A mushroom cloud forms over Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945, after the dropping of the second atomic bomb by the U.S. Air Force during the Second World War. Photo by Time Life Pictures/US Air Force/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Editor's note: Seventy years ago this month, in the waning stages of the Second World War, the U.S. dropped the world's first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, instantly killing an estimated 100,000 people, and leaving the two cities poisoned by radiation and in ruins. Later, tens of thousands more died from cancer and other illnesses. The bombings also triggered the nuclear arms race, which brought the world to the brink of annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Observer commemorates the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by republishing articles, photos and illustrations from the 1940s, plus this story from September 1997.


Everything is in black and white, except the yellow airplane. My sister, my friend from up the street and I are in my backyard treehouse. Below, my father assembles a swing-set. It is a sparkling summer day.


In the distance, an airplane drones. I scan the clear sky but see nothing. Gradually, the drone changes pitch, and the airplane comes into view as a tiny speck high up and far away.

The speck grows and the drone deepens. The airplane is diving, fast; I can make out its wings and tail, pointing like crosshairs at my treehouse. The others stop what they’re doing and fasten their gaze on the sky. As the plane approaches, I notice that it is yellow.

We four stand frozen as it skims overhead into the trees behind us. There is a silent, brilliant flash and for an instant what was white becomes black, what was black becomes white. My legs won’t move and I can’t breathe. I scream but nothing comes out. Blackness rushes forward and I am suddenly alone in the middle of it.

Such is my nuclear nightmare  — a recurring companion during my early years and something that pursued me into adulthood. It never became a reality but came close 35 years ago this fall.

My eighth birthday fell on Oct. 20, 1962 — a cool, damp Saturday that ushered in a cold front that would bring the season’s first snow to Galt (now Cambridge), Ont. We threw a party in the living room of my house on a tree-lined street in the city’s east end. My younger brother and sister were there as well as my best friend from up the street, his younger brother and likely a couple of kids from Miss Norman’s Grade 2 class at Central Public School.

I got a blue-and-white Daisy air-gun from my parents, which you pumped like Chuck Connors on Rifleman and which belched a wisp of oily smoke when you fired it.

We didn’t know it, but storm clouds were gathering fast over our happy group. Six days earlier, American reconnaissance flights had confirmed reports trickling in since mid-summer that the Soviet Union was installing missiles in Cuba able to propel nuclear warheads to targets in the U.S.

Then U.S. President John Kennedy was preparing to announce a naval blockade: Soviet ships carrying military equipment to Cuba would be prevented by force from crossing a quarantine line 500 miles out in the Atlantic. It was an enormous risk with the potential to plunge the world into war on an unimaginable scale.

But the crisis threatening the planet was escalating in secret, and Galt, Ont., went about business as usual. The Evening Reporter gave no hint of what was unfolding in Washington DC, Moscow and Havana. On Oct. 20, it described the successful test of a U.S. hydrogen bomb high above the South Pacific. Nothing unusual there; in the early ‘60s, stories about nuclear tests — nuclear anything — were fixtures on the front page. The day before, the Reporter noted that an American moon shot had failed, “possibly because of damage from recent high-altitude nuclear blasts.”

Two days earlier, there had been a story about how a record amount of radioactive fallout was raining down on Canadian farms, and how the federal government was considering an emergency shelter program for dairy cows and an emergency powered-milk program for humans.

My mother made one of her elaborately sculptured birthday cakes. We barely had time to finish the leftovers before Kennedy was on TV, informing the world it was on the edge of the abyss.

When I was eight, the world was small and unblemished. I had my family, my friends, my backyard. It was a white-picket-fence time, happy and secure. During that week in October 35 years ago, I learned that the world was big and full of danger, that my little part of it — birthdays, tree-houses, cowboy shows — could vanish forever on 15 minutes’ notice.

It all seems distant and surreal now. The gnawing fear that took hold in October 1962 has given way to a kind of numbness. I guess I just learned to stop being afraid and live with the Bomb, like everyone else. I have two children of my own now (the oldest recently turned 8), and they know nothing about the Cuban Missile Crisis or nuclear weapons, and I’m not inclined to tell them.

