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White Light/Black Rain: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

2007, Military and War  -   26 Comments
Ratings: 6.67/10from 9 users.

White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and NagasakiOn August 6, 1945, the world was changed forever when American forces dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, another similar bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and shortly afterward Japan surrendered to the United States. The human cost was tremendous -- 210,000 died in the immediate aftermath of the atomic attacks, and another 160,000 would later die of related illnesses and injuries.

While Japan would rebuild itself as an international economic power, the nation's psyche still carries the scars of those fateful days in 1945, and award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki examines the lingering impact of the first two uses of thermonuclear weapons in the documentary White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In White Light/Black Rain, Okazaki talks with fourteen survivors of the 1945 attacks, ranging from an artist who has recounted his experience in comic art to a woman who was the only child out of 620 students to survive at a Hiroshima elementary school. White Light/Black Rain also features interviews with Americans involved in the attacks and probes their feelings about the use of the bombs sixty years later. White Light/Black Rain was an official selection at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

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26 Comments / User Reviews

  1. mahituna

    ahh..both Germany and Japan where actively trying to create a nuclear bomb, had they succeeded what do you think they would have done with it? If you live on the west coast of US you would not exist because your grandparents would be dead, live in London? forget it. I know they would have never used it they where peace loving governments

  2. Aleksandar Daic

    It is a war crime because:
    1. The targets where two cities full of civilians, not a military target.
    2. 3 days between two bombs was not nearly enough time for Japan to surrender. Even if the above mentioned arguments that nuke would end the war stand (and they do not), that is in a no way justification for the second bomb.

    Instead, US should have use the bombs but only on military targets and allow a week or two for Japan to surrender. That way lives would be saved and the goal achieved. Looks to me (and the documentary is mentioning this) someone wanted to see the effects of the bombs on humans in its full horror. The arguments like "yeah but they killed lot of Chines" or "If they had it first they would used it against us" are to childish to comment.

    1. JJ

      Happy thoughts are nice and so are simplistic views, but even after the two atomic bombings the side that wanted to sue for peace within the Japanese government found it extremely difficult to overcome those who still wished to fight to the last living Japanese. Estimates range at over 500,000 additional Japanese deaths (many civilians, but I suppose those wouldn't be counted as war crimes, correct?) if war had continued on with an actual land invasion of the main islands (these estimates were based on the fierce resistance encountered in Okinawa alone). It's not worth mentioning that at least an additional 100,000+ American deaths would have resulted if a full invasion would have been necessary, because to some people only non-American deaths should count, regardless of who actually fired first. I don't believe that an ignorant outlook is blissful, I simply think that ignorance is silly. To substitute historical knowledge for a falsely based altruistic mindset may sound good and it even seems popular, but it is still misguided.

  3. Martin Ansat

    The wars in Korea and Indochina were extremely deadly. While estimates of Korean War deaths are mainly guesswork, the three-year conflict is widely believed to have taken 3 million lives, about half of them civilians. The sizable civilian toll was partly due to the fact that the country’s population is among the world’s densest and the war’s front lines were often moving.
    The war in Vietnam and the spillover conflicts in Laos and Cambodia were even more lethal. These numbers are also hard to pin down, although by several scholarly estimates, Vietnamese military and civilian deaths ranged from 1.5 million to 3.8 million, with the U.S.-led campaign in Cambodia resulting in 600,000 to 800,000 deaths, and Laotian war mortality estimated at about 1 million.. But that does not mean that innocent Americans in 9/11 deserved to die. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two "civilian" cities not different from NY. To me the US attack on those cities is an act of terrorism no different to 9/11. regardless of whatever "legal" status you would like to give it, 20 thousand innocent people died in Japan on those two horrible days.

  4. Jade Newton

    I had to watch this for a college class and was kind of dreading it, but it is the best documentary I have ever seen. contrary to previous comments, the purpose of this film is not to ask should we have done it or shouldn't we? it was to say that we did it and there is no going back. now we have to live with the conquences and not let this happen again. One man says, “I have shown you my wounds, because I want you to know this can’t happen again.” No one will regret having watched this film.

  5. Joe

    Brian, again, you have the right to your opinion. However, the information upon which your opinion is based is U.S. government propaganda from 60 years ago. Apart from Marshall, Eisenhower himself greatly objected to dropping the atomic bombs. Obviously, the military men in charge at the time understood the actual tactical reality and the real political motiviation for this act.

    1. Ali Khalil

      sorry joe im gonna have to agree with Bryan.. unfortunatly the united states has been responsible and continues to be responsible of horrible crimes to humanity but dont forget its the only place in the world that can make a change.

