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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Me, Donald Trump, and Miss USA

Donald Trump refuses to let his beauty pageant past go.  This reminds me of my only brush with a beauty contest, before Trump took it on--back in 1974, when it was briefly based in my hometown of Niagara Falls, N.Y.   I covered the contest that year for my magazine, Crawdaddy, and wrote a much-too-long cover story, offending many in town with my pro-feminist slant.  I think the headline was something like, "Selling Boobs to the Rubes.'

What was cool that year was that in contrast to many recent winners, the reigning Miss USA (left) was a very un-glossy, intelligent, hip young woman, who was blessed (or blessed herself) with the name Amanda Jones--as in the Rolling Stones song "Miss Amanda Jones"--marched in peace rallies, was pro-choice, and spoken out about feminism (and against the contest itself) during her year on the job.  As she told Bob Barker on the night was crowned: "I'm not the [beauty pageant] type."  She even on occasion asked that she be referred to as "Ms. USA." Imagine that today.

When I interviewed her she was clearly ready to leave the post and promised a surprise for the night of the big telecast.  Sure enough, at the close of the ceremony, as she gave her "final walk" as queen, she looked straight into the camera (and, at that time, still a large TV audience) and gave the famous signal from the recent hit film, The Sting--indicating the whole beauty contest  thing was a sham, a "con."  Good times!  Studs Terkel later interviewed her for a book.  Her Wikipedia entry details it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Midterm Madness: Updated Tuesday

MONDAY & TUESDAY Update:   Nate Silver at 538.com jupped Dems chances of taking House from 6 out of 7 to 7 out of 8 as new polls have arrived (and see latest in list of tight races below). And he has just dropped odds of Dems taking Senate from 1 to 6 to 1 to 5.

Polls continue to improve for Beto O'Rourke in Texas but Silver still gives him only a 1 in 4 chance.  He continues to give narrow edges to Nelson in Fla., Donnelly in Indiana, Tester in MT, McCaskill in MO and Sistema in AZ, and just today took Rosen in NV from slight underdog to slight favorite.  Jon Ralston the Nevada election expert now also picked Rosen.  But big deficit for Heitkamp in ND and Bredesen in Tenn.  So chances of Dems taking Senate remain dim.

But, at least in Silver's view, House outlook keeps getting slightly better he increases Dem odds in several races.  For example, in North Carolina, he just moved McCready from slight underdog to 50-50, and so on.

EARLIER:  I'll be posting here daily over the next few days, IDing all of the key and ultra-tight House races, about 3o to 40 in number,  that will decide if the Democrats can take control there.

From the beginning I have been skeptical of the Dems making any gains in the Senate, let alone taking the body (they need 3 pickups), due to the stacked map for them this year, with many of their seats up for grabs and very few on the GOP side.  So: concentrating on the House.

But let me add, Friday morning, that Beto has closed to within about 4% of Cruz in new Texas poll.  The Green candidate in Arizona, who looked to hurt the Dem candidate there in toss-up race, just pulled out.  But Heitkamp in North Dakota faces even longer odds after judge ruled against ACLU suit to allow Native Americans fair access.   Testor looks safer in Montana but not safe.  McCaskill in Missouri still in dog fight.  Tennessee appears lost but new CNN poll gives the horrid Blackburn just a 4% lead, though Fox poll differs. Nevada still 50/50.  I'd still bet the Dems, at best, stay where they are at 48-52 deficit.

On the House side, Nate Silver, whose 538.com was actually not far off on the Trump win in 2016, has IDed 62 races that are pure toss-ups or lean very slightly one way or the other.  In less close races he has the Dems up 27 seats.  Yes, there may be a handful of shocking upsets, but if those few balance out, that means the Dems still have to win a bunch of those 62 to flip enough seats to take the House (they need a gain of 23).  And this is very plausible, with polls and donations trending in their direction in past week.  Silver currently gives Dem 85% of gaining the House (and about the same long odds of NOT winning the Senate)  but I have long been impressed by how ultra-tight most of these races are--tied or 1 or 2 points in either direction.  So this could truly be a blue wave--or a disappointing gain of just a dozen or so seats.

One of this year's innovations has been the NY Times partnering with credible polling outfit Siena to post results of polling in key House and Senate contests at their site--as it's still going on!  So you can see what's transpiring after they get about 300 responses and then up to 500 or so.   Fun but, of course, they do warn smallish sample and other polls may differ.

