wrongs of any given decision, nor to criticise one country or another, nor to consider the modern strategic implications. Frankly, if
it's a serious enough exchange then all of that stuff will be wholly irrelevant within seconds of it starting anyway. What I'd like to do here is
to just kinda point to a few stories. They are not my stories of course, and I'm sure you know them anyway, in principle, if not detail.
Necessarily, they focus on the experiences from Hiroshima and Nagasaki (but they have a clear poignancy and very easily transcend that setting), this
also has some images to set the scene. (More from George Weller can be found
"HIDANKYO is the only nation-wide organization of A-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki".
site has recorded eyewitness accounts of the bombing. These are typical.
Male, Age 40
I found my wife lying on the sand of the Okawa River. She was badly burned. She faintly asked me for some water. So I picked up a small aluminum
kettle and gave her some river water. I laid her on a tatami mat blown from somewhere else, covered her with a shutter board, and asked the relief
party to carry her to the hospital. Just then I asked her about our daughter. She replied our daughter had been playing at the neighbor's and she did
not know where she was. Then I walked around my ruined house looking for my daughter. After two days I found her at last. I dug the gutter and found
her 'monpe' pants that partly escaped the fire. So I picked up her bones in a small burnt bucket.
After my wife's death I carried some dead trees into the hollow of the emergency crematory, put on some petroleum and cremated her by myself. I
picked up her bones in the evening.
Male, Age 21
On August 6th 1945, …too horrible a day for me to recall…, about nine o'clock in the morning a flash ran and I couldn't see because of sand and
smoke covering my eyes. I wondered what had taken place. I looked around absent-mindedly, and found the military barracks collapsed and houses
burning. Before long I saw burned people walking unconsciously, not knowing where to go.
Among them I found a pregnant woman who had given birth to her baby because of the bomb-shock. The baby gave out the first healthy cry under her burnt
body. But I do hope that such a terrible scene will never be repeated. [...]
Just ordinary people, and in their own way, just like me and you, I expect.
site has a tabular data on the "Estimates of Casualties" but as
this post isn't actually about Hiroshima and Nagasaki directly, I'll not quote them here, but you are looking at cities where 20%-25% of the
population died outright, plus as good as countless more due to radiation sickness and cancer in the subsequent months and years. Translating that
forward to current cities, that site also models the effects of nuclear explosions on a couple of US cities, (but they would translate well enough to
pretty much any city on Earth I'd guess). Those models can be found here
If you survive the immediate effects, then you'll still have all the mid and long term effects to deal with, getting shelter, avoiding fallout,
finding food, water, medical attention, information... Then you'll have the effects on the atmosphere, on weather systems, on ongoing food
production, the secure availability of usable water, finally what about the effects on economics, on societies, and ultimately onto maintaining and
propagating viable genetics ...
The Effects of Nuclear War
Office of Technology Assessment
With that in mind, a couple of other well known stories to end on.
"Now we are all sons of bitches". Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge.
"We knew the world could not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu
scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: "I am became Death, the destroyers of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another". J. Robert