Father John Siemes was a Jesuit priest who was living in the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Nagatsuka, Japan during the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1943. Amidst the destruction and confusion that the detonation caused the Hiroshima populace, the detonation did not greatly affect a community of Jesuit fathers in a nearby parish. Practically, all the present members in the community, among them Fr. John Siemes, were unscathed. The building that housed the community remained upright despite the fact that the shelling destroyed all the buildings within the vicinity of the city.
Fr. Siemes who was aged 30 at the time of the detonation provided a detailed eyewitness account following the bombing of Hiroshima. The recording of his eyewitness account was in 1976. He narrated his experiences following the Hiroshima bombing. His testimony included helping to nurse the injured. In an interview, Siemes provides a description of the aftermath of the bombing, the way the detonation affected the buildings in different distances and the injuries that people sustained. Siemes enlightens the audience about the significance of military in the city and the fact that unlike other cities, Hiroshima had not experienced attacks before the bombing.
Siemes account provides a moving and detailed representation of the destructive nature of an atomic bomb. For instance, from his account, the audiences are able to learn that the exact time of the bombing was 8:15 a.m. the detonation led to an explosion with a blinding flash ad created a fireball that burnt everything within an expansive radius. He explains the appearance of the city of Hiroshima before and after the bombing. Immediately after the bombing, he thought that since there were military facilities in Hiroshima, the explosion must be from the harbor. However, he recounts a loud voice and an invisible force causing windows to break and injure him, not severely. Fr. Schiffer opines that he and the others within the parish survived because they prayed the rosary on a daily basis (Sloan 2).
Even after the Hiroshima bombing, the Japanese government declined to surrender unconditionally. Accordingly, three days after the detonation at Hiroshima, the United States detonated another atomic bomb at the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. However, the Nagasaki bomb did not have the expected impact since a cloud cover over the area of Kokura, which was the main target, protected it from total destruction. In a strange twist of fate similar to Fr. Siemes community, the detonation at Nagasaki did not affect the Franciscan Community that St Maximilian Kolbe had established prior to the bombing. It later emerged that St Maximilian Kolbe had built the friary against a warning to build the community in a different location.
In the end of his reflection, Fr. Siemes redirects his mind towards the ethics of using an atomic bomb on masses. He contends that such a device was not acceptable against civil population. Siemes also notes that some people justify the bombings as a fair warning to force Japan to surrender and effectively avoid total obliteration. He poses whether war can be justified even in cases where it states use warfare for a just course. In the end, Siemes is convinced that war promotes spiritual and material evil and its destructive nature far exceeds any moral justification of warfare.
Sloan, Sam. Hiroshima. New York: Ishi Press, 2010.
Siemes, J. The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Chapter 25 - Eyewitness Account.
Yale: Lillian Goldman Law Library. 2008. Web. 18 Feb. 2014 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/mp25.asp