Here is my initial list of 32 top races--you will note that most are women--some of which I will analyze in coming hours and days, so return here often. I will start to fill in a few details on each.  Omitted are many races which are good battles but Dem trails pretty severely--such as Ojeda trying to win in district in W. Virginia that Trump won by 49%.  Also, the terrible Pete King threatened on Long Island but probably safe.  UPDATED MONDAY
Antonio Delgado:  Taking on John Faso in Catskills area.  Has been branded, in racist way, as former "rapper" (i.e. "thug") by opponent's campaign.  But he has gained steadily and now viewed with very slight lead.

Dana Balter:  Still an underdog in upstate NY.

Anthony Brindisi:  In far upstate NY was given little chance, now about even in final NYT/Siena live poll.

Katie Hill: nice piece on her on CNN Monday night.  Age 31.

Katie Porter: A UC-Irvine law professor and strong progressive in a conservative district but may be slightly ahead.

Gil Cisneros:  Also given slight edge.

Harley Rouda:  Taking on longtime corrupt Russophile Dana Rohrbacker in tough district but some see him in the lead right now.  NYT/Siena poll shows Rouda with razon-thin lead.

Xochitl Torres Small

Kim Schrier:  Did well in final NYT/Siena poll.

Diane Mitsch Bush

Danny O'Connor:  Trails here.

Lizzie Fletcher:  Her opponent John Culberson is deeply entrenched but district did not go crazy for Trump and she is very close thanks to running on health care and women's issues.

Colin Allred:  He has longest odds from my list in 538's view--3 in 10--but more than holding his own in NYT/Siena poll and now given fighting chance.

Elissa Slotkin: She has a strong national security background and may be pulling ahead, with strong NYT/Siena result.

Gretchen Driskell:   Trails by just a bit.

Cindy Axne:  Last week's NYT/Siena poll put her in slight lead.
J.D. Scholten:  Was given little chance until recently in taking on Steve King but now within distance as King's latest racist remarks having effect.  A poll this week put him almost tied and no doubt sparking donations but that pollster not among the most credible. But NYT/Siena poll just closed and gives him a fair shot.

Kara Eastman:  Interesting race.  She is a community activist and one of very few from "Bernie wing" of party to actually win a primary race this year.  Her opponent was a mainstream former congressman backed by party leaders and even Emily's List, as he was seen as having a far better chance to win in this red but pliable district.  Polls show that their fears may be realized as she seems to be slipping and 9% points back in  NYT/Siena poll, the biggest gap in any of my 32 races. But Nate Silver just upped her chances to at least 3 in 7.

Amy McGrath:  She was the first Marine to fly a combat mission.  Conservative district but she has fundraised well and seems to be almost in a tie--but district might just be too tough.

Andy Kim:  Slight favorite although opponent's ads falsely clain he was backer of Black Panthers and Bill Ayres: "not just far left but far out."

Jared Golden: Yet another young vet who is doing well.

Sean Casten
Lauren Underwood:  Was longshot but gaining steadily running on health care issues (she is registered nurse who worked for Obama in implementing the ACA).   It's a black woman, age 31, vs. white male in his 50s.  She won this week's NYT/Siena poll and poised for big upset.  Heartening.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell:  District seems ripe for her, as it went for Hillary by 16% and is 70% Hispanic.  But opponent is a rare GOP "moderate" so tough fight.  She was on "Meet the Press" and very impressive, also hitting his "moderate" claims.  Very strong on health and guns reform.

Kristen Carlson

Paul Davis:  NYT/Siena put him actually ahead in deep red state.

Ben McAdams:  He's taking on GOP bright hope and one of very few black female office holders in that party, Mia Love.  Yes, it's Utah, but he is former top official in Salt Lake area where most votes will come from.  Might now be favored.

Dan McCready:  A bit of an underdog until just now when Silver made him 50-50.

Abigail Spanberger:  She is former CIA operative and opponent David Brat is the far-right fellow who upset Eric Cantor.  She trails by just a bit but good test of women vote vs. male Tea Party creep.

Elaine Luria:  also trailing.
Leslie Cockburn:  former journalist (yes, THAT Cockburn family) she now trails by just a bit but has not gained lately.

Scott Wallace:  Self-funding campaign and backing medicare for all.  District went for Hillary but he may still trail (Nate Silver) but took NYT/Siena poll by 7%.

Dan Feehan:  This is a key race as one of very few where the Dems need to hold on to seat not pick up one.  Feehan is one of many young Iraq/Afghanistan vets running as Dems this year.

Lucy McGath:  Was a longshot against a Republican female incumbent but gaining, partly thanks to hot governor's race--NYT/Siena poll i actually shows her in lead.

