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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 9. July, 24, 1946

I've Seen Some Big Bangs But This is the Biggest"

I've Seen Some Big Bangs But This is the Biggest"

Since the new age was ushered in with the explosion that destroyed the city of Hiroshima (and 60,000 of its inhabitants), there has been enough blah written about it to fill Wellington Harbour. Culmination of this confused campaign of telling us on the one hand that it is only a "bigger and better bomb" and on the other that opponents of the US will be wiped literally off the map, is the Bikini Atoll "experiment." Judging by reports ranging from capsized ships to munching goats, it was nothing spectacular. The waters did not open and swallow the fleet. The ships were not vaporised. There were no tidal waves, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. Gabriel's trumpet did not give even one little toot. All very tamo, and we were most disappointed.

Let's get this straight. What exactly happened? The American Navy anchored a whole fleet, including some of the most heavily armoured ships afloat, at Bikini. Then they dropped one of these new-fangled bombs. It was, apparently, a bad miss, and exploded a few thousand feet too high. Anyway, it was an extremely ineffective way of attacking ships with an atomic bomb. After watching the explosion from a safe distance (say 20 miles) they cruised around for a while and re-entered the lagoon. They found that only some of the ships were sunk, others merely badly wrecked.

But the real significance of the test, when you have burrowed through the mountain of press reports and exclusive stories. Is this. Had it been an ordinary high explosive bomb that had been dropped, it Is doubtful if the ships would have been scratched. To have achieved such damage to a fleet by "classical" methods (i.e., the methods in use just prior to the "modern" method) would have required a major attack by some hundreds of aircraft carrying thousands of tons of bombs. Now we can put it out of action by letting loose, more or less haphazardly, a machine about the size of a grand plano.

Again, the blast is by no means the most potent effect of the atomic bomb. There was a report that all the electrical machinery of the ships was paralysed. This is quite conceivable, since the terrific Gamma radiation would ionize insulating materials and cause one colossal short circuit. An uncontrollable mass of solid steel is not a very efficient fighting weapon. Nor is it certain that the crew's could have long outlived the explosion. At Hiroshima, many of the victims did not perish immediately but died slowly over a period of weeks, since the intense radiation had destroyed the cells in the bone marrow that renewed the supply of red corpuscles. Add to this the effect of the induced radio activity, and one can imagine the extent to which the fleet would have been crippled had this been a real attack.

It is the height of folly to minimise the power or atomic energy, which has increased the potential destructiveness of warfare about one million fold. Compare this with the desolation of the bombed cities of Europe. Think of Hiroshima as Wellington. Add the possibilities of radio active dust, dispersed as a poison gas, capable of destroying life in all countries. Multiply by the effect of rockets, impossible to intercepts of immense range, accurately guided by radio. Sum over all the years of anxiety never knowing when a neighbouring nation way attempt a surprise attack, and express the result in terms of human suffering. It is perfectly obvious (If one has not been too hopelessly confused by soft-pedalling of those admirals and generals who do not realise that a tank is about as useful in an atomic explosion as a bowler hat), that such a war might annihilate the race, and at least deal such a blow to civilisation that it would take centuries to recover. We must face up to this undoubted fact and not be ostriches. If we value our own lives, if we wish to see our children secure and happy, we must absolutely prevent any further wars. Otherwise the consequences are indescribably horrible.