Wednesday, August 06, 2008


On this day in 1945 Colonel Paul Tibbets flying the B-29 Superfortress ENOLA GAY dropped an enriched uranium fission bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Some people have a problem with this.

I don't.


HTRN said...

I have a problem with it.

I still don't get why they bothered with a Gun type device when Gadget already proved the Implosion method using Plutonium worked.

Anonymous said...

One suspects they had the highly enriched uranium prepared already and correctly anticipated a possible need for multiple devices to change the Japanese ruling junta's minds.

Neither U-235 nor plutonium was a common commodity at the time.

Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were insufficient in and of themselves. Only the personal intervention of the Emperor convinced Tojo & Co. that surrender might be in the nation's best interest, if possibly not in their own personal best interest.

Had the Emperor himself failed to prevail upon them, Operation Olympic would have gone forward as projected, there having been no more fissile material and therefore no more atom bombs available.

And my own speculation, for whatever it is worth, is that Operation Olympic would have met surprisingly stiff resistance on the beaches. The Japanese had hundreds of aircraft in storage for planned kamikaze missions against an invading army and many thousands of artillery pieces, and ammunition for them squirreled away. It would have been Okinawa all over again, on a scale two orders of magnitude greater. The Japanese government would have put schoolgirls at the controls of the kamikaze aircraft and then handed out spears and clubs to their classmates, and marched them into the cannon's mouth. And when those ran out it would have decayed into, at best, an insurgency supported by a sullen and uncooperative civilian population, but it is at least equally probable that American soldiers, in a time when the extermination of troublesome Amerind bands was still in living memory, and without the Western newsmedia staring over their shoulders and pointing and yelling "AMERICAN CAPITALIST WARMONGERING PIGDOGS KILL BABIES," they would have treated the surviving population the way the US military treated the Apaches barely fifty years before.

When Curtis LeMay said "When I have finished my task, the Japanese language will be spoken only in Hell," he wasn't kidding. But the final mopping up would have been done by American riflemen with bayonets, not heavy bombers. I think it could only have ended with the nigh extermination of the entire populace, save for a few hundred thousand who would still live on heavily guarded reservations decades later.

One wonders what the men who did such things would have become, after the war, trying to live again among civilians.

One wonders also whether this would have set the tone for the rest of the Century of Wars.

And one wonders what we might say if we could see that world, and what the people living in it might say if they could see ours.

Macker said...

Actually, it was Admiral William "Bull" Halsey who quipped the "spoken in Hell" phrase.

Mark said...

It worked for me as well. Many people don't know that it was just in the past few years that the US Military ran out of the Purple Heart medals it made in anticipation of the cost of invading the Japanese home islands.

Leslie Bates said...

"Had the Emperor himself failed to prevail upon them, Operation Olympic would have gone forward as projected, there having been no more fissile material and therefore no more atom bombs available."

Actually there were plutonium cores for Fat Man type bombs in the pipeline including the so-called Demon Core.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I was unaware of this. I had heard contradictory rumors of additional devices in the pipeline but discounted them.

This does raise another question, though.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two of the last semi-intact cities left in Japan. What targets remained? LeMay's strategic bombing campaign had levelled most every sizable population center in the country by this point. I have heard rumors that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were left relatively unscathed up to that point so that they could serve as demonstration targets.

I suppose that additional devices could have been expended against Japanese troop concentrations or military bases, but how many were known to exist that were worthy of the expenditure of such a scarce and expensive piece of ordnance? I seem to recall reading that the US occupation troops were astonished to find vast stockpiles of weapons, ammunition, aircraft, POL, etc., but their existence and locations were not known until their discovery.

HTRN said...

Yup, they were ramping up production in case they didn't change their minds - Gen. Leslie Groves suppposedly informed Truman that he could have anywhere from 6-8 implosion type bombs ready by October.

Truman knew full well what Olympic meant in terms of casualties, and was planning an Atomic bombing campaign to grind them into the dirt if they didn't surrender after Nagasaki.