|The Enola Gay after dropping atomic bomb, "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan - August 6, 1945|
The famous, haunting statement by Oppenheimer, recalling the event compels and haunts in equal measure; probably from a combination of the quote itself and Oppenheimer’s odd delivery.
The Bombing of Hiroshima and the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6, 2009)
Points for meditation to be scratched on the walls of a cave.
27: At 1:37 A.M. August 6th the weather scout plane took off. It was named the Straight Flush, in reference to the mechanical action of a water closet. There was a picture of one, to make this evident.
28: At the last minute before taking off Col. Tibbetts changed the secret radio call sign from “Visitor” to “Dimples.” The bombing mission would be a kind of flying smile.
29: At 2:45 A.M. Enola Gay got off the ground with difficulty. Over Iwo Jima she met her escort, two more B-29’s, one of which was called the Great Artiste. Together they proceeded to Japan.
30: At 6:40 they climbed to 31,000 feet, the bombing altitude. The sky was clear. It was a perfect morning.
31: At 3:09 they reached Hiroshima and started the bomb run. The city was full of sun. The fliers could see the green grass in the gardens. No fighters rose up to meet them. There was no flak. No one in the city bothered to take cover.
32: The bomb exploded within 100 feet of the aiming point. The fireball was 18,000 feet across. The temperature at the center of the fireball was 100,000,000 degrees. The people who were near the center became nothing. The whole city was blown to bits and the ruins all caught fire instantly everywhere, burning briskly. 70,000 people were killed right away or died within a few hours. Those who did not die right away suffered great pain. Few of them were soldiers.
33: The men in the plane perceived that the raid had been successful, but they thought of the people in the city and they were not perfectly happy. Some felt they had done wrong. But in any case they had obeyed orders. “It was war.”
34: Over the radio went the code message that the bomb had been successful: “Visible effects greater than Trinity … Proceeding to Papacy.” Papacy was the code name for Tinian.
35: It took a little while for the rest of Japan to find out what had happened to Hiroshima. Papers were forbidden to publish any news of the new bomb. A four line item said that Hiroshima had been hit by incendiary bombs and added: “It seems that some damage was caused to the city and its vicinity.”
36: Then the military governor of the Prefecture of Hiroshima issued a proclamation full of martial spirit. To all the people without hands, without feet, with their faces falling off, with their intestines hanging out, with their whole bodies full of radiation, he declared:
“We must not rest a single day in our war effort … We must bear in mind that the annihilation of the stubborn enemy is our road to revenge.” He was a professional soldier."
"Original Child Bomb", The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, pages 300-301