Kathleen Williams:  Amazing, but Dem has real chance here, as Testor allegedly pulls away in Senate race, though underdog.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Kavanaugh Classmate Writes

The classmate of Brett Kavanaugh who has admitted being the other participant in the alleged sex assault--he denies it--has written at least three memoirs, with conservative politics and one describing being a "black out" drunk at Georgetown Prep, including one still available at Amazon, titled "A Tremor of Bliss."

There is this interesting passage in that Mark Judge book: "For the next six months, the female body became a sort of flesh-and-bone vending machine, something that would respond and deliver if you knew where to insert the quarter and pushed the right button. Mr. Ward’s exegesis on sex did not do me much good when I lost my virginity the summer after I took his class. I met Donna when I had a party when I was seventeen and my parents were out of town. The kids left the house a mess, and Donna and a friend had stayed behind to help me clean up. It was about two a.m. when we were finishing, and as Donna was vacuuming up beer I pulled her toward me and kissed her. Mr. Ward had filled my vocabulary with words like clitoris, orgasm, and ejaculation. What he hadn’t prepared me for was falling in love with a real person. To be sure, hormones were driving me to have sex with Donna. But it was also something more transcendent."

And from a Judge review:

"We’ve all climbed up windowsills, driven all night, and gotten into fights over a girl. Of course, a man must be able to read a woman’s signals, and it’s a good thing that feminism is teaching young men that no means no and yes means yes. But there’s also that ambiguous middle ground, where the woman seems interested and indicates, whether verbally or not, that the man needs to prove himself to her. And if that man is any kind of man, he’ll allow himself to feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion....Hard Case Crime, and pulp fiction in general, is not about controlling and hurting women, although there’s some of that. It’s an expression of authentic male passion, of sweaty sexiness, in a world of pajama boys, government-mandated health food, and reactionary conservative blowhards."

Judge in high school on hitting women in his yearbook quote:  "Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs,"

And Judge on Obama as "the first female president" etc.:  "Obama lacks courage when it comes to politics, but his real lack of spunk is evident in his abject terror of his wife Michelle. It’s not uncommon for a husband to joke about his wife being angry at him, but Obama obsessively returns to the theme in speech after speech: 'Now, I don’t wanna get Michelle angry at me…' On their first date, the couple saw the violent black rage film 'Do the Right Thing,' so that Michelle could make sure Barack 'was down with the struggle.'  With her love of violent movies, her fixation on fitness, and death glare that appears when she doesn’t like what she’s hearing, Michelle is actually more man than her husband. Oh for the days when president George W. Bush gave his wife Laura a loving but firm pat on the backside in public. The man knew who was boss."

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Click Here for Reviews of "The Tunnels"

Just a reminder that Crown has launched a cool site devoted to my upcoming book The Tunnels, and I have been blogging there, related to that, while continuing on other subjects here.  It includes videos, photos, excerpts from the book and posts derived from it (including U2 and Springsteen and an MGM drama), and naturally the latest early acclaim for the book and blurbs from well-known writers.   So far there's praise from the Washington Post, The Guardian and Christian Science Monitor, a "starred" review from Publishers Weekly, a rave from Kirkus, and blurbs from Bill Moyers, Alan Furst, Frederick Forsyth and others.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

When Truman Failed to Pause in 1945--and the War Crime That Followed

By August 7, 1945, President Truman, while still at sea returning from Potsdam, had been fully briefed on the first atomic attack against a large city in Japan the day before.  In announcing it, he had labeled Hiroshima simply a "military base," but he knew better, and within hours of the blast he had been fully informed about the likely massive toll on civilians (probably 100,000), mainly women and children, as we had planned.  Despite this--and news that the Soviets, as planned, were about to enter the war against Japan--Truman did not order a delay in the use of the second atomic bomb to give Japan a chance to assess, reflect, and surrender.

After all, by this time, Truman (as recorded in his diary and by others) was well aware that the Japanese were hopelessly defeated and seeking terms of surrender--and he had, just two weeks earlier, written "Fini Japs" in his diary when he learned that the Russians would indeed attack around August 7.  Yet Truman, on this day, did nothing, and the second bomb rolled out, and would be used against Nagasaki, killing perhaps 90,000 more, only a couple hundred of them Japanese troops, on August 9.  That's why many who reluctantly support or at least are divided about the use of the bomb against Hiroshima consider Nagasaki a war crime--in fact, the worst one-day war crime in human history.

