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Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Written by Sakhal

It was the 16th July 1945 when it was exploded the first atomic bomb in the History, in a desertic area of New Mexico state called Alamogordo. This successful explosion started the nuclear era in which we live today. German scientifics had discovered the nuclear fision in 1938, but supported by their huge economical and industrial power, finally were the United States the winners of the atomic race; and so, they achieved a decisive edge over any other nation that was engaged in the Second World War. The Cold War was yet a reality, and this accomplishment was critical in the armamentistic race between the new superpowers of the world, the United States and the Soviet Union. The scientific director for the project of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, a nuclear physics professor from Berkeley University, was ironically of German origin...

But at that time, the Americans still had a problem to solve before facing the Soviet Union: Japan, the so called Empire of the Rising Sun, which can be considered a cruel joke of the destiny, as an atomic explosion looks like a furious rising sun... Japan was at this stage a crippled enemy; completely devastated and even humiliated, in such conditions this nation had no offensive capabilities against the United States. For a western mind, the only reasonable decision would be to surrender and put an end to the war. However, the sense of honor found in many of the Japanese authorities, believed the situation as not being decisive enough to declare a surrender; this was also influenced by the belief of some of them, according to which the United States would not respect the sovereignty of Japan and specially the Emperor, after the surrender.

In the other hand, we have the Americans, who had to put an end to the war, and knowing the fanatic determination of their enemies, it was clear that a direct invasion of Japan would be necessary to finish the war. From the point of view about the cost in lives, the idea was just scary for the United States, specially after the high price paid in Okinawa. And moving forward in the hypothetical situation, it would be clear that the economic costs could be notorious. So the United States decided to drop the new atomic bombs upon some important cities of Japan. This method of attack would save the lives of countless American soldiers, and on the other hand the new weapon could cause a strong psychological effect on the Japanese because of its instant and highly concentrated destruction power, hopefully ending their fanatical resistance. And yes, it also would give the chance for a test on the new weapon...

The list of cities where the bombs should be dropped were selected for being the most intact cities in the metropolitan area of Japan. The list of pre-selected cities included Kyoto, Kokura, Hiroshima, Niigata and Nagasaki. This decision was made "to better demonstrate the fabulous destructive power of the new bomb." After exhaustive analysis and aerial reconnaissance, it was agreed a final list, that included Hiroshima, Kokura and Nagasaki. A crypted message delivered to Guam, in the Pacific, stated: "The 20th squadron will attack the Japanese targets the 6th August 1945. Main target, hour 9:30: urban and industrial areas of Hiroshima."

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The 6th of August 1945, as planned, the first bomb was dropped over a Japanese city. In Hiroshima the sky was clearer than in Kokura and Nagasaki, and this sealed the fate of the city: at 8:15 o'clock, the B-29 named Enola Gay dropped the bomb equipped with a parachute. When the bomb exploded, causing over 80000 instant deaths, the bomber should be almost 20 km far from the city. It wasn't the first time that a lonely bomber crossed over the Japanese cities, then unprotected, with the Japanese aviation being practically inexistent. The crews of the anti-aircraft artillery didn't even bothered to fire against the bomber. They were just a bunch of bombers and they would think that this time a bomber was about to drop a huge, but lonely, conventional bomb over the city, as had been occassionally happening in the last months. Nobody in Japan seemed to suspect the true intentions of this apparently strange behaviour.

When the bomb exploded, it looked like the sun had fell upon the Earth. A huge riot enveloped the city in a few seconds and a wind with a strenght of 1200 km/h demolished the walls in a radius of 1500 meters around, sending the windows up to 12 km far from the zero point. A cyclon of fire resembling the huge bombings effectuated over Dresden, Hamburg or Tokyo, by hundreds of bombers and thousands of bombs, invaded the city during six hours. Immediately strange symptoms were seen on the survivors: vomits, extremely violent diarrheas and abundance of small hemorrhages in the mouth and the neck. Many victims that manifestated these symptoms were agonishing. The final balance reached 92000 missing civilians and around 20000 military personnel.

After the explosion, the city was totally incommunicated from the rest of Japan. No radio or telephon remained operative to tell what had just happened. Even kilometers far from the perimeter of the city, the roads and railways were busted. When the first commission of investigators reached the city two days ago, the verdict was clear: "The entire city of Hiroshima has been instantly destroyed by a single bomb. There were no riots, but everything is burnt. Some schools whose roofs had been aspirated and their windows destroyed, still remained standing far from the center of the city. But the city itself was completely annihilated. Yes, this is the most adequate word: annihilated."

The night of the 8-9th August was a nightmare for Japan. Not less than 1500 B-29 pounded Honshu, the main island of Japan, while the Soviets, that suddenly broke their alliance with Japan, attacked Manchuria (China), quickly suppressing any resistance from Japanese troops. At the same time, a B-29 named Bock's Car was departing for its mission: launching a second atomic bomb, this time over Kokura or Nagasaki. Differently with the Enola Gay, the crew was already aware of the nature of their mission, and not very enthusiast about it. This time as well, the meteorological conditions would dictate which of the targets would receive the bomb... The bomber approached Kokura and everything was ready for dropping the bomb, when the gunner said: "There is a cloud there, over the city. I can't aim through the sight."

The decisive cloud over Kokura would not move easily in that serene dawn, and the bomber was depleting its fuel while waiting for a chance to attack the city. This saved Kokura for the second time, condemning Nagasaki. Three days after the first atomic bomb had been launched over Hiroshima, the second bomb was dropped over Nagasaki at 12:01 o'clock, this time killing around 40000 people. Despite being larger than the first one, the bomb caused this time less havoc on the population (around 24000 dead and 43000 wounded) due to a hill that acted as a shield for the city.

These two events finally forced Japan to surrender and the war ended in a such unbalanced situation. In the picture, we can see these two atomic bombs; the thin one, called Little Boy, was the one launched over Hiroshima, and the fat one, called Fat Man, was the one launched over Nagasaki. Having a weight of about 4100 kg, Little Boy contained only a few kg of uranium 235, while Fat Man contained plutonium instead.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

When these atomic bombs exploded, they generated in the zero point of the explosion, a heat of about 6000 degrees, that volatilized any person in that area. If a person was near a wall, his/her silhouette would be printed in the wall, and that would be the only remain of him/her. In a radius of 2 km, the area was a real oven. From 3 km outside, the victims would suffer severe skin burnings in the half part of the body that was oriented towards the explosion. The victims that survived the nuclear explosions, suffered the effects of the nuclear radiation during the rest of their lives. Many of them suffered horrible tumors in their bodies, and during many years after the explosions, many of them eventually died because of the cancer caused by the radiation. These legacy victims were so numerous as the ones that died instantly on the explosions.

The B-29 Superfortress was the first exponent of a new generation of modern strategic bombers, a machine fitted with the most advanced technologies of its time. These bombers are sadly famous because of the terrorist bombardments upon Tokyo that caused, officially, around 100000 deaths, destroying an area where the stimated population could reach around a million and half, surpassing so the mortality of the atomic attacks later performed. The Enola Gay was a modified B-29 bomber whose guns were suppressed, for removing their extra weight for that special mission ofdropping for the first time an atomic bomb. The B-29 was also prominent in the beginning of the Cold War, when the Soviets decided to capture three of these aircraft, that had to perform emergency landings in Siberia during the second half of 1944. The Soviets studied the brilliant silver bombers and developed from this study their first strategical superbomber, the Tupolev 4.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Categories: Events - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-03-15

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