But the nuclear shadow never went away, it just faded from view. As it begins to darken again, I wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off staying afraid.

'Overall, adults tended to have abstract impressions of nuclear war. They could conceive of widespread material ruin — levelled cities, lifeless landscapes — much easier than they could tangible effects such as burns, mutilation and violent illness.'

In the mid-‘80s
, when the U.S. and Soviet Union were locked in a fiendish nuclear-arms buildup, the Institute of Medicine, part of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, sponsored a major symposium on “The Medical Implications of Nuclear War.” Some of the papers dealt with the psychological fallout of the nuclear threat. Researchers cited various surveys that suggested most adults believed nuclear war wasn’t likely to happen. Asked to rate the odds of nuclear war occurring in their lifetimes, the typical answer was about one-in-three. There was not as much optimism about the chance of surviving if one did occur; a 1983 Gallup pool showed 70 percent believed they would perish.

Overall, adults tended to have abstract impressions of nuclear war. They could conceive of widespread material ruin — levelled cities, lifeless landscapes — much easier than they could tangible effects such as burns, mutilation and violent illness. By contrast, studies on adolescents showed young people were vastly more concerned about the nuclear threat. Surveys in the ‘70s and ‘80s indicated a majority believed nuclear war would break out in their lifetime. In a 1984 survey of 1,000 high-school students in Toronto, 51 percent listed war as one of their three major worries, the highest rating of any category. Like counterparts elsewhere, the study showed that Canadian young people did much of their worrying alone — nuclear war wasn’t something their parents relished talking about.

The apparent discrepancy between adults and young people intrigued Dr. Shlomo Breznitz, an Israeli authority on stress denial. “Something happens between adolescence and adulthood that makes people less worried,” he observed. He suggested it was a process of denial, alluding to medical evidence showing “people in great trouble sometimes have a better chance of survival if they deny the enormity of what is happening to them.”  Nuclear denial, played out collectively but nurtured individually, starts in the same place as its civilian cousin; it’s “a vital psychological sign (suggesting) a person is putting up a defence, trying to protect him or herself from something terrible.”

Breznitz argued we retreat into denial not because we lack information about nuclear horrors, but because we know the nuclear threat all too well. It’s so big we are unable to conceive of its effects concretely. We don’t talk about it much or act to alleviate it because we’re loath to be reminded of it.

My parents both grew up in the Depression, and will forever be Depression babies. The generation born after the Second World War labels itself variously as Baby Boomers, the TV Generation, the Rock n’ Roll Generation, the Me Generation, but never the Atomic Generation. But of all the factors that shaped the postwar generation, surely none was as profound and pervasive as the nuclear threat. TV may have helped us tune out, rock ‘n roll may have driven us into a blissful frenzy, and maxed-out credit cards may have bought fleeting material comfort. But none of these threatened to annihilate humanity and render the planet forever toxic. Maybe we’ve been labelling the symptoms of our denial but refusing to recognize the one thing that actually identities us.

Once, war was something you left Galt, Ont., for and — you hoped — came back from alive. In the atomic ‘60s, war would come to Galt — an errant missile aimed at nearby Toronto, Hamilton or targets in the northeastern U.S. or fallout drifting earthward from poisoned skies. Hard-working, upright Galt — where Gordie Howe played junior hockey and the biggest peril had always been an invasion of starlings each summer — was as vulnerable as Omaha or Vladivostok.

On Saturday mornings, we’d be reminded of it when TV cartoons were interrupted by tests of the Emergency Broadcast System — a shrill wail followed by the not-very-comforting disclaimer: “This is only a test. Had there been an actual emergency . . . . “ Government booklets arrived describing what families should do to survive a nuclear attack (as if starting a war was the responsibility of generals in a bunker somewhere while surviving it was up to us). When they tested the air-raid siren beside Central Public   School, we’d stop dead in our tracks, wondering. There was such a steady diet of newspaper stories about A-blasts, H-bombs, A-secrets and N-scientists that even the alphabet took on a slightly sinister quality.