Below, a piece I wrote not long ago.  One of my books on the atomic bombings describes my visit to Nagasaki at length.
Few journalists bother to visit Nagasaki, even though it is one of only two cities in the world to "meet the atomic bomb," as some of the survivors of that experience, 68 years ago this week, put it.  It remains the Second City, and "Fat Man" the forgotten bomb. No one in America ever wrote a bestselling book called Nagasaki, or made a film titled Nagasaki, Mon Amour. "We are an asterisk," Shinji Takahashi, a sociologist in Nagasaki, once told me, with a bitter smile. "The inferior A-Bomb city."

Yet in many ways, Nagasaki is the modern A-Bomb city, the city with perhaps the most meaning for us today. For one thing, when the plutonium bomb exploded above Nagasaki it made the uranium-type bomb dropped on Hiroshima obsolete.

And then there's this. "The rights and wrongs of Hiroshima are debatable," Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, once observed, "but I have never heard a plausible justification of Nagasaki" -- which he labeled a war crime. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who experienced the firebombing of Dresden at close hand, said much the same thing. "The most racist, nastiest act by this country, after human slavery, was the bombing of Nagasaki," he once said. "Not of Hiroshima, which might have had some military significance. But Nagasaki was purely blowing away yellow men, women, and children. I'm glad I'm not a scientist because I'd feel so guilty now."

A beautiful city dotted with palms largely built on terraces surrounding a deep harbor--the San Francisco of Japan -- Nagasaki has a rich, bloody history, as any reader of Shogun knows. Three centuries before Commodore Perry came to Japan, Nagasaki was the country's gateway to the west. The Portuguese and Dutch settled here in the 1500s. St. Francis Xavier established the first Catholic churches in the region in 1549, and Urakami, a suburb of Nagasaki, became the country's Catholic center. Thomas Glover, one of the first English traders here, supplied the modern rifles that helped defeat the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 19th century.

Glover's life served as a model for the story of Madame Butterfly, and Nagasaki is known in many parts of the world more for Butterfly than for the bomb. In Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly, standing on the veranda of Glover's home overlooking the harbor (see left), sings, "One fine day, we'll see a thread of smoke arising.... " If she could have looked north from the Glover mansion, now Nagasaki's top tourist attraction, on August 9, 1945, she would have seen, two miles in the distance, a thread of smoke with a mushroom cap.

By 1945, Nagasaki had become a Mitsubishi company town, turning out ships and armaments for Japan's increasingly desperate war effort. Few Japanese soldiers were stationed here, and only about 250 of them would perish in the atomic bombing. It was still the Christian center in the country, with more than 10,000 Catholics among its 250,000 residents. Most of them lived in the outlying Urakami district, the poor part of town, where a magnificent cathedral seating 6000 had been built.

At 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945, "Fat Man" was detonated more than a mile off target, almost directly over the Urakami Cathedral, which was nearly leveled, killing dozens of worshippers waiting for confession. Concrete roads in the valley literally melted.

While Urakami suffered, the rest of the city caught a break. The bomb's blast boomed up the valley destroying everything in its path but didn't quite reach the congested harbor or scale the high ridge to the Nakashima valley. Some 35,000 perished instantly, with another 50,000 or more fated to die afterwards. The plutonium bomb hit with the force of 22 kilotons, almost double the uranium bomb's blast in Hiroshima.

If the bomb had exploded as planned, directly over the Mitsubishi shipyards, the death toll in Nagasaki would have made Hiroshima, in at least one important sense, the Second City. Nothing would have escaped, perhaps not even the most untroubled conscience half a world away.

Hard evidence to support a popular theory that the chance to "experiment" with the plutonium bomb was the major reason for the bombing of Nagasaki remains sketchy but still one wonders (especially when visiting the city, as I recount in my new book) about the overwhelming, and seemingly thoughtless, impulse to automatically use a second atomic bomb even more powerful than the first.

Criticism of the attack on Nagasaki has centered on the issue of why Truman did not step in and stop the second bomb after the success of the first to allow Japan a few more days to contemplate surrender before targeting another city for extinction. In addition, the U.S. knew that its ally, the Soviet Union, would join the war within hours, as previously agreed, and that the entrance of Japan's most hated enemy, as much as the Hiroshima bomb, would likely speed the surrender ("fini Japs" when the Russians declare war, Truman had predicted in his diary). If that happened, however, it might cost the U.S. in a wider Soviet claim on former Japanese conquests in Asia. So there was much to gain by getting the war over before the Russians advanced. Some historians have gone so far as state that the Nagasaki bomb was not the last shot of World War II but the first blow of the Cold War.

