Tuesday, August 9, 2011

the bomb

The Catholic Worker, September 1945
We Go on Record
By Dorothy Day

Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; "jubilant" the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.

That is, we hope we have killed them, the Associated Press, on page one, column one of the Herald Tribune, says. The effect is hoped for, not known. It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers -- scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills of Easton.

Jubilate Deo. President Truman was jubilant. We have created. We have created destruction. We have created a new element, called Pluto. Nature had nothing to do with it.

"A cavern below Columbia was the bomb's cradle," born not that men might live, but that men might be killed. Brought into being in a cavern, and then tried in a desert place, in the midst of tempest and lightning, tried out, and then again on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, on a far off island in the eastern hemisphere, tried out again, this "new weapon which conceivably might wipe out mankind, and perhaps the planet itself."

"Dropped on a town, one bomb would be equivalent to a severe earthquake and would utterly destroy the place. A scientific brain trust has solved the problem of how to confine and release almost unlimited energy. It is impossible yet to measure its effects."

"We have spent two billion on the greatest scientific gamble in history and won," said President Truman jubilantly.

The papers list the scientists (the murderers) who are credited with perfecting this new weapon. One outstanding authority "who earlier had developed a powerful electrical bombardment machine called the cyclotron, was Professor O. E. Lawrence, a Nobel prize winner of the University of California. In the heat of the race to unlock the atom, he built the world's most powerful atom smashing gun, a machine whose electrical projectiles carried charges equivalent to 25,000,000 volts. But such machines were found in the end to be unnecessary. The atom of Uranium-235 was smashed with surprising ease. Science discovered that not sledgehammer blows, but subtle taps from slow traveling neutrons managed more on a tuning technique were all that were needed to disintegrate the Uranium-235 atom."

(Remember the tales we used to hear, that one note of a violin, if that note could be discovered, could collapse the Empire State Building. Remember too, that God's voice was heard not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but "in the whistling of a gentle air.")

Scientists, army officers, great universities (Notre Dame included), and captains of industry -- all are given credit lines in the press for their work of preparing the bomb -- and other bombs, the President assures us, are in production now.

Great Britain controls the supply of uranium ore, in Canada and Rhodesia. We are making the bombs. This new great force will be used for good, the scientists assured us. And then they wiped out a city of 318,000. This was good. The President was jubilant.

Today's paper with its columns of description of the new era, the atomic era, which this colossal slaughter of the innocents has ushered in, is filled with stories covering every conceivable phase of the new discovery. Pictures of the towns and the industrial plants where the parts are made are spread across the pages. In the forefront of the town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a chapel, a large comfortable-looking chapel benignly settled beside the plant. And the scientists making the first tests in the desert prayed, one newspaper account said.

Yes, God is still in the picture. God is not mocked. Today, the day of this so great news, God made a madman dance and talk, who had not spoken for twenty years. God sent a typhoon to damage the carrier Hornet. God permitted a fog to obscure vision and a bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. God permits these things. We have to remember it. We are held in God's hands, all of us, and President Truman too, and these scientists who have created death, but will use it for good. He, God, holds our life and our happiness, our sanity and our health; our lives are in His hands. He is our Creator. Creator.

And as I write, Pigsie, who works in Secaucus, New Jersey, feeding hogs, and cleaning out the excrement of the hogs, who comes in once a month to find beauty and surcease and glamour and glory in the drink of the Bowery, trying to drive the hell and the smell out of his nostrils and his life, sleeps on our doorstep, in this best and most advanced and progressive of all possible worlds. And as I write, our cat, Rainbow, slinks by with a shrill rat in her jaws, out of the kitchen closet here at Mott Street. Here in this greatest of cities which covered the cavern where this stupendous discovery was made, which institutes an era of unbelievable richness and power and glory for man ….

Everyone says, "I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?" How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgement, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgement on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:

"You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save." He said also, "What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me."
Note: louie louie previously marked the U. S. bombings of the Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) HERE.  Thomas Merton's poem, Original Child Bomb is HERE.


  1. Her article has lost none of its power or insight over the years...

  2. Very good article here - and I understand the Catholic thought and emotion. It is hard for me to believe that President Truman, himself a veteran of WWI, which was a grusome bloddy war, was not distressed at the loss of so much life. I have many letters that were sent to my mother in NJ, from my dad who was in Europe during WWII. He mentions many times about the possibility of moving to the pacific theater after the war in Europe. Of course he did not have to go. Now, did "the bomb" save lives? I would think so - how many more soldiers would have died if the war continued? Did the end justify the means? I don't think so....All those innocent men, women and children - losing their lives. Dropping the bombs was the wrong move...yet, I am not to judge.I must leave that up to God.

  3. One of the saddest part of this whole story is that bombing was militarily unnecessary.

    I agree that this is one of the most passionate of Dorothy's writings. You can feel her outrage and the insight within that outrage.

  4. so many people i have talked to about this immolation when the subject arises don't see. or turn a blind eye- to the obvious horror and evil of this atrocity - "have you seen the photographs of the children with their faces and bodies burned off?" they look away and shrug

    look away and shrug

    a guy i work with, who named his child after his wife's brother who was killed in iraq, he and i were talking about war (i told him i draw the line at aerial bombing: he looked troubled): asked with a grin, looking away, "so do you go out and protest the bombing of japan with those guys with signs?"

    collateral damage is bullshit - if there was ever a bullshit word - it's that one

    it's old hat and corny, to grieve for the act of the original child bomb and the u.s.'s refusal to acknowledge that it was a horror, a great evil - which strikes me as staggering, one day that denial is going to bite them in the ass.

  5. Interesting article. A shame that after even dropping two atomic bombs that the world just keeps on going to war. Seems like it's the one thing we can count on.

    I noticed something ironic in todays image. Along the top edge of the photo to the right there is a bit of debris that resembles a small cross, almost as if it's a grave marker. I know that it isn't but I saw it the first moment I looked at the image and now can't see it any other way. From nails to atomic bombs to naplam to smart bombs to drones....the crucifying continues.

    Nice blogspot, Thanks for your effort. R

  6. I can see the cross, R.

    Calvary, the place where Christ suffered and died at the hands of the civil and religious politicians of His day, is the holiest shrine in Christianity. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are Calvaries.

    Here, Christ in the bodies of the "least" was again tortured and put to death hundreds of thousands of times over by exactly the same dark and deceitful spirit of organized lovelessness that roamed Jerusalem two thousand years ago.


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.