In 1961, my family became the first on our block to own a bomb shelter. At that time, the Diefenbaker government estimated there were up to 4,000-5,000 private shelters in Canada, and the question of whether the government should start a public shelter program and encourage more citizens to build their own was high on the political agenda.

The Cold War grew particular hot in 1961. In August, the Soviets built the Berlin Wall and a month later cancelled a three-year moratorium on atmospheric nuclear tests, exploding nearly 50 devices before the year was out; the Americans quickly followed suit. As it happened, we were building a new wing on our house that year, and after reading that plans for basement shelters were available, my anxious parents decided to construct one.

It was a room about 13 feet long, eight feet wide and six-and-a-half feet high, windowless and built of thick reinforced concrete. We stocked it with canned food, bottled water and other survival needs as well as fold-up cots and blankets. My mother taught me how to use a can-opener, how to prepare formula for my baby sister and how to count off 14 days — the fallout danger zone — on a calendar without actually telling me why she was doing so. I had my suspicions.

For my parents, the shelter became a public expression of their “stark, wrenching fear for the safety of our children,” as my mother later wrote. Some of the neighbours made fun of us (even though a more elaborate shelter was being built by another family a few blocks away). Others, only half-joking, requested a reserved spot. My parents also feared, though, what many other people believed — that no one could win or even survive any nuclear war and even our shelter would only forestall the inevitable.

The missile crisis proved a vindication for my parents they would gladly have done without. I don’t recall having it all spelled out for me, but I do recall worry settling heavily on our house, the grave appearance of the people on TV and the big, ominous-looking headlines in the newspaper. It seemed all along we’d been getting ready for the worst thing in the world, and now it was about to happen.

“May Clash By Tonight” warned a front-page headline in the Evening Reporter on Oct. 23. “Potential Cuban Threat could reach Most Canadian Cities,” cautioned another. A map showed that most of the country east of Regina was within range of the missiles in Cuba.

On the morning of Oct. 24, my mother bundled me up against the early-season cold and drew me aside before I left for school. I didn’t know it, but Soviet and American ships were expected to come nose-to-nose sometime during the day. I’ll never forget my mother’s words as she knelt down to speak to me. “The sirens may go off today and they may tell you to stay in the school. I don’t want you to. I want you to come home so we can all be together.” I knew exactly what she meant.

That evening after supper, my father went back to the office to work on the next year’s budget with his employer. He returned a short while later. They had barely started when his employer stopped and said, “Why are we bothering with this?”

At school that week, our teachers tried hard — too hard, it seemed — not to alarm us. The Galt Board of Education issued each school a transistor radio and a set of guidelines. “In the event of a nuclear attack, schoolchildren will be sent home with their families. If there is insufficient time, pupils will be marshalled into the best-protected area of the school by teachers.”

At Central School, that meant the basement. We practised herding downstairs when the fire alarm sounded. Huddled together on the cold cement floor, we were shown how to clasp our hands behind our head and curl up into a sitting fetal position. In another drill, we stayed in the classroom and crawled under our desks.

One evening during the crisis, the school held a civil-defence session for parents. They were advised to stockpile food, water and first-aid supplies, and shown a film about surviving a nuclear attack. My best friend’s mother, now in her late-70s, remembers walking home from the session and gazing at the lights of Hamilton, off to the east. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s where the flash will be.’”

The Emergency Measures Organization planned a mock evacuation, reconnoitring an escape route from Galt to the Georgian Bay city of Owen Sound, Ont. Without a trace of irony, the Reporter noted the exercise had to be abandoned due to bad weather and poor road conditions.

On the morning of the 24th, 16 Soviet ships steaming for Cuba changed course as they approached the U.S. blockade line. Later, other Soviet vessels escorted by submarines stopped dead in the water only a few miles from the line. The crisis was by no means over, but the development signalled hope for a negotiated settlement.

