August 9 Vigil: 60th Anniversary of NagasakiPhiladelphia 18 Aug 2005 15:38 GMT
Nagasaki was bombed three days after Hiroshima at the end of World War II, and it was a Portuguese and Dutch influenced port. The city of Nagasaki became known, beginning in the 1860s for its shipbuilding, which soon became the city's largest industry. During World War II, many Japanese warships were built in Nagasaki. Because of their shipbuilding industry, Nagasaki was one of the targets for American warplanes during the war.
Of all the cities in Japan, Nagasaki had the highest population of Christians and a majority of these Christians were Catholic. In Japan, the Christian and the Catholic community had been the subject of persecution by the primarily Shinto-practicing nation from as far back as the 1500s.
When the United States sent the second atomic bomb from Tinian Island, they originally intended to target the Japanese town of Kokura. However, when the plane flew towards Kokura, it ran into a thick mass of clouds making it difficult to find a target in the city. Rather than dropping the bomb into the ocean, the plane moved towards Nagasaki, whose industrial shipbuilding areas were the secondary target for the bomb. The largest Roman Catholic church in Japan, the Urakami Roman Catholic Cathedral, became ground zero for the bomb. According to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, the 20 neighborhoods that lay within one kilometer from the bombing were completely ruined and reduced to ashes. Approximately 80% of the homes in the area fell to the ground and after the smoke finally cleared, human and animal remains were strewn about the city.
Besides the deaths and material damage caused by the intense heat and external injuries from the bomb, there were many deaths caused by radiation burns. Shortly after the bombing, American journalist George Weller wrote a series of stories from Nagasaki about what he witnessed after the bombing. These stories were censored 60 years ago by the American military and resurfaced in June 2005 in the Japanese newspaper Mainichi. In his reports, Weller described some of the then-unknown effects of atomic radiation. He described seeing people suffer from high fevers, a drop in red and white blood cells, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of hair, among other horrible reactions to the radiation. At the time, Weller called these collected symptoms "disease X," but today it is known that these indicators were caused by radiation from the bomb. People who were alive during the atomic bombings in Nagasaki will never forget all the pain and horror thatthey witnessed, and many suffered physical effects from the radiation forthe rest of their lives.
The candlelight vigil at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on August 9th will be one of many memorial services held throughout the country for the 60th anniversary of Nagasaki and will be the final event of the Philadelphia area's 60th anniversary observances of the beginning of the nuclear age. On July 16th, the anniversary of the first atomic test blast in New Mexico, the Brandywine Peace Community held a Town Square Vigil for Peace and Anti-War Protest at Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, New Jersey. Hiroshima, the first Japanese city bombed, will be remembered on August 6th with a rally, along with speakers, music, a "die in," Ceremony of Remembrance and Resistance, at the Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, PA.
Besides a candlelight vigil on August 9th, there will also be a celebration of the Mayors for Peace appeal. The Mayors for Peace appeal, drafted by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, includes mayors across the world who urgently want a nuclear free world. They wish for negotiations to begin in 2005, concluding in 2010 for a treaty eliminating nuclear weapons and an eventual nuclear disarmament by 2020. Some mayors in Pennsylvania who have signed on include Mayor Roy Afflerbach of Allentown, Mayor Stephen Reed of Harrisburg and Mayor Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh.
The Nagasaki Day Sundown Candlelight Vigil in Philadelphia has been planned by Brandywine Peace Community, and endorsed by Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Green Party of Philadelphia, Northwest Peace and Justice Movement, Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network, Saint Vincent's Peace and Justice Ministry, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
For further information on the Nagasaki Day Vigil please contact Brandywine Peace Community at
and 610-544-1818, or
Northwest Peace and Justice Movement at
215-843-4256 and .