Whether this is true or not, there was no presidential directive specifically related to dropping the second bomb. The atomic weapons in the U.S. arsenal, according to the July 2, 1945 order, were to be used "as soon as made ready," and the second bomb was ready within three days of Hiroshima. Nagasaki was thus the first and only victim of automated atomic warfare.

In one further irony, Nagasaki was not even on the original target list for A-bombs but was added after Secretary of War Henry Stimson objected to Kyoto. He had visited Kyoto himself and felt that destroying Japan's cultural capital would turn the citizens against America in the aftermath. Just like that, tens of thousands in one city were spared and tens of thousands of others elsewhere were marked for death.

General Leslie Groves, upon learning of the Japanese surrender offer after the Nagasaki attack, decided that the "one-two" strategy had worked, but he was pleased to learn the second bomb had exploded off the mark, indicating "a smaller number of casualties than we had expected." But as historian Martin Sherwin has observed, "If Washington had maintained closer control over the scheduling of the atomic bomb raids the annihilation of Nagasaki could have been avoided." Truman and others simply did not care, or to be charitable, did not take care.

That's one reason the US suppressed all film footage shot in Nagasaki and Hiroshima for decades (which I probe in my book and ebook Atomic Cover-up).

After hearing of Nagasaki, however, Truman quickly ordered that no further bombs be used without his express permission, to give Japan a reasonable chance to surrender--one bomb, one city, and seventy thousand deaths too late. When they'd learned of the Hiroshima attack, the scientists at Los Alamos generally expressed satisfaction that their work had paid off. But many of them took Nagasaki quite badly. Some would later use the words "sick" or "nausea" to describe their reaction.

As months and then years passed, few Americans denounced as a moral wrong the targeting of entire cities for extermination. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, declared that we never should have hit Japan "with that awful thing." The left-wing writer Dwight MacDonald cited America's "decline to barbarism" for dropping "half-understood poisons" on a civilian population. His conservative counterpart, columnist and magazine editor David Lawrence, lashed out at the "so-called civilized side" in the war for dropping bombs on cities that kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.

However much we rejoice in victory, he wrote, "we shall not soon purge ourselves of the feeling of guilt which prevails among us.... What a precedent for the future we have furnished to other nations even less concerned than we with scruples or ideals! Surely we cannot be proud of what we have done. If we state our inner thoughts honestly, we are ashamed of it."

Greg Mitchell's books and ebooks include "Hollywood Bomb" and "Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made." Email: epic1934@aol.com

Monday, August 6, 2018

73 Years Ago: Truman Began the Story of Hiroshima With a Lie

I have posted or linked to a number of my pieces related to the atomic bombings here at this blog over the past two weeks (having covered it for three decades and written two books about it).   For now I will direct you below to  how President Truman's announcement of the bombing of Hiroshima, 73 years ago today, launched the nuclear age with several lies, including describing the large city, filled mainly with women and children, as only a "military base."  Also: the bomb was merely a much bigger version of conventional explosives, with radiation effects not mentioned. See more here for the fascinating story of how the statement was written and edited.
On Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry S. Truman faced the task of telling the press, and the world, that America’s crusade against fascism had culminated in exploding a revolutionary new weapon of extraordinary destructive power over a Japanese city.

It was vital that this event be understood as a reflection of dominant military power and at the same time consistent with American decency and concern for human life. Everyone involved in preparing the presidential statement sensed that the stakes were high, for this marked the unveiling of both the atomic bomb and the official narrative of Hiroshima.

When the astonishing news emerged that morning, exactly 66 years ago, it took the form of a routine press release, a little more than a thousand words long. President Truman was at sea a thousand miles away, returning from the Potsdam conference. The Soviet Union was hours from declaring war on Japan (“fini Japs” when that occurred, Truman had written days before in his diary).

Shortly before eleven o’clock, an information officer from the War Department arrived at the White House bearing bundles of press releases. A few minutes later, assistant press secretary Eben Ayers began reading the president’s announcement to about a dozen members of the Washington press corps.

The atmosphere was so casual, and the statement so momentous, that the reporters had difficulty grasping it. “The thing didn’t penetrate with most of them,” Ayers later remarked. Finally, they rushed to call their editors, and at least one reporter found a disbeliever at the other end of the line. The first few sentences of the statement set the tone:

“Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. ...The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. ...It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe.”

