1945 – The Bomb is dropped on Hiroshima

The Enola Gay left its base on Tinian with two companion aircraft on the morning of AUhust 6, 1945. It flew for the Japanese mainland, aiming for the city of Hiroshima. Its payload was the nuclear bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’, which was dropped and detonated over the target at approximately 8:15 local time.

Of the 340-350 thousand people who lived in Hiroshima, about 20% were killed in the blast itself. Another 20% died of injuries sustained in the blast or its aftermath, or from radiation sickness. Still more died later of related medical issues such as a cancer. All in all, about 200,000 human lives were ended by the first use of a nuclear bomb as a weapon of war. Hiroshima itself was devastated – the few structures that survived the inital blast were damaged or destroyed in the resulting fires.

Along with the detonation of another nuclear bomb, ‘Fat Man’, over Nagasaki three days later, and similar destruction and death there, the attack on Hiroshima was the proximate cause of Japan’s surrender to the Allies, thus ending World War Two.

Referenced in:

Mrs. O — The Dresden Dolls
Short Memory — Midnight Oil
Enola Gay — Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

1979 – 5 protestors are killed in Greensboro, North Carolina

It is a sad feature of American history that two elements of it routinely succeed in drowning out the finer qualities and ideals for which that nation stands. These two elements are hubris and handguns.

The Greensboro Massacre is a case in point. The deaths of five civil rights marchers occurred in an 88 second long explosion of gunfire from counter-protestors – largely members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. But it’s never as simple as the good guys and the bad guys.

The two groups had clashed for months previous to the massacre, and both sides – imbued with the hubris that comes from knowing that when your cause is noble and true and just you don’t have to be – were to blame for the rising tensions. Furthermore, at least one witness claims that the first shots were fired by the civil rights marchers – and members of the KKK and the Nazis claimed at their trials that an undercover BATF agent had encouraged them to take their guns along to the rally.

Whoever is to blame – and it seems there’s plenty for all in this mess – the shootings were a senseless tragedy. Captured on film by news crews, their broadcast around the world showed that for all the civil rights advances of the Sixties, there was still a lot of work to be done before the goal was reached.

Referenced in:

88 Seconds… & Still Counting — Pop Will Eat Itself
88 Seconds (I Wanna Go To The Rodeo) — The Othermothers
88 Seconds in Greensboro — Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

1431 – Jeanne d’Arc burned at the stake

After a trial lasting from January 9 until May 24, Jeanne d’Arc was convicted of heresy by her somewhat less than unbiased prosecutors. Jeanne (the French original of her name, equivalent to the English Joan) had led the French to several victories over the English, claiming divine inspiration.

Her accusers and judges were, unfortunately for her, strongly influenced by English interests in the matter, and she was found guilty and forced to abjure. Finally, she was executed by being burnt at the stake in Rouen, France. After her death, the coals were raked back in order to expose her charred body – so that no one could claim she had escaped alive – and then her body was burned twice more to reduce it to ashes. Her remains, such as they were, were cast into the Seine to prevent any collection of relics.

Referenced in:

Joan of Arc – Leonard Cohen
Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark