World War II: Dropping the Atomic Bomb--Nagaski (August 9, 1945)


Figure .--This mother and her son have received a boiled rice ball from an emergency relief party (Auhust 10). The location is 1 mile southeast of Ground Zero. These images of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors are heart rending--innocent civilians caught in the cross hairs of war. And they of course were the lucky ones--the survivors. Most Japanese today see themselves as the victims of the War because of the emese suffering of thousands of people in the two cities. What one rarely hears in Japan is the same level of compassion or often even acknowledgement of the millions of victims of the Japanese Empire troughout Asia and the Pacific. Any internet search will turn up acusations of American war crimes. One needs to ask a simple question. Before the twi atmomic bombs were dropped, the Hapanese murdered some 25 million people, mnostly civilians. After bombs were dropped how many people did the Japanese kill.

President Truman after Japan's rejection of the Potsdam Declaration ordered the Air Force to begin atomic attacks on Japan as soon as possible (July 25). The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The Enola Gay dropped the first bomb on Hiroshima (August 6). The results were catastrophic. Japanese scientists had already developed and used weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biolgical agents). And they were at the time working on an atomic bomb, but with out the resources and facilities available to the Americans. The Americans had only two atomic bombs at the time. It had to be decided how to use them and in what interval to bese effect--meaning to force the Japanese to surrender. The senior military commanders involved with the atomic bombs were General Groves and Admiral Purnell. They agreed that the bombs should be dropped in short secesion within days of each other before the shock of the first bomb had worn off. They believed that this would so shock te Japanese leadership that they would finally decide to surrender. This proved to be a valid assessment. The Japanese were still recoveing frm the shock of the Hiroshima bomb. And his military commanders assredhim that the Americans could not possibly have a second bomb. This must have finally destroyed any remaining faith the Emperor still had in his generals. Scientists at Los Alamos discussed which of the two types of bomb was the most powerful. The scientists had built both a uranium and a plutonium bomb, just in case one did not work. The uranium Little Boy had been dropped on Hiroshima. And as the Japanese had not surrendered, the plutonium Big Boy bomb as prepared for the second atomic mission. Kokura was selected for the second target with Kyoto and Niigata as alterntives. Nagasaki was added as a potential target at the last minute when the Air planners decided that Kyoto was a cultural treasure of religious significance anf tthus should be avoided. Niigata in the far north was also removed because it was decided that the distance made the flight questionable. Nigata was the prime target for the second mission because of its strategic location between Tokyo and the Sea of Japan. It thus was an important transit point for moving military forces from China and Manchuria to the Home Islands in preparatin for the expected American invasion. The governor of Niigata Prefecture had ordered civilians to evacuate the city because he assumed the Amerucans would eentually bomb the relatively untouched city. He if course had no dea that his city was on the atmomic bomb list. Nagasaki was an important shipbuilding center with a substantal naval base. It was not first on the list because it had already been bombed five times. This mean that the atomic bomb coul not be used to full effect and would be difficult to assess the bomb's afect. The topography also argued against Nagasaki. The city was not flat, but lay across hills and valleys. The city was also broken up by wate areas. It would be weather and distance that would decide the target. Boxcar was the B-29 selected from the specal traing group to deliver the second bomb. As Boxcar neared Kokura, the weather had intervened to saved the city. Kokura was competely obscured by cloud cover. Major Sweeney made three runs over the city but did not find a break in the clouds. Running hort on fuel, he decided to shift to the remaining target - Nagasaki. After expending his fuel reserve vr Kokura, Sweeney only had sufficent fuel for one last run and he could not make t back to Tinian. He would have to make for Okinawa. Boxcar found Nagasaki shrouded by clouds. Most of Sweeney's bomb run had to be done by radar but at the last moment a break in the cloud appeared. The weapons commnder, Commander Ashworth, targeted a race track and at 28,900 feet, released Fat Man.

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Created: 6:28 PM 10/18/2014
Last updated: 10:15 PM 1/29/2015