Seventy-two years ago on Aug. 9, 1945, only three days after the world’s first nuclear bomb was exploded over Hiroshima, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Ground zero was the Catholic Cathedral and school. The U.S. Air Force chaplain who blessed the crew, plane and bomb was Fr. George Zabelka, a Catholic priest. Over the next 20 years he came to believe that his actions on that day had been terribly wrong. He became a leader in of a 1981 nuclear freeze movement march to Hanford.
On Aug. 6, 1985 Fr. Zabelka gave a sermon of repentance. “Brothers and sisters, on the anniversary of this terrible atrocity, I must be the first to say that I made a terrible mistake… As an Air Force chaplain I painted a machine gun in the loving hands of the nonviolent Jesus, and then handed this perverse picture to the world as truth… All I can say today is that I was wrong. All I can say is: I was wrong! … Thank God that I’m able to stand here today and speak out against war, all war.”
The state of Washington is also culpable in the nuclear destruction of Nagasaki and today’s nuclear weapon stockpile. The weapons grade plutonium used in the Nagasaki bomb were produced at Hanford. Today one-third of all the U.S. nuclear weapons are located across Admiralty Inlet at Bangor and Indian Island only 20 miles from the Seattle metro area and a much shorter distance from Whidbey Island.
On this anniversary of the nuclear death and devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the world faces perhaps the greatest likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons since the Cuban missile crisis. With control of the majority of the world’s estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons hands of our nation are not clean. The president speaks with a cavalier disregard for the consequences of using nuclear weapons while Congress has approved a $1 trillion dollar expenditure to “upgrade” nuclear weaponry.
As George Zabelka came to understand we must admit guilt end this madness.