62 years ago…waiting for the bank to open, 11AM, Thursday, 9 August 1945.
Almost everyone knows about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during the second world war. Few know the name of the other city bombed just three days later. Sixty two years ago today in the second (and so far the last) nuclear attack in history, America dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, Japan. Today with the possible use of nuclear weapons being used under discussion for the first time since the end of the cold war, I thought it was a good time to review this unpleasant topic.
The blast killed between 70 and 80 thousand people instantly. As nuclear weapons go, Fat Man was a small bomb, the yield was the equivalent of 21 thousand tons of TNT. That’s about what could be carried in 200 railroad boxcars, quite a bang for about 14 pounds of explosive. The blast reached 3800C (7000F,) winds generated were over 1000 kph (700 mph.) The blast occurred at about 450 M (1500 feet) above the ground. Someone was sitting on the steps of the Sumitomo Bank about 250m (250 yards) from the explosion. What is left of him or her is pictured above.
While killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, including hundreds of American POWs, the nuclear attacks on Japan hastened the end of the war and saved countless American lives. That at least is the rationale for the bombing that was developed and promulgated shortly after the war. It’s still debated today, many stick to the “saving American lives” line, while others suggest that the bombs were more intended to impress the Russians and/or to get Japan to surrender before the Russians “liberated” huge swaths of Japanese occupied China/Korea.
This is all of course self serving poppycock, as anyone who has any knowledge of history should acknowledge. Americans for the most part reviled the Japanese before and during the war, this was an era where blatant racism was acceptable. The atom bombs specifically were revenge for Pearl Harbor and generally were payback for Japanese atrocities throughout the war. People who say differently are deceiving themselves. (Even when I was in the service in the 70s a popular T-shirt had a picture of a mushroom cloud and the caption “Remember Pearl Harbour. Hiroshima, Nagasaki…they had it coming.”)
Just for grins, those who proffer the “military necessity” story have to explain away why General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and many other high ranking US commanders opposed the dropping of the bomb:
“…I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) then Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, future President of the United Sates
“The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.”
Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet
Like all atrocities, the nuclear attacks on Japan were a choice, not a necessity.
In final ironic note, few know that unlike the Hiroshima bomb, the Nagasaki bomb missed its target, the city centre, by two miles. This is why fewer people died in this blast as opposed to the 90 thousand or more that died at Hiroshima. By missing the city by two miles the USA did hit another target spot on, the Nagasaki bomb detonated directly over the largest Christian community in Japan. Only a few of them survived. I still don’t know what to think about that, but it’s certainly something for Christians to ponder.
(The above image of the smudge left by a vapourized human being is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to the subject of the post, and it is an historically important image. The steps and last “remains” of this unknown person are now preserved in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.)