Although details were modified at the last moment, Truman’s four-page statement had been crafted with considerable care over many months. From its very first words, however, the official narrative was built on a lie. Hiroshima was not an “army base” but a city of 350,000. It did contain one important military base, but the bomb had been aimed at the very center of a city (and far from its industrial area). This was a continuation of the American policy of bombing civilian populations in Japan to undermine the morale of the enemy. It was also to take advantage of what those who picked the target called the special “focusing effect” provided by the hills which surrounded the city on three sides. This would allow the blast to bounce back on the city, destroying more of it, and its citizens.

Perhaps 10,000 military personnel lost their lives in the bomb but the vast majority of the dead in Hiroshima would be women and children. Also: at least a dozen American POWs. When Nagasaki was A-bombed three days later it was officially described as a “naval base.” Film footage shot by the Japanese and later the Americans showing the full extent of the human damage would be suppressed by the U.S. for decades. (See some of the footage in video below or here.)

There was something else missing in Truman’s announcement: Because the president in his statement failed to mention radiation effects, which officials knew were horrendous, the imagery of just a bigger bomb would prevail in the press. Truman described the new weapon as “revolutionary” but only in regard to the destruction it could cause, failing to mention its most lethal new feature: radiation.

Many Americans first heard the news from the radio, which broadcast the text of Truman’s statement shortly after its release. The afternoon papers quickly arrived with banner headlines: “Atom Bomb, World’s Greatest, Hits Japs!” and “Japan City Blasted by Atomic Bomb.” The Pentagon had released no pictures, so most of the newspapers relied on maps of Japan with Hiroshima circled.

It wasn’t until the following morning, Aug. 7, that the government’s press offensive appeared, with the first detailed account of the making of the atomic bomb, and the Hiroshima mission. Nearly every U.S. newspaper carried all or parts of 14 separate press releases distributed by the Pentagon several hours after the president’s announcement.

Many of them written by one man: W.L. Laurence, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, “embedded” with the atomic project. General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, would later reflect, with satisfaction, that “most newspapers published our releases in their entirety. This is one of the few times since government releases have become so common that this has been done.”

The Truman announcement of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and the flood of material from the War Department, firmly established the nuclear narrative (see much more on this in my new book, Atomic Cover-up and e-book).

One of the few early stories that did not come directly from the military was a wire service report filed by a journalist traveling with the president on the Atlantic, returning from Europe. Approved by military censors, it went beyond, but not far beyond, the measured tone of the president’s official statement. It depicted Truman, his voice “tense with excitement,” personally informing his shipmates about the atomic attack. “The experiment,” he announced, “has been an overwhelming success.”

The sailors were said to be “uproarious” over the news. “I guess I’ll get home sooner now,” was a typical response. (Whether the declaration of war by the Soviets might have produced surrender in a few days or weeks remains an open question.) Nowhere in the story, however, was there a strong sense of Truman’s reaction. Missing from this account was his exultant remark when the news of the bombing first reached the ship: “This is the greatest thing in history!”

Greg Mitchell’s new book is “Atomic Cover-up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made.” Also in e-book editions. His email is epic1934@aol.com.

Inside a Mound in Hiroshima

In the northwestern corner of the Hiroshima Peace Park, amid a quiet grove of trees, the earth suddenly swells. It is not much of a mound -- only about ten feet high and sixty feet across. Unlike most mounds, however, this one is hollow, and within it rests perhaps the greatest concentration of human residue in the world.

Grey clouds rising from sticks of incense hang in the air, spookily. Tourists do not dawdle here. Visitors searching for the Peace Bell, directly ahead, or the Children's Monument, down the path to the right, hurry past it without so much as a sideways glance. Still, it has a strange beauty: a lump of earth (not quite lush) topped by a small monument that resembles the tip of a pagoda.

On one side of the Memorial Mound the gray wooden fence has a gate, and down five steps from the gate is a door. Visitors are usually not allowed through that door, but occasionally the city of Hiroshima honors a request from a foreign journalist.

Inside the mound the ceiling is low, the light fluorescent. One has to stoop to stand. To the right and left, pine shelving lines the walls. Stacked neatly on the shelves, like cans of soup in a supermarket, are white porcelain canisters with Japanese lettering on the front. On the day I visited, there were more than a thousand cans in all, explained Masami Ohara, a city official. Each canister contained the ashes of one person killed by the atomic bomb.

Behind twin curtains on either side of an altar, several dozen pine boxes, the size of caskets, were stacked, unceremoniously, from floor to ceiling. They hold the ashes of about 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb. If, in an instant, all of the residents of Wilmington, Delaware, or Santa Fe, New Mexico, were reduced to ashes, and those ashes carried away to one repository, this is all the room the remains would require.

