“PREPARE FOR NUCLEAR ATTACK! Warned but did not heed…”

75 years ago this week….

World War II had been raging on for not quite 6 years. The Germans had surrendered and the war in Europe had ended three months before — but the war in the Pacific was still grinding on, even after the low-level bombing raids starting back in March 1945 that left most of Japan’s major cities in ruins and the cockpits of the American B-29s redolent of burning flesh. Plans had already been drawn up for an invasion of Japan, codenamed Operation: Downfall, to commence in November. It was expected to make Overlord look like a fun day at the beach; so many Purple Hearts were minted preparing for Downfall that we’re still handing them out.

But what no one but a select few knew at the time was that the United States had been working feverishly to develop a new type of weapon based on nuclear fission, and tested it on July 16 in the New Mexico desert…and the test was, of course, a rousing success. Within hours of that test, the USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco with the components of the first bomb to be dropped, code-named “Little Boy,” and arrived at Tinian Island on July 26. (The components for the second bomb, “Fat Man,” were flown to Tinian from Albuquerque’s Kirtland Army Air Field the next week.)

The day that the Indianapolis arrived at Tinian, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, outlining the terms of surrender for Japan. Two days later Japanese media reported said terms were rejected by the Japanese government.

And so, at 2:45 AM Tinian time on Aug. 6, the Enola Gay took off. 6 1/2 hours later, at 8:15 AM Hiroshima time, the first weapon exploded. It was 800 feet off its initial aiming point, with less than 2 percent of its material fissioning…

…and even with that, the destruction was horrendous. From Wikipedia:

“People on the ground reported a pika (ピカ)—a brilliant flash of light—followed by a don (ドン)—a loud booming sound. Some 70,000–80,000 people, around 30 percent of the population of Hiroshima at the time, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm, and another 70,000 were injured. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Japanese military personnel were killed. U.S. surveys estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 square kilometers) of the city were destroyed. Japanese officials determined that 69 percent of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and another 6 to 7 percent damaged.“

The next day, several high-ranking Army Air Forces personnel met on Guam, deciding to drop another bomb since there was no indication that Japanese surrender was forthcoming.

Two days after that, at 3:47 AM on Aug. 9, Bock’s Car lifted off from Tinian headed for Kokura. Between a failed fuel pump and cloud cover over Kokura, they had to divert to the secondary target of Nagasaki; that bomb was dropped at 11:02, with similar results. From Wikipedia:

“The Fat Man weapon, containing a core of about 5 kg (11 lb) of plutonium, was dropped over the city’s industrial valley. It exploded 47 seconds later at 1,650 ± 33 ft (503 ± 10 m), above a tennis court, halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Nagasaki Arsenal in the north. This was nearly 3 km (1.9 mi) northwest of the planned hypocenter; the blast was confined to the Urakami Valley and a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills…

“Although the bomb was more powerful than the one used on Hiroshima, its effects were confined by hillsides to the narrow Urakami Valley. Of 7,500 Japanese employees who worked inside the Mitsubishi Munitions plant, including ‘mobilized’ students and regular workers, 6,200 were killed. Some 17,000–22,000 others who worked in other war plants and factories in the city died as well. Casualty estimates for immediate deaths vary widely, ranging from 22,000 to 75,000. At least 35,000–40,000 people were killed and 60,000 others injured.”

General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project (so named because it was under the supervision of the Manhattan district of the Army Corps of Engineers) expected to have several more bombs readied for use over the next several months; as it happened, they turned out to be not needed, as the Japanese surrendered on August 14….

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