The Second World War & Hiroshima
The Atomic Bomb
Second World War Censorship
The Nuclear World Today
Citizenship & the Curriculum
- What role has censorship played in war and peace?
The U.S. occupying authorities censored Japanese newspapers
even after the War's end. In Great Britain a great degree of government information
is covered by the
Secrets Act and there is a system of voluntary
self-censorship - the so-called 'D'
(for Defence) Notice - run by the government's
Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee. This is chaired by an official of the
Ministry of Defence and may request
editors of newspapers to refrain from publishing
stories affecting national security. It was established in 1912. The United States
has a Freedom of Information Act,
first passed in 1966, which gives citizens the right
of access to federal government information in certain circumstances.
- Immediate images of war are brought to our television screens via
local cameramen in areas of conflict. The images are not censored although where
journalists may travel to can be restricted. How is coverage of war today different to 1945?
Technical means of reporting have been revolutionised firstly by the introduction
of hand-held 8mm film camera and, in 1980s, by increasingly portable video-recorders
and TV cameras. American journalists covering the U.S. involvement in the
in 1960s were able to report directly from the frontline and to have the pictures on
the nation’s TV screens within 24 hours. Today, with the use of satellite technology,
reporting has the capacity to be instantaneous.
- How does reporting of events at the time influence our views?
- Do you agree with the journalist and author, Greg
Mitchell, in the film who
believes nuclear stockpiling might have been checked if the 1945 information and film
had been available?
- Does a lack of reporting, or any delay in reporting, affect on our view of
nuclear weapons and government policy towards them? What impact does it have on the
treatment of people affected by weapons testing?
There are ongoing legal cases involving former military personnel who acted as
human subjects ('guinea pigs') in weapons tests in Nevada and Australia, and the
inhabitants of certain South Pacific islands who claim they were not sufficiently
protected from the effects of nuclear tests. Australian soldiers, as well as
Americans, were involved in the clear-up of Hiroshima after the bombing without
being advised of the risks involved. Claims have also been made that military
personnel were harmed by chemical weapons used in the Vietnam War; and today the
U.S. Congress and the British Ministry of Defence are investigating allegations
that Allied soldiers were affected by environmental factors
(so-called 'Gulf War Syndrome')
during their deployment against Iraq in 1990-91.
- What would be the benefits of a Freedom of Information Act?
Citizens would have a statutory right to access certain categories of information
held by the government. This would advance public debate and the political process
by keeping us better informed; civil servants and/or ministers would be less able to
censor issues. However the courts would be brought more into the political process
if attempts to access information were frustrated by officials, and there would
have to be safeguards to prevent the invasion of personal privacy. (Information
held electronically is regulated by the
Protection Act of 1984, amended in
1998, and privacy is now a protected right under the
Rights Act of 1998.)
- Who decides what is a war crime?
On 12th August 1945 Japan accused the United States, via the Swiss Legation
in Washington, of 'cruelty and inhumanity' for using the atomic bomb. Following
the Second World War the Allied Powers created an International Military Tribunal
to prosecute certain leaders of Germany and subsequently Japan for crimes arising
from the War, including waging war belligerently (i.e. not in self defence) and
for 'crimes against humanity'. Those charged with these crimes often argued that
they had only been obeying orders. In 1948 the newly established
ratified a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Fifty years later it adopted a treaty to create an International Criminal Court.
The United States has not ratified this treaty, arguing that it violates American
sovereignty and does not afford its citizens the same degree of protection in
judicial matters that they enjoy under the U.S. Constitution.
- How should nuclear weapons be controlled?
In 1946 the United States proposed that nuclear weapons be placed under
international control, and ultimately eliminated (
the Baruch Plan), but
agreement could not be reached with the USSR on how to achieve this.
Subsequently other states have pursued the development of nuclear weapons
and today there are five 'declared' nuclear powers – the United States,
Russia, the United Kingdom, France and the People’s Republic of China –
and a number of other states known to possess a nuclear capability
(including Israel, Pakistan and India). A Treaty on the Non-Proliferation
of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed in 1968 and came into force two years
later. Signatory nations without nuclear weapons have agreed not to
develop a nuclear capability and to work to stop the spread of nuclear
technology for non-peaceful purposes. A further objective of the treaty,
enshrined in Article VI, is the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
- Are nuclear weapons 'illegal'?
In 1996 the
International Court of
Justice gave advice on the legality
of nuclear weapons at the request of the
World Health Organisation and the
United Nations General Assembly. Three of the 14 judges said that the use,
or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is illegal per se in any circumstances.
Seven said it would "generally" be contrary to the laws of war to use or
threaten to use nuclear weapons, although they were unsure whether such use
"would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence in
which the very survival of a state would be at risk". However the Court
pointed out that Article VI of the 1968 NPT has not yet been fulfilled.
Hiroshima & Nagasaki
(Wayland Publishers Ltd 1997)
LIFTON, Robert Jay and MITCHELL, Greg,
Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (New York: Putnam's Sons, 1995)
HARWIT, Dr Martin,
An Exhibit Denied
BRAW, Dr Monica,
The Atomic Bomb Suppressed
ROFF, Sue Rabbitt,
Hotspots: The Legacy of Hiroshima & Nagasaki (Cassell 1995)
Hiroshima (Penguin Books 1946)
LIFTON, Robert Jay,
Death in Life: the Survivors of Hiroshima (Random House 1968 &
North Carolina Press 1991)