The “Black Rain” – A Re-assessment on the Dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on Japan, pp. 6 of 8

For independent Singapore, despite the war-time atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew had deep admiration for the resilience of the Japanese as illustrated by Ibuse’s Black Rain and the way they created their industrialised society through creative adaptation of Western technology.[v] Citing the cohesiveness and creativity of the Japanese society to illustrate his thinking, Lee commented in 1971:

The non-economic factors, the human factors of the Japanese society - that have made the Japanese economy what it now is. That will not change. The cohesiveness, the industry, the application, the willingness to take over what somebody has discovered and developed and improve upon it - is part of the Japanese make-up. The Japanese will find some way around these difficulties. It is a closely-knit society in which differences in income and status are made tolerable by an embracing and equalising patriotism and national pride (Lee, 1971).

After World War II, Singapore’s economic planners consciously studied the Japanese experience in economic transformation, beginning with labour-intensive industries and using income from exports in this sector to purchase new technology and upgrading the training of its manpower. Several industrial training centres, especially those supported by Japan (and Germany), were also built during the 1970s. 

This article has provided the history teacher with a bigger picture of the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” and their scathing aftermath on the Japanese people. In August 1945, the world witnessed a destruction of mankind beyond comprehension. Japan was (and hopefully, is) the only nation in the world to experience the horrendous effects of nuclear bombs.[vi] More than 70 years later, nations are clamouring to possess atomic power and threatening each other with its usage. As historian Andrew Rotters (2008) argues, “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” were the world’s offspring, in both a technological and moral sense. He concludes his book by stating emphatically (2008: 303): “One cannot kill as many civilians at once with a “conventional” bomb or a car bomb as with a nuclear bomb. But, if humankind has, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, stepped back across the nuclear threshold, it has stridden grimly forward in its willingness to target the innocent”. The race to create and deploy the atom bomb was international, and the consequences of that nuclear race are carried by the whole world to this day. It is time for us, particularly the younger generation, to know and to remember the “black rain” that once shrouded Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Can any lessons at all be learned from the defeat of Japan? How should we preserve humanity? By being more compassionate and understanding for all races or by producing mass weapons of destruction to destroy “unwanted” races or nations? Such are the lessons and impact of the “Black Rain”. For the teacher, it is important to move beyond the conventional notion of “assessment” and think about how historians review, revise and re-appraise historical knowledge. For the students, a wider historical narrative can help them to assess objectively their perceptions of events that shaped world history.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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