Swickard: Helping Downwinders injured by the Trinity atomic bomb test

© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  “In answer to the question: was the development of the atomic bomb by the United States necessary? I reply unequivocally, yes. To the question: is atomic energy a force for good or for evil? I can only say: as mankind wills it.” Lt. Gen. Leslie Richard Groves who directed the Manhattan Project to create the first atomic bomb.
             President Barack Obama was in Hiroshima, Japan this last week and said in a ceremony, “We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.”
            The man who made the decision, President Harry Truman wrote in 1946, “I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war that would have killed a half a million youngsters on both sides if those bombs had not been dropped. I have no regrets and under the same circumstances I would do it again.”
            Over the decades the debate continues about using the atomic bombs. President Obama stirred the pot by visiting Hiroshima near Memorial Day which commemorates American men and women who died in the service of our country. To families of WWII dead and injured it was the wrong week to visit Japan.
            And I have a small part in that history since I am a New Mexico Downwinder. We were injured years later by the downwind radiation left by the first test of the nuclear bomb since it was exploded in New Mexico. We who were born and lived downwind of the Trinity explosion in New Mexico didn’t know the deadly effect.
            People argue the issues of using atomic bombs, especially against civilians. But we Downwinders are civilians injured in this enterprise. Our government has turned its back on us and our injuries. A politician’s representative in exasperation years ago stated, “We beat the Japanese, what do you want?”
            I immediately said, “I would like to not have gotten cancer from that effort. Lacking that, would you help me and other Downwinders deal with our injuries?” The representative said that Congress has no will to help us, though they did help the Japanese who were injured by America’s use of atomic bombs to end WWII.
            To the issue of President Truman using the bombs, everything I have read points to that decision as saving perhaps a couple million lives, both American and Japanese. Operation Downfall: the planned invasion of the Island of Japan was massive as was the will of the Japanese to resist.
            The two operations, Olympic and Coronet planned to use millions of American soldiers and we know the Japanese military along with their civilians were set to fight to the death. Also, I have friends who were on troop ships headed to take part in those operations. They perhaps escaped combat death by the use of the bombs.
            President Obama said, “We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
            This doesn’t seem possible with aggressive nations and even terrorists having nuclear weapons. The notion of Mutually Assured Destruction is all that keeps us from being attacked. I fear both atomic weapons and a world where we have none while our enemies have some.
            President Obama might not have used the atomic bombs to end WWII. Thank God for President Truman. I feel the use of those weapons were justified in 1945 against Japan. Unfortunately, I do have to live with the results of our country exploding a nuclear device here in New Mexico.
            We are left with the question: should Downwinders get help for our illnesses? We can debate the use of nuclear weapons, but first take care of those Americans injured the last time America did so.