By Oct. 27, a deal was in the works. It included guarantees that the Soviets would withdraw their missiles from Cuba and that the Americans would end the blockade and not attack Cuba, as the Cubans feared they would. There was also a less formal understanding that the American would begin to remove missiles they had earlier placed in Italy and Turkey’s frontier with the Soviet Union; those missiles had rankled Moscow enough to risk the Cuba adventure.

Tensions over Cuba remained extremely high into mid-November, until the Soviets withdrew their missiles and the U.S. formally ended the blockade, downgraded its military alert levels and began to dismantle a 100,000-strong invasion force it had assembled.

In Galt, Ont., the crisis seemed to blow over as fast as it blew up. “Anxious World Breathes Easier,” proclaimed the Reporter on Oct. 29. Seemingly anxious to put the whole thing to rest, a front-page editorial asked, “Was Cuban Crisis Real?” In an invitation to join hands in denial, the writer concluded: “The best advice one can give is for the average reader to settle down and not spend much time worrying about a  situation he cannot do much about anyway.”

We now know average readers, if anything, should have spent more time worrying. Declassified U.S. and Russian documents reveal just how close the two countries came to blows. The Americans were prepared to invade Cuba if the Soviets didn’t remove their missiles, and Moscow was prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons to repel them. Both sides had raised their levels of nuclear preparedness to hair-trigger high. And at the height of the crisis, there were chilling instances of human miscalculation: CIA teams positioned in Cuba before the crisis continued to carry out acts of sabotage; a spy in Moscow mistakenly sent Washington the code for imminent war; a U.S. spy plane from Alaska strayed into Soviet airspace on the same day the trigger-happy Soviet gunners shot down another spy plane over Cuba.

The weather improved enough by the end of the crisis week that we were able to go outside and play again. That was infinitely more important than any geopolitical manoeuvres in the Washington and Moscow. They still tested the big air raid siren beside Central School, and we headed inside when we heard it. Later, we grew sufficiently used to it to keep on playing.

But the ghastly howl never failed to send a shiver through me, even years later when it was just a signal to a volunteer fire department. It still does.

The Atomic Age was only three years old when the United Church’s new Committee on the Church and International Affairs warned the 1948 General Council in Vancouver: “A serious factor (in dealing with the nuclear threat) is the common man’s fear of war with atomic weapons . . . and his feelings of helplessness and frustration, which produce in turn a tendency to panic or fatalistic indifference.”

The committee, including one former moderator, two future moderators and the secretary of the General Council, seemed to understand even then that two of the Bomb’s most deadly components are fear and resignation. Convinced that “a mighty faith in the good purpose of God and the spiritual worth and destiny of man” could tame the atom, the committee worked for the next decade to make opposing the Bomb a matter of Christian conscience.

In 1950, it declared that the use of the hydrogen bomb was “mass murder.” In 1954, it endorsed a complete end to nuclear testing and the view that nuclear weapons were “intrinsically evil beyond all imagining.” By 1956, it was scolding “Man (who) in his arrogance imagines he is most like God . . .” By the end of the decade, it was questioning the wisdom and morality of Canada’s role in a nuclear world.

Clergy, laypeople and decision-makers embraced the committee’s pacifism, often under the banner of the Canadian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In 1961, the Executive of General Council called for a halt to all nuclear weapons testing and an end to “the present suicidal arms race.”

But there were many others who argued there was no place for neutralist thinking or pacifist theology in a polarized world. Obviously, pacifism was not a unanimous choice. At the 1962 General Council, two months before the missile crisis, it acknowledged its own members were now divided on the nuclear issues.

From the missile crisis on, public pronouncements by the church on nuclear weapons were fewer and father between. Then in the mid-‘80s, as the U.S. and Soviet Union faced off in an all-out arms contest, the nuclear issue moved once more to centre stage. Groups, such as Project Ploughshares, Operation Dismantle, Christian Movement for Peace and Voice of Women forged a huge network of grassroots support for campaigns against U.S. cruise-missile testing in Alberta, for creation of a peace tax and for declaring Canada a nuclear-free zone. People, such as Very Rev. Clarke MacDonald, moderator from 1984 to 1986, gave the United Church high visibility with fiery letters to politicians and a rock-solid conviction that promoting peace in warlike times was the duty of all Christians.

