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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 11. 1966.

Twenty-One Years After The Bomb — Hiroshima Day Symposium

page 10

Twenty-One Years After The Bomb

Hiroshima Day Symposium

Last Sunday approximately 300 people attended a symposium in commemoration of Hiroshima Day (August 6, 1945), when the world's first atom bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Running from 2pm to 6pm with 10 speakers, the symposium was opened by the Mayor, Sir Francis Kitts.

In his opening remarks Sir Francis stressed the non-political nature of the symposium and stated that no motions would he accepted from the floor.

He said people were being forced to live together before knowing how to live together.

"Peace is not just the absence of war, it is a positive force," he said.

"It should be approached on a constructive level." he added.

The symposium was organised by the Hiroshima Day Commemoration Committee, an ad hoc committee established solely for the commemoration of Hiroshima Day.

Including the Victoria University Students Association, the committee has the support of at least 10 organisations.

Mr. J. J. Shallcrass

On "looking back to Aucust 6, 1945." the vice-principal of the Wellington Teachers' Training College. Mr. J. J. Shallcrass. probably surprised most of his audience by stating that his immediate reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima was. "Good, it served them right."

He said he felt this, despite knowledge of German atrocities in Europe.

Five years of war had done a lot to dull our senses, he said.

In his address, Mr. Shallcrass outlined the immediate effects of the first atomic bomb used against humanity.

Sixteen hundred nurses were either killed or unable to work.

The only surviving doctor could only fight to stop people from bleeding to death.

At the time, the President of the United States. Harry Truman, stated: "The atomic bomb is the thing for them. We have spent 200 million dollars on a gamble and won."

Peter Fraser, the New Zealand Prime Minister, reacted to the bombing by saying. "We must create an organisation that will control these agencies of destruction." Mr. Shallcrass said.

Mr. Shallcrass concluded by saying, "In 1945 I rejoiced. For most of the time since I have had some faith in our ability to survive but fear our tribal instincts and power."

Mr. G. Hewitt

Speaking on "genetic effects of radiation." Gordon Hewitt, of the Zoology department, warned against exaggerating the effects of fallout.

"The effect of fallout is to increase mutations of the current type." he said.

"Fallout has only increased mutations by 1 per cent, but it cannot be said which are the result of fallout." he, added.

"An increase in mutation rate doesn't mean the numbers of mutants will go up because they don't reproduce! as much." he said.

Mr. Hewitt pointed out that a high dose of fallout in a short time would have a greater effect than a longer., slower dose.

He also said it was difficult' to test.

"In the United States five million mice were being used !to test effects," he concluded.

Dr. A. M. Rutherford

Dr. A. M. Rutherford, a gynaecologist, speaking on the "clinical effects of radiation." said there were two conflict-, ing figures of the effects of the Hiroshima bomb.

The United States put the population of the city at 250.000 and 78,000 killed by the, initial blast. The mayor of Hiroshima put at 400.000 total population. 100.000 killed in the initial blast and a further, 100.000 deaths from secondary, effects

The heat on the ground under the centre of the blast was 6000 degrees Centigrade, and 1300 degrees at 600 yards, he said.

Ninety-live per cent of the population within a half-mile radius were killed.

"Clothes blown off people glass driven into bodies, shattered eardrums. nausea, vomiting. diarrhoea. individuals deprived of rational thought" were some of the effects outlined by Dr. Rutherford.

"While people were being treated radiation sickness started." he said. "Haemorrhages, bleeding of gums developed. Patients either died at tins stage or reached a low point and recovered."

"Some contracted leukaemia and cancer increased." he added.

Dr. Rutherford concluded by saying the greatest effect was from the blast and that the effects of radiation were secondary.

Mr. T. A. Rafter

Mr. T. A. Rafter. Director. New Zealand Institute of Nuclear Sciences, speaking on "Nuclear Fallout and its consequences" said we are getting about 10 per cent more radiation than in 1952.

This would mean an increase in leukaemia cases, he said.

Mr. Rafter said the 1963 treaty limiting nuclear testing to underground banned no one.

The USA and the USSR knew most of what they wanted to know and other countries were not under the ban, he explained.

"May Hiroshima be the reminder of the evils of the atom." he concluded.


The Rev. Peter Stuart and the Rev. Fr. Matthias. Anglican and Roman Catholic chaplains to the university, spoke on the general topic "Can Nuclear Warfare be Justified?"

Both agreed that under certain conditions it was justifiable to repel force with force. They cited the traditional characteristics of such a "just war":

• It must be declared by a lawful authority.

• It must be for a just cause.

• Legitimate means must be used

• There must be a reasonable proportion between the good hoped for and the evil to be suffered.

• There must be a reasonable hope of success.

• it must be a final resort after alternative means of settlement have been exhausted.

Legitimacy of means. Peter Stuart asserted, lay in distinguishing between combattants and non-combatants. It is possible to make such a distinction. though it has not always been recognised.

He said that not all citizens participate in a country's war machine (especially children, the sick, and the elderly), and defined a non-combatant role as one which would continue in peacetime. He believed that there was no doubt about the morality of killing a combatant.

Both Fr. Matthias and Peter Stuart agreed that any weapon which could not make this distinction between combatant and non-combatant could not be used morally. If a purely military target could be selected for a nuclear weapon, then its use could be justified. But in practice this is difficult to envisage.

Fr. Matthias stated that until an international authority is established, individual governments maintain the right to defend themselves against attack. But even in a nuclear age there is a wider choice than total pacifism and all-out nuclear war.

The existence of conventional weapons, restrictable to military targets, permits the possibility of a morally justifiable war.

Mr. R. O'Regan

Mr. Rolland O'Regan quoted Robert McNamara as saying that casualties would exceed 800 million in an all-out war between the USA and USSR. "In this situation moral responsibility is inconceivable and defence an absurdity."

Questioning the wisdom of New Zealand's policy of attachment to the united States, Mr. O'Regan said. "It would be better not to have allies if commitment to them exposes us to nuclear attack." Any defence system for New Zealand should be based on antisubmarine weapons and missiles in the New Caledoniafiji area.

"Presumably any attacker would want to inhabit New Zealand. Therefore they would not destroy New Zealand with nuclear bombs it is more likely that conventional weapons would be used."

Prof. J. L. Roberts

Professor J. L. Roberts said that nuclear stalemate has helped preserve peace. "The fact of ultimate weapons of destruction has prevented major confrontation between the United States and Communist States and has made it unlikely that either power would force their policres to a nuclear conclusion. The Soviet Union is now advancing towards affluence and is beginning to realise that extreme Marxism-Leninism is inappropriate to the needs Of the twentieth century."

However. the present nuclear balance is threatened, not by the USA. USSR or even by Communist China, but by proliferation of nuclear weapons among smaller powers, politically unstable and intensely nationalistic, such as India, Egypt or Israel