from Sign and Sight: The destruction of Dresden and Hiroshima marked the beginning of the Cold War. The Allies wrestled for control of the world while the civilian population was taken hostage. By Jˆrg Friedrich
“The train tracks crossing the city,” states the US governmental report on the effect of the Hiroshima bomb, “were back in working order by August 8, two days after the attack.” Only then did the gamma waves and neutrons manifest themselves in human bone marrow and start taking deadly effect. Even thin cement slabs near Ground Zero had stopped the radiation. The majority of the 80,000 deaths were caused by heat radiation, shock waves and flying debris.
…The fire storm that enveloped the area around Hiroshima had a radius of 1.5 km and a thermal output of roughly 10 cal/cm2. A one million tonne bomb would achieve 22 cal/cm2. But fire damage was hard to predict, as too many other variables are involved. What role is played by wind, temperature, humidity and the individual incendiary properties of each city?
Data to answer such questions had only existed for ten years. The Luftwaffe had pioneered bombing raids over Warsaw, Rotterdam and Coventry. But it was only since 1943 that the incineration of cities from the air had amounted to deliberate mass killing. The fire bombing of Hamburg killed 45,000 people overnight, more than the Luftwaffe had achieved in nine months of dropping bombs on England. Only eight weeks earlier,the fire in Wuppertal had resulted in 3,000 deaths, an unprecedented figure until then.
…The historic fires in San Francisco, Hamburg and London had nothing in common with the procedure whereby in only 17 minutes (W¸rzburg) or 21 minutes (Dresden), cities were showered with hundreds of thousands of incendiary bombs. These sparked thousands of fires, which within three hours became a flaming sea, several square kilometres wide. Large natural fires normally have a single source, and are driven for days by the wind. But war statistics showed that such winds played a minor role in fires caused by bombs. The real destructive power was not in the wind that drives the fire, but in the fire itself, which unleashes its own hurricane on the ground.
Neither buildings nor people can escape the logic of the elements of fire and air. A fire starts, it sets the air in motion, fire and air form a vortex extinguishing life and all that belongs to it: books, altars, hospitals, asylums, jails and jailers, the block warden and his child, the armourers, the people’s court and all the people in it, the slave’s barracks and the Jew’s hideout, the strangler as well as the strangled. Hiroshima and Dresden, Tokyo and Kassel were transformed from cities into destructive systems. The agent of change is the bomb war, and the bomb war is its construction site. Work continues to this day, its a work in progress. There is hardly a nation not working at it, and the numbers are growing.
A brilliant and horrifying article. Read on here.