As the arms race waned in the late ‘80s, however, so did the visibility of the nuclear-weapons issue in the United Church. The church is still concerned about the worldwide proliferation of weapons, but today the flow of conventional weapons and light arms from North to South has the spotlight.

Pockets of conscience still exist. Project Ploughshares now 27 years old, is working to get Canadian church leaders to draft a statement this fall calling for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons. In its ecumenical work, the United Church draws attention to destabilization in the former Soviet bloc and the danger it presents to human rights and peace.

Shelley Douglas and her husband, Jim, helped lead a 15-year fight on the West Coast against the U.S. Trident submarine-based missile system. Today, they are now part of a Birmingham, Alabama, Christian community tied to the Catholic Workers Movement. Shelley, a one-time candidate for United Church ministry, is well aware the nuclear issue does not have the profile it once had. But that doesn’t mean it’s less of an issue or demands less of a Christian response. “We’re doing the best we can,” she says, “to keep hope alive.”

' . . . The nuclear genie, once out of the bottle, is never to be trusted. We learned to control it during the years of mutual assured destruction . . . But now that everything has changed, we may be too indifferent to face up to a new risk posted by the same weapons.'

For 12 minutes in early 1995
, the world teetered again on the brink of nuclear war. Russian radar picked up a missile-sized object streaking in from the Norwegian Sea, apparently headed for Moscow. Trained to recognize a U.S. submarine-launched surprise attack, officers relayed a warning to the Russian strategic missile command. Russian’s policy is to fire retaliatory missiles first and ask questions later if an attack is confirmed.

The warning also went to President Boris Yeltsin and his military aides. On an electronic map inside a special briefcase, a bright dot moved over the Norwegian Sea. Beneath the map, a row of buttons gave Yeltsin an array of attack options. The president — presumably perplexed because relations with the U.S. had rarely been better — waited for confirmation an attack was under way.

About 12 minutes after the dot had first shown up on radar, analysts concluded the object was heading away from Russian territory, and the alert was cancelled. It later was identified as a Norwegian scientific rocket launched to study the Northern Lights. The Russian Embassy in Oslo had been informed of the launch but had neglected to inform the military.

The world has changed improbably from what it was in 1962. The Cold War is over. Russia and the U.S. are now friends who agreed a couple of years to stop aiming their missiles at each other. Senior military officials from both sides routinely visit each other’s command centres. On Saturday mornings, kids are spared the nuisance of the Emergency Broadcast System.

But the close call in 1995 was a chilling reminder that the nuclear genie, once out of the bottle, is never to be trusted. We learned to control it during the years of mutual assured destruction, to put it out of sight and out of mind. But now that everything has changed, we may be too indifferent to face up to a new risk posted by the same weapons.

Since 1990, worldwide strategic forces have been cut by close to half. Yet some 30,000 warheads still remain stockpiled, about 6,000 of them in the new and economically crippled Russia. They are at the tip of an increasingly frayed chain of command. The Russian defence minister recently complained that the country’s nuclear force is only getting about 10 percent of the funds needed to maintain the electronic systems at the arsenal’s heart. Yet it’s more central than ever to Russia’s military because the country’s conventional forces are in tatters. And since the Kremlin lost many of its early-earning radar sites when the Soviet Union broke apart, the missiles are on a shortened fuse. It all adds up to vastly increased risk of accidents.

The people who make up the force are fraying, too. Paid a pittance, if at all, they are increasingly dispirited and restive. In July, workers at a Siberian nuclear-submarine facility threatened sabotage if the government didn’t ante up nine months in back pay. In February, unpaid scientists and engineers at the country’s main command-and-control plant in St. Petersburg went on strike. A recent CIA study foresees the day when hard-up nuclear officers may try to sell weapon materials or even warheads, themselves.

