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VJ Day 75 Years: A-Bombs bring the war to a close

Three months after the Allies had secured victory over Germany, the conflict continued in the Far East, with the Japanese having ignored an ultimatum to an unconditional surrender.

The Allied forces suffered many casualties in the final push for victory before the dramatic news came that the United States had dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagaski.

It was in the late evening of August 6 that President Truman announced that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT and had more than 2,000 times the blast power of the largest bomb used in the war against Germany.

The Atom bomb explosion
The Atom bomb explosion

Hiroshima, a large Japanese naval and army base, with a population of about 340,000, was virtually disintegrated by the effect of the colossal explosion and more than a third of its inhabitants were instantly killed or burned to death.

The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9 and the results were even more appalling. A vast cloud of smoke following the explosion could be seen more than 250 miles away.

Just six days later, on August 15, the Japanese surrendered to the Allies and the war was over, although the formal document of final surrender was not signed until Sunday, September 2.

Views on the use of atomic bombs in warfare were soon being reported in the columns of the Lynn News and Advertiser.

During an evening Thanksgiving service at St Margaret’s Church, Lynn, the assistant priest, the Rev E Eastern, said that victory over Japan had come very suddenly by the use of the new bomb … “but it had not been used as humanely, or as Christianly as it might have been”.

Mr Eastern, a nephew of the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, officiated at the service as the vicar was on holiday.

The Bishop of Norwich, Dr P Herbert, at a service at Gillingham church, near Beccles, referred to the bomb as “this new engine of destruction so appalling in its possibilities that we are forced to say that either civilisation must destroy war, or war will destroy civilisation.”

He added: Almost everyone was shocked when they read of the effect of the bomb and there have not been lacking those who said that in the name of Christianity such a weapon ought not to have been used.

“I cannot help thinking that there is a good deal of muddled thinking. The destruction in one moment of some Japanese city is not any more awful because it happened in a moment than the equally complete destruction of Hamburg and many other German cities by those bombs dropped by Allied aeroplanes. There is no distinction in principle between the two.

“Moreover the instantaneous destruction of a great area, even with the appalling loss of life entailed, just doesn’t begin to compare in horror with the slow torture of German concentration camps or what many of our men have suffered at the hands of the Japanese.

“The truth surely is that the invention and use of this atomic bomb must open our eyes to the meaning of war in the modern world.”

In a lecture given at Lynn by the Rev A D Beldon, chairman of the “Christianity Calling” Council, he confirmed that he had protested to the Prime Minister, Mr Attlee, and to President Truman of the United States about the use of the atomic bomb.

That point of view was dismissed by letter writers to the newspaper. P. Cresswell, of Congham, commented: “Everyone agrees as to the terrible effect of the new weapon, but I question if Mr Beldon has given himself time to think. If the news that has just come through on the wireless about the4 surrender of Japan is true, thousands of lives on both sides have been spared.”

Another letter, signed by “Realist”, said: “Perhaps if Dr Beldon had close relatives fighting in the Far East he would not be quite so keen on vetoing the use of a weapon superior to anything possessed by the Japanese.

“The Japanese method of fighting, when they were on top, was anything but civilised.”

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