  6. Bryan

    @Herding Lemmings

    We are the bullies of the world. Since WW2, every single military conflict America has been involved in has been a police action, nothing more. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq 1&2, and Afganistan have all been police actions. WW2 last the last bone fide war we fought. Do I love my country? Yes I do. I love the land I live on and my state but I do not believe in the government in any way, shape or form. There is no democracy in this country, never has been. I don't vote because it's pointless and a waste of time. Every single "election" you just have people who try and bullsh!t the stupid people into thinking they can actually change things and help the country. Sure they can! They just send this country even further down the toilet and deeper in debt.

  7. scott_of_the_rock

    @Herding Lemmings
    If the families of the innocent afgan and iraq civilians who have died due to the barbarity and indescriminate use of force by the US, if they were for nuking the US in retribution would you support their opionions like you do the chinese? an eye for an eye still wont bring back your missing eye will it?

    Bad karma huh... well answer this, can you point to a single internation deed the US has done lately that is good karma?

    The US powers that be cant even show compassion or morality towards their own people let alone another nation.
    America seems to be the bully of the playground.

  8. Herding Lemmings

    Why not ask the Chinese for an opinion about the use of the A-bomb. After the rape of Nanjing and countless other barbaric atrocities committed by the IJA in China, was it necessary? Nope but it sure was justice. Japan earned some bad karma. There is no morality in war. Quit expecting it.

    1. Xbow

      Herding Lemmings

      I agree 100%. If the Japanese didn't want to go to all the way to the ground with the USA they shouldn't have attacked us. No one really knows but the Japanese murdered 3 to 7 million Asians in what can only be called ethnic cleansing. The Japanese were using biological weapons against Chinese civilians on a grand scale. 600,000 dead courtesy of Shiro Ishii's work at Unit 731.

      Does anyone believe that if the Japanese had been smart enough to build atomic bombs that they wouldn't have used them?

      Actually they are lucky that the Emperor finally grew a set of balls and overrode the hard asses and surrendered. They are lucky that it wasn't necessary to put 'Operation Downfall' into play. They are also Lucky that the atomic weapons prevented Uncle Joe (Stalin) from invading Hokkaido Island.

      I hate to say it but if anyone had it coming it was the Japanese.

    2. sknb

      What a horrible hateful comment. Those school children deserved to be killed? Are you serious? How can you make a comment like that? Have you no moral compass? SCHOOL CHILDREN BLOW TO PIECES. You clearly are lacking empathy.

      Atomic Bombs should be wiped from the Earth.

    3. sknb

      The children who died from the atom bomb were not at war. They were children going to school and doing what children do. To insinuate that their deaths were necessary or worth it or in any way justifiable is despicable.

  9. Bryan

    While I'm not in favor of the damage done to the Japanese people from the atomic bombs, the thing most of you people don't understand is that it HAD TO BE DONE. Yes 1 million Americans and countless Japanese would've been killed if the bombs weren't dropped, but 100,000 people killed, a vast amount instantly is just a fraction of the total amount that weren't and would've been killed.

    However, before some of you shoot your mouths off without thinking, let me say this: the Japanese military leaders sealed their own fate when they rejected the Potsdam Declaration. That was Japan's last chance. Hell, even America modified it from unconditional surrender alone, to surrender and the Emperor can still remain in power. Japan's military leaders ran the country and the war, NOT the Emperor. I've heard it said that Hirohito reigned but did not rule. Had the Americans gone to him directly, which in itself would've been futile, or had he stepped up and told his military and political leaders the game is up, the bombs would not have fallen. I'm amazed, well not really considering most people are stupid, that the Japanese would've given up. There was no chance in hell the Japanese would've given up if those bombs weren't dropped. Those things shortened the war by 6 months at the minimum, and saved millions of lives.

    Now to those of you who have trouble with my opinions, I'm not totally ignorant to the Japanese. Yes I do feel horrible for the survivors and the ones that got radiation poisoning. I'm sure they did nothing to deserve that. The only thing they were guilty of was being Japanese, and back then, that was a death sentence. Look at what my country did to our own people when we locked them up in the internment camps. That in itself was a crime. I'm not apologizing for dropping the bombs on Japan, but I am not saying it was revenge either. It was a necessary evil, and to end the war, it had to be done.

  10. Marie

    The reason the US does not drop a bomb on Iraq (or Afghanistan)
    is because we want the resources. Who doesn't understand this?

  11. PC

    Yes. we should all follow Brians logic on this one. Maybe we should have dropped an a bomb on iraq for example and saved ourselves years of war and lost lives...american/iraqs/humans....

    or how about the same for the vietnam war??? or maybe not...

    Although it looks like this DU has been just as bad as an A bomb but without the public acknowledgement of damage done.

    A silent killer with very little public awareness.

  12. Keith Rodgers

    I believe it was 64grams the H Bomb... Does not even compare with the TONS of Depleted Uranium used in Kosovo and Iraq...

    Every time I see the photos of the Birth Defects and Death I hear the tune in the back of my mind.. GOD BLESS AMERICA..