Under strategic disarmament agreements with the U.S., Russia is dismantling about 2,000 warheads a year, creating a huge stockpile plutonium suitable for building new nuclear weapons somewhere else. The prospect of weapons-grade material being stolen and smuggled out of the country by some of Russia’s estimated 5,500 organized crime gangs is no longer a paperback-thriller fantasy. Already, German police have carried out hundreds of “sting” operations against would-be nuclear smugglers. In July, American agents posing as Colombian drug mercenaries nabbed two men who said they had tactical nuclear weapons to sell. Police forces in Europe have made numerous arrests of gang-linked smugglers actually carrying small amounts of enriched uranium or plutonium.

You’d need about eight kg of plutonium and a lot of money to make a small nuclear weapon. Who would want to? The U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France already have the Bomb, and most likely India, Pakistan and Israel do as well. South Africa, Argentina and Brazil could go nuclear if they wanted to but have renounced nuclear weapons. Iran, Libya, Iraq and North Korea are seen as the most likely customers for contraband plutonium; they make no secret of their nuclear ambitions but lack the technology to produce bomb-grade material. Terrorist groups and even drug lords are also feared to be shopping for nuclear weapons although they may be priced beyond their means.

The Canberra Commission, an international body set up by the Australian government, is calling for the strictest possible safeguards on the proliferation of nuclear materials and know-how. But as yet, no formal standards are in place. And even if they were, it may be too late: there is strong evidence that the governments of some Soviet successor states do not know how much weapons-grade material they inherited, and therefore have no idea how much they might be missing. In Russia, too, the system for tracking nuclear material inventories is criticized as haphazard and prone to tampering.

The U.S. now partly justifies its 7,000 warheads, its continuing round-the-clock nuclear alert and the $5 billion it’s spending on missile upgrades as a deterrent against so-called rogue regimes who might go nuclear or build other weapons of mass destruction. Ernie Regehr, director of policy and public affairs for Project Ploughshares, derides the “faulty pop psychology” of claims like that. “It’s counter-intuitive to argue that you need 7,000 weapons to counter Iraq with one.”

Earlier this year, the United Church’s Saint John Presbytery endorsed an international campaign, called Abolition 2000, which wants a global convention in place by century’s end to eliminate nuclear weapons. “We are convinced of its technological feasibility,” the network says. “Lack of political will . . . is the only true barrier.”

Still, many doubt that the genie can ever be bottled again, that the best we can hope for is to replace the balance of fear with the balance of reason. Arms-cuts advocates, such as atomic bomb co-inventor Hans Bethe, suggest reducing nuclear stockpiles to a couple of hundred warheads worldwide, plus iron-clad controls on nuclear material and technology. In the absence of a non-nuclear world, we’ll have to settle for a less-nuclear one. Or so the logic goes.


The worst of the Cuban Missile Crisis lasted two weeks. Three and a half decades later, I worry more about making it home on time for my eight year old’s little league game than I do about being caught in ta nuclear showdown or held hostage by some group that’s planted a bomb in a bus-station locker. It hardly seems really any more.

Recently, I went back to visit the shelter we built in our house in Galt, Ont. I hadn’t been there since 1963. I had trouble remembering the house — I couldn’t even recall where my own bedroom was. But I knew the way downstairs and remembered the shelter exactly as it had been, although it’s now used by someone else as a workshop.

I remembered the damp smell of concrete, the total absence of daylight, the hardness of the place. I thought about my own kids and remembered what my mother had concluded in hindsight: “The only difference between us and our neighbours is that we knew where we were going to be buried.”

It’s still real.

The Urakami Cathedral lies in ruins just after the U.S. dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan on Aug. 9, 1945. The world's first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier. Photo by Yasuo Tomishige/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Atomic Power: Consecration or Annihilation
By E. Gilmour Smith
(Originally published on Nov. 15, 1945)


Probably the greatest discovery of the 20th century came when man learned how to use atomic power. We contemplate with awe and foreboding the possibilities of this new and tremendous force to bless or to blast human life. Like the prophet Ezekiel, the Church must speak of coming disaster if this power is wrongly used (Chapter 7), and a word of hope and confidence if it is directed to serve the best interests of mankind (Chapter 11).

