Friday, November 11, 2011

Atomic bomb game

Atomic bomb game
(the exhibit presents the position of the game at the moment the atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima)

Interesting bit of Go history (source):
The number of go tournaments held in Japan during World War II were far fewer than those held before the war. Many young players were being drafted into military service and, because of a paper shortage, newspapers were compelled to reduce their size. Go columns were among the first to be dropped. In spite of this, newspapers continued to sponsor tournaments and games, even though they would probably never be published. 
As the war dragged on, conditions for staging even the most important games became extremely difficult. In the spring of 1945, Kaoru Iwamoto, 7-dan, earned the right to challenge Hashimoto Utaro for the third Honinbo title. However, finding a venue for the title match in bombed-out Tokyo had become impossible. 
A venue for the games was finally found in Hiroshima. However, the police chief of the city, who was an amateur go player, ordered the players not to play there, since it was too dangerous. However, when the police chief was called away on official business, the players, taking advantage of his absence, ignored his order and played the first game of the match July 23-25 under a rain of bullets from strafing airplanes. 
When the chief returned and heard that a game had been played, he was furious and fabade players in no uncertain terms from playing any more games in Hiroshima. 
Another venue was found in Itsukaichi, an outer suburb of Hiroshima, and the second game was played there Aug. 4-6. 
On the morning of Aug. 6, Hashimoto happened to be in the garden when the atomic bomb was dropped. He saw a brilliant flash of light and the mushroom cloud rise above the city. A tremendous blast of wind shattered all the windows and turned the playing room into a shambles. The position on the board had to be set up again. Under these circumstances, they managed to complete the game; Hashimoto won by five points. 
That evening, atomic-bomb survivors started to pour into Itsukaichi and the players began to understand the magnitude of the disaster and just how lucky they were. The house in which they were to have played their game was destroyed and its owner killed. 
The war ended a week later and the match was resumed in November, ending in a 3-3 tie. A playoff became necessary, but Japan was in such disarray that it was not until July 1946 that a best-of-three playoff was arranged. Iwamoto won the first two games, and thereby took the Honinbo title. 
Hashimoto and Iwamoto were important forces in the go world during the years following the war. Had they been killed in Hiroshima that fateful day, the history of go today would most likely be quite different. 
Iwamoto defended the Honinbo title against Minoru Kitani in 1947, but Hashimoto came back in 1959 to recapture it. Then, with the prestige of holding the top title in the go world at that time, Hashimoto broke away from the Japan Go Association and formed the Western Japan Go Association. Although, a bitter rivalry existed between these two organizations for a while, they coexist amicably today and cooperate on many levels to promote go in Japan. 
Iwamoto, who will be 97 on Feb. 5, has contributed much to the popularization of go in the West. In 1929, he retired as a go player and immigrated to Brazil. However, two years later he returned to Japan and resumed his go-playing career. Perhaps it was this experience that caused him to want to make go a truly international game. He has gone on numerous overseas tours and has established go centers in Amsterdam, Sao Paulo, Seattle and New York.

Just for the record, let me say this: after reading about this game, I started reading about the history of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, bombings of Tokyo, etc. It is my opinion that targeting civilians by bombing raids the way Allies did in the World War II in Japan (not just the atomic bombs, but also bombings of Tokyo with incendiary bombs) and Germany (e.g., Dresden, Berlin) is not much different from what Islamic terrorists do today. Probably not different at all. And therefore, there is not much difference between President Truman who made a decision to destroy two cities full of thousands of civilians (eventually leading to the deaths of close to 200,000 people) and Osama Bin Laden.

I am ashamed of the times when I excused such things by calling them collateral damage. This was not collateral damage. This was terrorism.
Let me say only this much to the moral issue involved: Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?

— Leo Szilard


mor said...

Except for the fact that Osama bin Laden couldn't make any claim that he was trying to defend himself or his country from future American aggression. Otherwise, an astute observation.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

I don't really see the relevance. Osama bin Laden (as well as Hitler or Admiral Yamamoto) could make a number of claims. E.g., that he is fighting against the Western regime's negative influence on Islamic world. Whatever.

Obviously we don't consider these claims to be a good justification for starting a war. (The only claim we consider proper is that of self-defense from bodily harm.)

But the fact that we are "the good guys" and they are "the bad guys" does not mean that "the good guys" have a carte blanche as to which methods of warfare to use. Just because we are justified in our attack of Iraq or the West Bank does not mean we can indiscriminately target civilian population, use torture, biological or chemical warfare, etc. Aderaba, that would decrease our claim of being "the good guys".