    I read all about the Camp Doha Explosions in 1991 and how the Soldiers had to clean up that Base with NOTHING after all them DU rounds exploded. If you think DU is not Deadly, Then WHY is the USA IMPORTING the SAND from Camp Doha to Boise Idaho??? 6700 TONS of it. or 150 Rail Cars? Yep, GOD BLESS AMERICA!

  13. Nyax

    If you found this docu interesting, search for "hadashi no gen" or "barefoot Gen" (Hard G). It is the anime created by the survivor Keiji Nakazawa and truly is a masterpiece.

  14. Max

    Brian, the choice between 1,000,000 dead US service personnel or atomic bombing is clearly false dichotomy.

    General George C. Marshall who issued the orders for the atomic bombing said that Japan was only weeks away from surrender in early Aug 45.

    So lets look at another possible motivation for the August attacks.

    Intimidation of USSR into accepting US post war domination of the region.

  15. Brian

    Despite the atrocious spelling, Lyndsey is right. Had Truman instead chosen to invade the Japan, more than 1,000,000 Americans and countless Japanese civilians would have been killed. Plus, he'd have been impeached afterward by Americans who would demand an explanation as to why Truman would put American soldiers in harm's way when the A-bomb was available to him.

    It's very easy to criticize in the retrospect of history; it's nearly impossible to place yourself in the shoes of the men who made the decisions that shook the world.

  16. Max

    I agree with James, the 'Japanese' were area incendiary bombed for more than 20 months prior to the atomic bombings. The buildings in Japanese city's were largely of wooden construction. Incendiary bombing of some city's produced fire storms that killed more than 100,000 people per raid(Total fire bombing dead 337,000*). And destroyed between 20-90% of structures.
    *'Was World War II American Urban Bombing Democide?'
    R.J. Rummel

    Gen.Curtis Lemay in command of a 1st B29s 58th bomb wing. Ordered the area fire bombings.

    "He said 'If we had lost the war we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals' and I think he was right. He and I would say I, were behaving as war criminals"
    Robert McNamara, 'Fog of War', Sony Pictures.

    Then 2 atomic bombs where dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

    Proportionality should be a rule of war.

  17. James

    while you are entitled to your opinion, you are still wrong. Those two incidents were among the worst war crimes in human history. Such acts, when carried out by...anyone other than the US are considered travesties, or terrorist acts. But if a President signs off on it, then it is heroic and justified. This inequity is inexcusable. Bin-Laden and Al-Queda, in their entire history combined, have not killed that many people, and further to the point at least they choose military targets. Even the WTC was a military target, because the infrastructure and economic engines of a nation are fair game in any conventional war. However the schools, hospitals and orphanages destroyed by Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in this case two ENTIRE CITIES are most definably not military targets. Those who perpetrated these attacks should have hung next to Gobbels and Goering at Nuremberg after the war

  18. lyndsey

    i think that we should have droped the bomb. experts say that if we never dropped them 1 million more american soilders and 5 million japonies what would u rather have 200,000 dead or 6,000,000 dead? its just like 9/11 when the terisit hit the petagon and the twin towers didnt you want reveng didnt you want to create a nuc and drop it on iraq and afganistan? then teh japanies attacked pearl harbor we wonted to kill the japanies it the same concept didt time pierods. i really feel bad what the surviors went through but they shount blame us they should blame there goverment. the us gave a worning to the japs evan though it was week they still gave a worning if the japs didnt surender we would dropped a bomb. then when the japs said no america dropped it then when it fell the us ask for surender again they said no again so its the goverments foult then when thay did surender the america sent over military to help rebuild homes so i agree with what they did

  19. Matthew J. Gossert

    The first time I saw this documentary, I was completely awestruck. This documentary is the most realistic presentation of the nuclear bombings of Japan that has been produced yet. I was 16 years old when I first saw this film, and it has completely changed my view of the second World War. In the words of Ms. Sakue Shimohira, "It must end with us". She was speaking of the survivors of the bombs, but I believe that this can be applied to us, the current generation. It is up to the youth of this Earth to prevent nuclear weapons from being used again. If this documentary can open the eyes of a sixteen year old boy, than I truly believe that this film, and others like it, can truly make a difference. 10 out of 10. And anyone who took a liking to this film will also like "Barefoot Gen", which is described in "White Light/Black Rain", and is a very unsettling firsthand account of the Bomb.

  20. Vlatko

    I totally agree with you Nayelli Charco.

  21. Nayelli Charco

    I saw the documentary last night and from the begining I didn't stop until it was over. I had always heard that it had a big impact but I had never seen how much distruction the bombs have had. There was times when I was watching the documentary that my eyes would get full with tears it broke my heart. I really recomment the documentary to anyone because it is full of information no one has ever seen or heard of not even please in Japan now a days. I want to thank the creator for opening my eyes to new information that I will charishe for the rest of my life. We need more documentaries like this one to educate our kids and our selfs.