Hiroshima Memorial

Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP

Monday Marks 73 Years Since Atomic Bombing Of Hiroshima

August 06, 2018 - 6:39 pm

HIROSHIMA, Japan (WCBS 880/AP) -- Monday marks the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

Hiroshima marked the anniversary with of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing with a somber ceremony Monday to remember those killed and injured and a call to eliminate nuclear weapons amid hopes of denuclearizing North Korea.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui opened his speech by describing the hellish scene of the blast that morning 73 years ago and the agony of the victims, telling the audience to listen "as if you and your loved ones were there." Then he raised concerns about the global rise of egocentrism and tensions, and urged Japan's government to take more leadership toward achieving a truly nuclear-free world.

"Certain countries are blatantly proclaiming self-centered nationalism and modernizing their nuclear arsenals, rekindling tensions that had eased with the end of the Cold War," Matsui said, without identifying the nations. Nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrellas are "inherently unstable and extremely dangerous" approaches that seek to maintain international order by only generating fear in rival countries, he said, urging world leaders to negotiate in good faith to eliminate nuclear arsenals instead.

The U.S. attack on Hiroshima killed 140,000 people, and the bombing of Nagasaki killed more than 70,000 three days later, leading to Japan's surrender and ending World War II.

Matsui said in his speech that Japan's government should do more to achieve a nuclear-free world by helping the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons take effect. Japan, which hosts U.S. troops and is covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella protecting it from attack, has not signed the treaty.

Japan should live up to the spirit of its pacifist constitution to lead the international community "toward dialogue and cooperation for a world without nuclear weapons," Matsui said.

About 50,000 people, including Hiroshima residents and representatives from 58 countries, including U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty, attended this year's ceremony.

Survivors, their relatives and other participants marked the 8:15 a.m. blast with a minute of silence.

CBS News Military Analyst and retired Army Maj. Mike Lyons said tragic though it was, the atomic bombings on Japan ended World War II.

“I think without question that this ended the war; ended something that was going on that was horrible. There would have been potentially a million people killed inside of Tokyo if something happened. So I think we did the right thing,” he said. “It was a tough decision that Harry Truman made back then.”

Lyons also said the Hiroshima bombing saved more lives than it cost.

“And I think that from our perspective, the most important thing was that we had the technology, we used it, we showed the rest of the world that it was going to work,” he said.

Lyons added that nuclear weapons remain a deterrent rather than a potential offensive weapon.

“I believe the nuclear arsenal we have keeps Europe still safe,” he said. “Mutually assured destruction with the Russians is still out there as really the only strategic deterrent we have nuclear weapons, and we don’t have the same with the terrorist organizations. They don’t care about dying. But we know that if Russia decides to launch or we decide to launch, both sides will be destroyed. So it still remains the greatest deterrent we have.”

But the safety of the arsenals themselves must be maintained, Lyons said.

“You have to say it’s almost been a miracle that we haven’t had… at least an accident by now given how long we’ve had these weapons into play. There have been some close calls, and we’re looking at modernize and update, and sometimes in terms of, we’ve got to take these weapons out of the inventory, it’s important,” he said. “But I was a former nuclear weapon officer myself, and so I know that the procedures are very strict, and we watch over that nuclear arsenal. President Reagan reduced it by almost 75 percent, and we still have enough nuclear weapons on both sides to destroy the world over.”

The Hiroshima anniversary comes amid hopes to denuclearize North Korea after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made vague aspirational statements of denuclearizing the peninsula when they met in Singapore in June. "We in civil society fervently hope that the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula will proceed through peaceable dialogue," Matsui said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also was at the ceremony, said differences between the nuclear and non-nuclear states are widening. But he pledged to do more to bridge their gap. In order to gain cooperation from both sides, it is important for everyone to understand "the reality of the tragedy of nuclear attacks," he said, reiterating Japan's pledge to maintain its pacifist and non-nuclear principles.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)