As San Francisco announced that the second “atomic” bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki shortly before noon, the vernaculars started to open up a little on the subject. It seems that “the authorities of the various government departments concerned have dispatched officials to the scene of destruction.” “According to a survey made, the new-type bomb drops toward the ground with a parachute and issues a strong light when the bomb is about 500 to 600 meters above the ground and then explodes. Simultaneous with the explosion, a large detonation is heard and a strong blast and strong heat accompany it.”
“Full caution,” warns the Asahi, “is considered necessary but it is pointed out that in case or a new-type weapon, its effects are usually exaggerated. For instance, when the V-1 made its appearance, considerable confusion and disturbance were Witnessed in England before counter-measures were devised. Upon completion of the counter-measures, the composure of the people returned.”
What counter-measures were contemplated against this “new-type” bomb?The Asahi also published a statement of the air-defense headquarters giving directions as to the methods of defense against it:
“If attention is paid to the following points, damage will be restricted to a minimum. Since they are effective measures, all persons are called upon to obey them without fail:
“1. Don’t be off-guard even if the enemy aircraft happens to be only one plane. When a large-size enemy plane comes near, it is better to seek safety even if it is only one.
“2. In seeking safety, it will be effective to escape into air-defense shelters. It is taboo to be outside the house without purpose. Safety must be sought in shelters.
“3. In seeking safety in shelters, one should take care to choose a shelter which has a covering. In case it happens to be without a covering, one should protect one’s self with a blanket or a mattress.
“4. If one is outside the house or shelter, one is likely to suffer burns. Accordingly one should expose as little of the body as possible. A summer suit usually exposes much of the body but in coping with the new type bomb the hands and legs must be given full protection.
“Fires occurred in many of the houses that collapsed and in seeking safety out of the house, one should not forget to extinguish fires in the kitchen or elsewhere.”
There is almost a touch of the sinister in this stupidity. Get into a trench and pull a blanket over your head — but don’t forget to put out the fire in the kitchen! It is impossible to believe that air defense headquarters really thinks a blanket and possibly a pair of gloves can ward off the gigantic flame that dissolves an entire city. It is more reasonable to see in these “directions” a deliberate attempt to assuage the alarm of the people; if that is all that is needed, then the new~type bomb is just a bigger incendiary which burns people as well as houses. There is authentic art in that artless reminder not to forget the kitchen fire.
How long will the Japanese continue to believe it? When they learn the horrible truth, will they rise at last to cry enough or will there be anyone left to rise?
And yet, what could the authorities have said? What defense is there against this new “atomic” bomb? Tonight we were discussing heatedly the relative protection afforded by a swimming pool and a deep cave. But what was there to say? We did not even know whether the bomb killed by heat, by concussion, by radioactive radiations, by gas, or by some other terrifying mystery of dissolution. A blanket over the head seemed just as good as anything else.
Then just before dinner some of the evacuated Japanese school-children in the village ran up to a Burmese cadet with whom they had made friends. They were laughing with excitement. There was a new war. The radio, they said, had announced at five that afternoon that Soviet Russia had declared war on Japan. We flicked on the short-wave radio. San Francisco confirmed it.
Somebody laughed. “We won’t have to worry about that new bomb anymore. It’s all finished.”