More than 100,000 in Hiroshima were killed by The Bomb, the vast majority of them women and children, plus elderly males.  Fewer than one in ten were in the military. 

Most of those who died in Hiroshima were cremated quickly, partly to prevent an epidemic of disease. Others were efficiently turned to ash by the atomic bomb itself, death and cremation occurring in the same instant. Those reduced by human hands were cremated on makeshift altars at a temple that once stood at the present site of the mound, one-half mile from the hypocenter of the atomic blast.

In 1946, an Army Air Force squad, ordered by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to film the results of the massive U.S. aerial bombardment of Japanese cities during World War II, shot a solemn ceremony at the temple, capturing a young woman receiving a canister of ashes from a local official. That footage, and all of the rest that they filmed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki revealing the full aftermath of the bombings, would be suppressed by the United States for decades (as I probe in my book Atomic Cover-Up).

Later that year, survivors of the atomic bombing began contributing funds to build a permanent vault at this site and, in 1955, the Memorial Mound was completed. For several years the collection of ashes grew because remains of victims were still being found. One especially poignant pile was discovered at an elementary school.

The white cans (that's my photo) on the shelves have stood here for decades, unclaimed by family members or friends. In many cases, all of the victims' relatives and friends were killed by the bomb. Every year local newspapers publish the list of names written on the cans, and every year several canisters are finally claimed and transferred to family burial sites. Most of the unclaimed cans (a total of just over 800 in 2010, for example) will remain in the mound in perpetuity, now that so many years have passed.

They are a chilling sight. The cans are bright white, like the flash in the sky over Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. From all corners of the city the ashes were collected: the remains of soldiers, physicians, housewives, infants. Unclaimed, they at least have the dignity of a private urn, an identity, a life (if one were able to look into it) before death.

But what of the seventy thousand behind the curtains? The pine crates are marked with names of sites where the human dust and bits of bone were found -- a factory or a school, perhaps, or a neighborhood crematory. But beyond that, the ashes are anonymous. Thousands may still grieve for these victims but there is no dignity here. "They are all mixed together," said Ohara, "and will never be separated or identified." Under a mound, behind two curtains, inside a few pine boxes: This is what became of one-quarter of the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 1 Day

Each summer I count down the days to the atomic bombing of Japan (August 6 and August 9, 1945),  marking events from the same day in 1945.  I've been doing it here for more than two weeks now.    I've written  three books and ebooks on the subject including   Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton) and Atomic Cover-Up (on the decades-long suppression of shocking film shot in the atomic cities by the U.S. military). My photo taken on a later August 6, at left.

August 5, 1945:

—Pilot Paul Tibbets formally named the lead plane in the mission, #82, after his mother, Enola Gay. A B-29 that would take photos on the mission would be named Necessary Evil.

—Also on Tinian, Little Boy is ready to go, awaiting word on weather, with General Curtis LeMay to make the call. At 3:30 p.m., in an air-conditioned bomb assembly hut, the five-ton bomb as loaded (gently) on to a trailer. Crew members scribbled words onto the bomb in crayon, including off-color greetings for the Japanese. Pulled by a tractor, accompanied by a convoy of jeeps and other vehicles, the new weapon arrives at the North Field and is lowered into the bomb pit.

--The bomb is still not armed. The man who would do, before takeoff, according to plan, was Parsons. But he had other ideas, fearing that the extra-heavy B-29 might crash on takeoff and taking with it “half the island.” He asked if he could arm the bomb in flight, and spent a few hours—on a hot and muggy August day—practicing before getting the okay.

—Pilot Tibbets tries to nap, without much success. Then, in the assembly hall just before midnight, he tells the crew, that the new bomb was “very powerful” but he did not mention the words “nuclear,” “atomic’ or “radiation.” He calls forward a Protestant chaplain who delivers a prayer he’d written for this occasion on the back of an envelope. It asks God to “to be with those who brave the heights of Thy heaven and who carry the battle to our enemies.”

 —Hiroshima remains the primary target, with Kokura #2 and Nagasaki third. The aiming point was directly over the city, not the military base or industrial quarter, guaranteeing the deaths of tens of thousands of women and children.   The surrounding hills, it was known, would provide a "focusing effect" that would kill more.

— The Soviets are two days from declaring war on Japan and marching across Manchuria. Recall that Truman had just written in diary "Fini Japs" when the Soviets would declare war, even without the Bomb.  (See new evidence that it was the Soviet declaration of war, more than the atomic bombing, that was the decisive factor in Japan's surrender.)

