Before diving into my review, let’s take a diversion back to the mid-1940s. Like many Americans, I had a few ancestors that fought for the United States in World War II, my grandfather Gerry, and my uncle Brad. My grandfather ended up in the Pacific fighting the Japanese and my uncle participated in Normandy and survived the Battle of the Bulge towards the end of World War II. My grandfather wrote a war diary. As people who have lived through the consequences and have read the history of World War II, we understand what the Atomic Bomb can now do. But back in 1945, the soldiers in the military had no understanding of it. Mainly for two reasons.
First, the Manhattan project was completely secret and only a handful of Americans knew about it. The normal GI had no knowledge of what was occurring in the high desert of New Mexico.
Second, most individuals in the United States supported the dropping of both weapons with the understanding that it would end World War II. But since atomic energy had never been used before, the consequences of those bombs would only be understood many years later.
Here is an interesting quote from my grandfather dated July 2nd, 1945 (15 days before the Trinity test). He worked in the Army Air Corps.
“Worked on the line all day. Busy getting the A26's ready. We have six now. Tomorrow two are going up to Luzon (Philippines) and the rest are going to hit Formosa (Taiwan). Thursday that's a hot target…Won't be long before we hit the seas to Okinawa. It is rumored. We are going to Hiroshima. It is an island northwest of Okinawa. Probably spend most of our time in fox holes... I don't know how long the ship took to get there yet, but I'm just wondering why they would send them to those places when they knew they were going to drop the bombs there.”
So on July 2, 1945, my grandfather was aware of some sort of “bomb.” But no one had any understanding of what this weapon was capable of doing.
August 6th and August 9th (The day the bombs were dropped) pass without a diary entry. President Truman informed the nation on August 6th about the usage of the atomic weapon. My grandfather’s next diary entry is regarding the upcoming Japanese surrender dating August 11th, 12th, and 14th, 1945.
“I heard rifle fire on the other end of the strip, and I was sure of it. Well, it ended up that the jets wanted to quit, and they said they would accept the 13 points (The terms of surrender). The tracers from the 20 mm were all over the sky. They really raised hell. I was afraid that I would be hit with sharp shrapnel. Six men were killed in the excitement. It is a crime. We had to load planes anyway. I was dead tired. The war is continuing. Anyway. The third attack group is operating from Okinawa. The United States is having a time deciding whether to accept the Jap's offer. Finally, it was decided that we would accept. Russia is in Manchuria over 100 miles away. They are closing in on Harbin the Cliff City. I'm not sure if I got that right. We are now waiting for the Japs to decide if they want to accept. It is a matter of hours now.
Emperor is to remain on the throne but we he will take orders from the supreme commander of the US. The war continues while we sweat it out. It is a matter of hours. However, the radio station here is Radio Okinawa and is a stone's throw from Tokyo. August 14th, 1945, this afternoon the answer came over the radio that Japan accepts the surrender. Everyone is elated.”
My grandfather died of leukemia at age 66. Most of his family lived deep into their 80s. This next entry is the key point I want to make about these nuclear bombs which ties into my upcoming review of Oppenheimer. These atomic bombs became a reality in July of 1945. But no one knew anything at the time about nuclear fallout and the lingering effects of radiation poisoning. If this was the case, they would not have sent my grandfather into Japan in late October. This is what he saw upon entering Japanese territory.
“On October 26th they get off their boats and settle in and are greeted by the people who are in terrible shape. Will pay anything for cigarettes or food. The destruction is incredible. Practically every building is burned or flattened by bombs. The people are living in the burned-out areas in these galvanized tin huts. They are in a sad way. It is a dusty trip. There are trolleys and electric trains running Saturday.”
My grandfather takes a train from a small town called Yamato and onto an electric train into Yoka Shama.
“Most of the people are working class or peasants. There is not much to be bought in Yokohama. It is demolished completely.”
So ends World War II.
Till this day, most Americans (53%) still support the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the time of their dropping, support was 80%. Those two bombs are still the only time in human history that atomic weapons have been used on a foreign nation. There is still lots of controversy in our own nation about this action. This COUNTERPUNCH article fills in some of the details of what was occurring behind closed doors at the time.
My only criticism of the movie is that there was so much more to tell. The death toll of the Japanese and the effects of nuclear fallout are discussed during one key scene as well as a lecture he attends later on but this is mostly glossed over. Even though Oppenheimer knew Einstein, you still get the feeling that the movie could have used his wise advice a few more times than it was provided. Cillian Murphy who absolutely will walk away with the Best Actor trophy this year is wonderful at portraying guilt. Oppenheimer spent many years of his life trying to ride the middle road by keeping the military who was funding his work and his fellow scientists happy. But after unleashing a weapon for a “changing world” (A theme often discussed throughout), his opposition to nuclear weapons becomes undeniable. This also leads to his opposition towards Edward Teller’s H-Bomb which led to disagreements between the two men. Teller was the Dr. Fauci of his day. Betraying Oppenheimer in real life due to his disagreement over the need for a Hydrogen Bomb, Teller had a volatile personality and was often accused of being an exaggerator that took more credit for his discoveries than he deserved. Alienated in the scientific community due to his betrayal, Teller became one of the first scientists to have a deep long running relationship with the US government and the military so they could fund his research. He was a long-time supporter of increased defense spending until his death.
What else can I say about Oppenheimer? It is incredible to me that Hollywood would fund a movie, even with the reputation that Christopher Nolan has, about a theoretical physicist that put together the smartest scientists in the nation to build the first functioning atomic weapon. These are the type of movies that can save the dying film industry if these media corporations can find the bravery to take chances on this type of material. The world is not interested in “diversity” or “woke culture” when it comes to filmmaking. All anyone wants is to be told a good story. Oppenheimer delivers this in every imaginable way.
EXPERT OF SOME