* The United States wanted to force Japan's surrender as quickly as possible to minimize American casualties.
* The United States needed to use the atomic bomb before the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan to establish US dominance after the war against Japan and to secure Japanese surrender to the US.
* The United States wanted to use the world's first atomic bomb for an actual attack and observe its effect.
At 2:45 a.m. on Monday, August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, took off from Tinian, a North Pacific island in the Marianas, 1,500 miles south of Japan. The twelve-man crew were on board to make sure this secret mission went smoothly. Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot, nicknamed the B-29 the "Enola Gay" after his mother. Just before take-off, the plane's nickname was painted on its side.
The Enola Gay was a B-29 Superfortress (aircraft 44-86292), part of the 509th Composite Group. In order to carry such a heavy load as an atomic bomb, the Enola Gay was modified: new propellers, stronger engines, and faster opening bomb bay doors. (Only fifteen B-29s underwent this modification.) Even though it had been modified, the plane still had to use the full runway to gain the necessary speed, thus it did not lift off until very near the water's edge.
The Enola Gay was escorted by two other bombers that carried cameras and a variety of measuring devices. Three other planes had left earlier in order to ascertain the weather conditions over the possible targets.
On a hook in the ceiling of the plane, hung the ten-foot atomic bomb, "Little Boy." Navy Captain William S. Parsons ("Deak"), chief of the Ordnance Division in the "Manhattan Project," was the Enola Gay's weaponeer. Since Parsons had been instrumental in the development of the bomb, he was now responsible for arming the bomb while in-flight. Approximately fifteen minutes into the flight (3:00 a.m.), Parsons began to arm the atomic bomb; it took him fifteen minutes. Parsons thought while arming "Little Boy": "I knew the Japs were in for it, but I felt no particular emotion about it."
"Little Boy" was created using uranium-235, a radioactive isotope of uranium. This uranium-235 atomic bomb, a product of $2 billion of research, had never been tested. Nor had any atomic bomb yet been dropped from a plane. Some scientists and politicians pushed for not warning Japan of the bombing in order to save face in case the bomb malfunctioned.
There had been four cities chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata (Kyoto was the first choice until it was removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson). The cities were chosen because they had been relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be "sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released."
On August 6, 1945, the first choice target, Hiroshima, was having clear weather. At 8:15 a.m. (local time), the Enola Gay's door sprang open and dropped "Little Boy." The bomb exploded 1,900 feet above the city and only missed the target, the Aioi Bridge, by approximately 800 feet.
Staff Sergeant George Caron, the tail gunner, described what he saw: "The mushroom cloud itself was a spectacular sight, a bubbling mass of purple-gray smoke and you could see it had a red core in it and everything was burning inside. . . . It looked like lava or molasses covering a whole city. . . ." The cloud is estimated to have reached a height of 40,000 feet.
Captain Robert Lewis, the co-pilot, stated, "Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could no longer see the city. We could see smoke and fires creeping up the sides of the mountains." Two-thirds of Hiroshima was destroyed. Within three miles of the explosion, 60,000 of the 90,000 buildings were demolished. Clay roof tiles had melted together. Shadows had imprinted on buildings and other hard surfaces. Metal and stone had melted.
Unlike many other bombing raids, the goal for this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilian women and children in addition to soldiers. Hiroshima's population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years.
A survivor described the damage to people:
The appearance of people was . . . well, they all had skin blackened by burns. . . . They had no hair because their hair was burned, and at a glance you couldn't tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back. . . . They held their arms bent [forward] like this . . . and their skin - not only on their hands, but on their faces and bodies too - hung down. . . . If there had been only one or two such people . . . perhaps I would not have had such a strong impression. But wherever I walked I met these people. . . . Many of them died along the road - I can still picture them in my mind -- like walking ghosts.
While the people of Japan tried to comprehend the devastation in Hiroshima, the United States was preparing a second bombing mission. The second run was not delayed in order to give Japan time to surrender, but was waiting only for a sufficient amount of plutonium-239 for the atomic bomb. On August 9, 1945 only three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, another B-29, Bock's Car, left Tinian at 3:49 a.m.
