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August 6, 1945; The Enola Gay

August 6, 2012

The Crew Of The Enola Gay

Original Headline: Aug 6, 1945: American bomber drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

On this day in 1945, at 8:16 a.m. Japanese time, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, drops the world’s first atom bomb, over the city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 would be dead by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.

U.S. President Harry S. Truman, discouraged by the Japanese response to the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender, made the decision to use the atom bomb to end the war in order to prevent what he predicted would be a much greater loss of life were the United States to invade the Japanese mainland.

And so on August 5, while a “conventional” bombing of Japan was underway, “Little Boy,” (the nickname for one of two atom bombs available for use against Japan), was loaded onto Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets’ plane on Tinian Island in the Marianas. Tibbets’ B-29, named the Enola Gay after his mother, left the island at 2:45 a.m. on August 6.

Five and a half hours later, “Little Boy” was dropped, exploding 1,900 feet over a hospital and unleashing the equivalent of 12,500 tons of TNT. The bomb had several inscriptions scribbled on its shell, one of which read “Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis” (the ship that transported the bomb to the Marianas).

Had Little Boy not been dropped, the 20th Air Force would have spent the next three months, up until the invasion scheduled for early November, 1945, trying to burn the entire country of Japan to the ground with napalm and magnesium. It saved a lot of American lives and ironically a lot of Japanese lives too, as the fire-bombing campaign was taking out thousands of civilians.

If we had invaded the Home Islands it would have been an unbelievable bloodbath. Then, the invasion itself would have probably looked like this.  The story here is the arrogant stubbornness of the Japanese Emperor that it took two bombs before he surrendered. He didn’t believe the U.S. had more than one and was willing to gamble the lives of 200,000 of his own worshippers on that erroneous belief.

That and the fact that the Soviet Union had just declared war on Japan. A ground invasion on two fronts with massive ground forces from Russia scared him as much as another A-bomb did. Russia invading Japan scared us, too. Imagine Japan and China and Korea all Red. I think the Japanese only concluded – one plane, one bomb, one city.

But, three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Within days the war with Japan was at a close. Also Nagasaki was where the torpedo’s used at Pearl Harbor were built. The Nagasaki bomb exploded between the Mitsubishi steel & armament works and the Mitsubishi torpedo works, demolishing both. What goes around comes around. Karma is a bitch.

The most definite account for those unwilling to read books is the movie Japan’s Longest Day. It covers a little less than the final month of the war. The film is made by the Japanese studio Shochiku but is well researched, quite accurate, but a little short on action, sex and trash for your average fan of Hollywood.

The emperor was willing to throw in the towel after Hiroshima. Of course, he was a figurehead and the decision among the military dictatorship was split. Remember, the sharper cookies in the military, especially Admiral Yamamoto, were gone by this time.

The compromise decision after Hiroshima was to send a cable to the USSR (the designated neutral intermediary) for delivery to America accepting unconditional surrender terms but proposing a meeting at America’s earliest convenience to work out the details. For those familiar with Japanese culture, this was pretty much the best outcome we could expect under the circumstances.

The USSR, of course, did not deliver the cable immediately. In fact, they used it as an opportunity to invade Japanese territory in the Kuriles, Sakhalin, Manchuria and Korea. Other than the hot battle of Shumshu in the Kuriles, the Japanese offered only token resistance.

The key long-term results were Russian occupation of Japanese territory which continues to this day and capture of weaponry which was turned over to Mao’s army for use in the Chinese civil war which broke out some three years later and brought the communist regime to power.

By the time the Japanese military realized they had been had, of course, the bomb in Nagasaki dropped. The emperor himself intervened and insisted acceptance of the unconditional surrender be communicated to the Americans directly and without further delay. Other than a few diehards (which produce the most action in the film), the military agrees.

The idea that the emperor was stubborn to the point of national suicide or that most of the military was even close to intransigent after Hiroshima is a total baseless fallacy. Dropping the bombs, both of them, absolutely had to be done to end the war. Anyone with any doubts should read Richard Frank’s “Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.”

Had the war continued through the winter, it is probable that millions of Japanese would have starved to death. Think of Leningrad on a national scale. And the deaths would have been proportionally greatest among the non-combatants: elderly, women, children and sick. It may sound harsh, but we actually did them a favor by dropping the bombs.

Original headline on Aug 6, 1945: “American bomber drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima.”

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