Nineteen centuries ago, a spiritual power was unleashed in the world when the saving power of Jesus went forth among the races of men to transform lives, to redeem the lost and to change the course of history. No one at that time could foresee how the few score of disciples would expand to include millions in every nation and language. That was a power that brought only blessing to the world.

If atomic power had been used first in peaceful and constructive fashion, we would have hailed its coming with thankfulness as we did the discovery of insulin and penicillin in the realm of healing, or electricity, steam and gas for transportation.

But atomic power has been called on as its first mission to blast human lives on a scale of destructiveness that appalls a generation calloused by six years of mass killing. No wonder there has been questioning, protest and fear. The extermination of a great city by a bomb slightly larger than a golf ball exceeds the ghastly effectiveness of all other weapons of slaughter. The foreboding of the world is expressed by the Vatican in the statement that “it casts a sinister shadow on the future of humanity.”

God has endowed man with powers of intellect to search out and to use the resources of the world. The energy of the sun stored up millions of years ago in deeply buried coal beds, and in subterranean lakes of oil, has been used by human ingenuity. In mould and coal tar are substances that can kill bacteria. Thank God for the scientist who has made these blessings of the universe available to man. But when we think of the atomic bomb, we shrink back as from a monster let loose in the world. Has the scientist at last gone too far? But let us remember that it is the knowledge of the atom and the power locked up in it that has made possible the X-ray and radium for fighting disease. The atom is not just an infinitely small particle of dead matter, but is a minute solar system composed of electrons circling at tremendous speed. To tap that power as a source of energy has been the dream and hope of the scientist. Now he has crossed the threshold.

The events of the past 50 years have convinced us that scientific progress is not synonymous with human progress. Increasing mastery of the forces of the universe will bring blessing or disaster, according to the spirit of its use. We discuss how best to control this new and terrible atomic power. Actually, that is not the question at all. The basic problem is how to control the hearts of men.

The atomic bomb blasting Hiroshima has proclaimed around the world that mankind must return to God as He is revealed in Christ Jesus, or perish.

A victim of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima, Japan lies in a makeshift hospital inside of a bank building (September 1945). Photo by Wayne Miller/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Japan Faces the New Year
By A.R. Stone
(Originally published on Feb. 1, 1947)


Post-war Japan faces the New Year of 1947 in none too happy a condition. The coal shortage, due to a lack of steel mining equipment, has cut down railway transportation to one-quarter of the pre-war level. The lack of coal combined with a light rainfall during the autumn has cut down the supply of electric power by almost one-half. Schools are conducted without heat in rooms with a temperature of 30 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Building materials are scarce and prices have skyrocketed. For example, a small church that would have cost 20,000 yen before the war now costs over half a million yen. Highly inflationary prices prevail in both open and controlled markets. In terms of goods and services, the Canadian dollar will buy only from one-twentieth to one-tenth what I would buy in 1938. The improved average daily diet of the people, of 2,000 calories, is not sufficient for either good health or efficient work. Above all, there is a dearth of leadership and initiative. The “purge” has removed people from high and low places, and in many cases only inefficient and inexperienced personnel remain to take their places.

So much for the dark side of the picture. On the other side, one can report that in spite of building difficulties, thousands of little shacks, houses and shops are springing up like mushrooms. In the little stores, one can buy things (at what a price!) that were entirely unavailable a year ago, or even in the late summer. The food ration, while still insufficient, is so much more than a year ago that the mood of the people is more optimistic; and the thin, haggard look has disappeared from many faces. The Railway Ministry reports that within two years, transportation should be back to the pre-war standards. The government reports that by April, much more mining machinery will be available; and that another winter should see much improved fuel and power conditions. Given a chance to start export trade, the inflation of the yen will cease; and there is some hope for the revival of international trade in 1947.

The above conditions should make rebuilding on a larger and better scale more feasible before the end of the coming summer. All in all, the general atmosphere in Japan at the opening of the New Year is that of a gradual settling down to normal.

This story is abridged from the original news report.



Author's photo
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
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