The first choice target for this bombing run had been Kokura. Since the haze over Kokura prevented the sighting of the bombing target, Bock's Car continued on to its second target. At 11:02 a.m., the atomic bomb, "Fat Man," was dropped over Nagasaki. The atomic bomb exploded 1,650 feet above the city.
Fujie Urata Matsumoto, a survivor, shares one scene:
The pumpkin field in front of the house was blown clean. Nothing was left of the whole thick crop, except that in place of the pumpkins there was a woman's head. I looked at the face to see if I knew her. It was a woman of about forty. She must have been from another part of town -- I had never seen her around here. A gold tooth gleamed in the wide-open mouth. A handful of singed hair hung down from the left temple over her cheek, dangling in her mouth. Her eyelids were drawn up, showing black holes where the eyes had been burned out. . . . She had probably looked square into the flash and gotten her eyeballs burned.
HOW THE MEN FELT
We'd been told that if we were eight miles away when the thing went off, we'd probably be ok - so we wanted to put as much distance as possible between us and the blast.
All of us - except the pilot - were wearing dark goggles, but we still saw a flash - a bit like a camera bulb going off in the plane.
There was a great jolt on the aircraft and we were thrown off the floor. Someone called out 'flak' but of course it was the shockwave from the bomb.
Within a minute of the blast a white cloud had reached 42,000ft
The tail-gunner later said he saw it coming towards us - a bit like the haze you see over a car park on a hot day, but moving forwards at great speed.
We turned to look back at Hiroshima and already there was a huge white cloud reaching up more than 42,000 feet. At the base you could see nothing but thick black dust and debris - it looked like a pot of hot oil down there."
Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk, Navigator
"Everyone's thoughts turned to what devastation there would have been down below - we all had that thought on our mind because we had seen what the bomb could do."
Morris "Dick" Jepson, Weapons Test Officer
"My honest feeling at the time was that they deserved it, and as far as I am concerned that is still how I feel today.
People never look back to what led up to it - Pearl Harbour, Nanking - and there are no innocent civilians in war, everyone is doing something, contributing to the war effort, building bombs.
What we did saved a lot of lives in the long run and I am proud to have been part of it."
Dr Harold Agnew, Scientist
IMAGES OF HORROR
Mr. Matsushige, who was a news cameraman then, wrote in the "Hiroshima Tokuho", issued on August 6, 1980, based on his experience,says...
"...in front of the police box of Senda township located at the west end of Miyuki Bridge, a policeman took off the lid of an oil can and started to give first aid treatment to the people with burns, but the number of the injured increased rapidly. I thought this must be photographed and held the camera in position. The scene Isaw through the finder was too cruel. Among the hundreds of injured persons of whom you cannnot tell the difference between male and female, there were children screaming 'It's hot, it's hot!' and infants crying over the body of their mother who appeared to be already dead. I tried to pull myself together by telling myself that I'm a news cameraman, and it is my duty and privilege to take a photograph, even if it is just one, and even if people take me as a devil or a cold-hearted man. I finally managed to press the shutter, but when I looked the finder for the second time, the object was blurred by tears."
In those days, students who were in the 7th or 8th grade or in middle school were mobilized to munitions factories, farms, and national defense crews. They hardly did any learning at school. In the Urakami district of Nagasaki, there were several factories, including the Mitsubishi munitions, to which many students were mobilized. The death toll of mobilized students is unknown.
Regarding the disaster in Iwakawa township where this student was burned to death, the record of the Nagasaki A-bomb War Disaster reads as follows:
The instant the A-bomb exploded, almost all of the houses collapsed. The scattered pieces of wood and other debris covered the ground, and in some places they were heaped into drifts. Those who were outdoors all died, and those who were caught under the collapsed houses were screaming for help, and those who barely escaped frantically ran around. The town got dark, and, when visibility was regained, the collapsed houses started to smolder and then took fire. While there were mixed outcries of calls and for help, the town turned into a sea of flames."