 —Halfway around the world from Tinian, on board the ship Augusta steaming home for the USA after the Potsdam meeting, President Truman relaxes.  His announcement on the bombing--calling the large city merely a "military base"--has already been written.  Truman’s order to use the bomb had simply stated that it could be used any time after August 1 so he had nothing to do but watch and wait. The order included the directive to use a second bomb, as well, without a built-in pause to gauge the results of the first and the Japanese response—even though the Japanese were expected, by Truman and others, to push surrender feelers, even without the bomb, with Russia’s entry into the war on August 7.

The Hiroshima Tile

Seventy-three years ago, atomic scientist Leo Szilard wrote a petition that served as the final real effort to halt the momentum for the use of horrible new weapons against Japanese cities.  It would fail, of  course.  A month later, the U.S. would drop two atomic bombs over two large Japanese cities, killing about 200,000 civilians (mainly women and children) and a few thousand troops.

After I visited Hiroshima for more than two weeks in 1984 (and also Nagasaki) on a journalism grant I returned home with enough material, and inspiration, to write dozens of articles, and two books, over the following decades.  I also came home with a very tangible, haunting, artifact, given to me by one of my hosts:  a piece of a stone tile that once lined one of several branches of the Ota River that cuts through Hiroshima.  It had been in place there on August 6, 1945, and survived the atomic bombing--but was burned black on most of one side (indeed, the other side is unmarked).

That's a photo of it, still in my possession, above.  Imagine the level of heat required to burn stone in this way. Then imagine deliberately exploding a new weapon, which also emitted deadly rays of radiation, directly over the center of a large city populated largely by women and children.

It's particularly haunting if you know that the rivers played a key role in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing, as tens of thousands staggered there seeking comfort, only to end up boiled to death or simply succumbing to their wounds or radiation.  Thousands of bodies would bob on the river for days.  The tile, like so many of the victims, was burned black, an anonymous object like all the rest, only it cannot feel pain, and recall it.

Greg Mitchell's book Atomic Cover-up on the U.S. probes the suppression for decades film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by our military film crew. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 2 Days

Each summer I count down the days to the atomic bombing of Japan (August 6 and August 9, 1945),  marking events from the same day in 1945.  I've been doing it here for more than two weeks now.   I've written  three books on the subject including  Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton) and Atomic Cover-Up (on the decades-long suppression of shocking film shot in the atomic cities by the U.S. military). 

August 4, 1945:

—On Tinian, Little Boy is ready to go, awaiting word on weather, with General LeMay to make the call. With the weather clearing near Hiroshima, still the primary target, taking off the night of August 5 appears the most likely scenario. Secretary of War Stimson writes of a “troubled” day due to the uncertain weather, adding: “The S-1 operation was postponed from Friday night [August 3] until Saturday night and then again Saturday night until Sunday.”

—Hiroshima remains the primary target, with Kokura #2 and Nagasaki third.

—Paul Tibbets, pilot of the lead plane, the Enola Gay, finally briefs others in the 509th Composite Group who will take part in the mission at 3 pm. Military police seal the building. Tibbets reveals that they will drop immensely powerful bombs, but the nature of the weapons are not revealed, only that it is “something new in the history of warfare.” When weaponeer Deke Parsons says, “We think it will knock out almost everything within a three-mile radius,” the audience gasps.

Then he tries to show a film clip of the recent Trinity test—but the projector starts shredding the film. Parsons adds, “No one knows exactly what will happen when the bomb is dropped from the air,” and he distributes welder’s glasses for the men to wear. But he does not relate any warnings about radioactivity or order them not to fly through the mushroom cloud.

 —On board the ship Augusta steaming home for the USA after the Potsdam meeting, President Truman relaxes and plays poker with one of the bomb drop’s biggest booster, Secretary of State Jimmy Byrnes. Truman’s order to use the bomb had simply stated that it could be used any time after August 1 so he had nothing to do but watch and wait. The order included the directive to use a second bomb, as well, without a built-in pause to gauge the results of the first and the Japanese response—even though the Japanese were expected, by Truman and others, to push surrender feelers, even without the bomb, with Russia’s entry into the war on August 7.  Hence: assembly-line massacre in Nagasaki.

--Gen. Douglas MacArthur,  who directed the U.S. war in the Pacific, and would soon become the head of our occupation of Japan, had still not been told of the existence and planned use of the new bomb.  Norman Cousins, the famed author and magazine editor, who was an aide to MacArthur, would later reveal:  "MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed....When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."  As we noted earlier, both General Eisenhower and Truman's top aide, Admiral Leahy, both protested the use of the bomb against Japan in advance.