Had the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki fallen on its actual target and not two kilometers away, Masao Tomonaga would not have been at Cornell on Thursday to discuss the medical and social consequences of the use of atomic bombs.
“I always think of my fate,” Tomonaga said. His mother had to rescue him from the second floor before their house burned to the ground, but, because the bomb was dropped farther from its initial target, Tomonaga survived the blast.
Tomonaga, nearly 73 years after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a professor emeritus at Nagasaki University’s Atomic Bomb Disease Institute and the Honorary Director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital.
On Thursday, he came to the Cornell campus to speak about the lasting consequences of the atomic bomb usage in World War II in his presentation on the long-term consequences of atomic bombings and the evidence of their anti-humanitarian aspect.
“[The] atomic bomb is still killing people today,” Tomonaga said.
According to Tomonaga, Japan is facing a “second wave of leukemia” after the immediate detrimental health effects of the radiation exposure. In addition, survivors continue to suffer to this day from the loss of their families, mutilation from burns as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
After explaining the medical consequences of the bomb, Tomonaga analyzed a hypothetical case of what would occur if an atomic bomb were dropped on a modern city today.
His conclusion was that there would be “indiscriminate lethality irrespective of civilian or military with high death rates.” The city, and perhaps even the country, would suffer from severe destruction of infrastructure and economic collapse. In addition, the use of an atomic bomb is a war crime according to international law, Tomonaga said.
Despite the amount of the time that has passed since the bombings, Tomonaga explained why the topic is still relevant.
“We are continuing in difficult years of nuclear eradication,” Tomonaga said. “Mr. Trump said [the] U.S will produce more smaller nuclear weapons.”
At one point in the presentation, Tomonaga displayed a graph on the projector that showed the “Death Curves” of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs with distance from ground zero on the x-axis and death rate on the y-axis. The curves for each bomb were almost identical.
The reason for such scientific precision of effects for each bomb, according to Tomonaga, is that the “atomic bomb was experiment for human beings.” The goal of the experiment was to see the effects of such a destructive weapon on humans for the first time in history.
“Nuclear weapons should not be produced any more, should never be used again and ultimately abandoned forever,” Tomonaga said in his closing remarks.
Earlier this month, the Ithaca Common Council brought forth a resolution calling upon the U.S. government to “embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of our national security policy.”