World History 1945 Part 2

About the history of the world in 1945, the U.S. drops the atomic bomb on Japan, the Nuremberg trials begin.



Aug. 6 A U.S. B-29 flew over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and dropped the first of the war's two atomic bombs. Earlier, President Truman had warned the Japanese to surrender or face total destruction. Although Emperor Hirohito sent out peace feelers in an attempt to negotiate and avert a humiliating "unconditional" surrender, the Japanese armed forces fought on as ferociously as ever. At the passing of Truman's arbitrary deadline of Aug. 3, the order went out to drop the big one. With a force equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT, the bomb exploded above the city at 8:15 A.M. and instantly pulverized everything within a 2-mi. radius. A flash of light, intense heat, a bone-rattling blast, tornado-force winds, a choking cloud--this was the sequence of experiences for those far enough away from ground zero not to be incinerated at the first flash of detonation. The unique blast was so intense that the shadows of pedestrians were photographed permanently onto charred asphalt roadways. And many eyewitnesses undressed that night to find their clothing designs tattooed to their skin. About 100,000 residents were killed that day, and radioactivity more than doubled that figure within a year. Despite the grotesque power of the bomb, the Japanese refused to surrender. Then on Aug. 9, Truman let go another one over Nagasaki, killing 36,000 residents there. The second explosion convinced Tokyo to forget about saving face. In pragmatic terms, the bomb ended the war quickly and undoubtedly saved thousands of lives which would have been lost in an armed invasion of a never-say-die Japan. But with it came the ominous fact that the human race would enter the next war with the ability to render its species extinct.

Aug. With the expulsion of the Japanese from mainland Asia, an Indochinese nationalist organization called the Viet Minh, led by Soviet-trained Ho Chi Minh, captured Hanoi, turned out Emperor Bao Dai, and proclaimed Vietnam independent of French colonial rule. War ensued.

Sept. 2 Grim Japanese officials signed papers of unconditional surrender under the approving eye of General MacArthur on board the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo harbor, thus making official the Japanese surrender of 19 days before. So ended W.W. II--a conflict which had killed 14 million combatants all over the globe (among them 300,000 Americans) and untold millions of civilians.

Nov. 20 The Nuremberg International Military Tribunal convened to hear the cases of 22 high-ranking Nazis arrested on charges of war crimes. For the purposes of the trial, war crimes included plotting aggressive war, civilian atrocities, genocide, slave labor, looting, and abuse of POWs. The verdict handed down nearly a year later conferred death sentences on 12, gave life terms to three, gave stretches of 10-20 years each for four others, and acquitted three. Those sentenced to hang included:

1. Hermann Goring, 53, Hilter's chosen successor and onetime Gestapo chief; directed Germany's air war; committed suicide with a cyanide capsule while awaiting execution.

2. Wilhelm Keitel, 64, chief of the combined German general staff and master of blitzkrieg warfare.

3. Joachim von Ribbentrop, 53, German foreign minister, instrumental in forging the Rome-Berlin Axis and the nonaggression pact with Stalin; an architect of the invasion of Poland.

4. Julius Streicher, 61, Nazi party leader and one of the most rabid and brutal anti-Semites in the Reich.

A similar trial in Japan ended in the hanging of Premier Tojo and six others in Tokyo in 1948. In addition, local war crimes trials were held in Germany, Japan, Norway, and other countries. By 1950 some 8,000 veterans of the losing side were made to answer for their wartime activities; of these, 2,000 were executed.

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