August 09, 2009


On August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki.


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 (picture) 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.1

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."2

"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."3

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. . . ."4 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."5 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.6


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 (picture of crew), 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.7

Approximately 40 percent of Nagasaki was destroyed. Luckily for many civilians living in Nagasaki, though this atomic bomb was considered much stronger than the one exploded over Hiroshima, the terrain of Nagasaki prevented the bomb from doing as much damage. Yet the decimation was still great. With a population of 270,000, approximately 70,000 people died by the end of the year.

I saw the atom bomb. I was four then. I remember the cicadas chirping. The atom bomb was the last thing that happened in the war and no more bad things have happened since then, but I don't have my Mummy any more. So even if it isn't bad any more, I'm not happy.
--- Kayano Nagai, survivor8



1. Dan Kurzman, Day of the Bomb: Countdown to Hiroshima (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986) 410.
2. William S. Parsons as quoted in Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995) 43.
3. Kurzman, Day of the Bomb 394.
4. George Caron as quoted in Takaki, Hiroshima 44.
5. Robert Lewis as quoted in Takaki, Hiroshima 43.
6. A survivor quoted in Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York: Random House, 1967) 27.
7. Fujie Urata Matsumoto as quoted in Takashi Nagai, We of Nagasaki: The Story of Survivors in an Atomic Wasteland (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964) 42.
8. Kayano Nagai as quoted in Nagai, We of Nagasaki 6.


Hersey, John. Hiroshima. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

Kurzman, Dan. Day of the Bomb: Countdown to Hiroshima. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986.

Liebow, Averill A. Encounter With Disaster: A Medical Diary of Hiroshima, 1945. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1970.

Lifton, Robert Jay. Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. New York: Random House, 1967.

Nagai, Takashi. We of Nagasaki: The Story of Survivors in an Atomic Wasteland. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964.

Takaki, Ronald. Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.

written by Jennifer Rosenberg @ ABOUT.COM

For more on Hiroshima, CLICK HERE.

For more on Nagasaki, CLICK HERE


Uncle Lee said...

Hello Masterwordsmith, What men can do to other men, or women and children.
Really sad to know this.
Lets hope no country ever presses that button again.

But sometimes I wonder what would happen if the 2 bombs were not dropped? Would the war continue?
Oh well, we'll never know.
You keep well and have a nice day, Lee.

masterwordsmith said...

Dear Uncle Lee,

It is always lovely to see you again. Thanks to your blog and the many pictures of beautiful women that you have posted, I have had the motivation to lose weight :-)! In the past 8 days, I have lost 5 pounds. A real breakthrough and I really have to thank you for this. I am dead serious.

What you said is so true. I cannot imagine how they decided to release such the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Till today, the horrors of the atomic bomb can be seen.

To be honest, I believe it would have been highly probable that the was would have continue to rage for a few more years, given the circumstances. But then again, I could be wrong and we would never know...Such is fate..

Thanks for dropping by and for sharing your thoughts.

Continue to stay happy and healthy and may God bless you and yours always.

Warmest wishes,

Uncle Lee said...

Hi MWS, ahhh, less words to type, ha ha....wayyyyy to go, losing 5 pounds.
Drink lots of Chinese green tea, eat lots of tau fu, and greens, you'll be fine.

My wife doesn't use the weighing scale....she brought two dresses, one a sarong kebaya she wore on our first date, and a cheong sum she wore when I proposed to her....

She keeps them very well and once a year on her birthday she puts them on....if tight, she knocks off couple of pounds.
So far so good, ha ha, still can fit into the two dresses.

Talking about that I have a SIL, she is 69 and absolutely gorgeous! Still has a traffic stopper figure and looks that can make younger men get neck pains. She looks more 50 than her real age.

She was here sometime back and everyone thought she was my wife, ha ha.
And my hobby is portrait was a pleasure taking her portraits, more than 120 shots, in sarongs, low cut cocktail dresses, etc.

How she maintains her self to be young, still sexy at 69? She has a 1 hour nap every day....drinks lots of Chinese green tea, eats tau fu lots too.
My wife too takes weekend afternoon naps....helps keep the wrinkles away, ha ha.

You have a nice day, best regards, Lee.

masterwordsmith said...

Hi Uncle Lee,

Thanks for sharing such an inspiring account!! Your wife must indeed be a knockout ...I reckon you have not posted her pics for fear that you will have to fight off admirers LOL! Just kidding :-).

Having said that, it is very important to maintain our health, fitness level and perspective to life. I rarely eat meat but I put on this year because I stopped training at the gym, renewed my undying love for chocolates and went on a durian eating spree :-(. In repentance, I must be disciplined to get back into shape before I go for my medical check-up.

I still have the dress that I wore on my first date LOL and cannot button it haha...and I still have my wedding gowns and evening gowns used for my wedding dinners...

Like your wife, I eat bean curd almost daily (scared of uric acid content in beans) for protein intake as I only eat white meat and the occasional tim sum, beef jerky and loh-bak haha..

Certainly, you have given me added impetus to gain momentum in my program. I aim to lsoe another 3 pounds this week.

Thanks for sharing and may God continue to bless you and your wife with laughter, love and a lifetime of marital bliss.

Have a great day!


Walt said...

"War is of its nature barbarous, it is better to admit that. If we see ourselves as the savages we are, some improvement is possible, or at least thinkable." ( George Orwell)
Our war crimes are many, and I am not proud of what we did.
From the very birth of our nation we have a long list of such atrocities. I saw what we did to Germany as I walked the miles of graveyards around the city of Frankfurt. It was very haunting to my soul to see grave after grave of women and children of all ages. And every grave I saw had the same date of death 29 January 1944. There were a few men too, but most of the men as I recall, were over 50 years old. As bad as it was what we did to Japan was far worse!
The Tokyo Fire Raids, 1945.Robert Guillain was a French reporter assigned to Japan in 1938. He stayed on after war broke in Europe and was trapped in the country after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. He returned to France in 1946 and published a book recounting his experiences. He was in Tokyo on the night of March 9, 1945 when the wet winter weather made a surprise change to mild temperatures and gusty winds. We join his story as the sound of air-raid sirens pierce the night and the first B-29s make their appearance:

"Seed of Chaos : What Mass Bombing Really Means" by Vera Brittain (London, New Vision Publishing Co, 1944)


by Michael Walsh

masterwordsmith said...

Dear Walt

Thanks for sharing as always. I am so blessed to have you as a cyber friend - one who injects so much wisdom, knowledge and experience into my life and into my blog, blessing not only me but other blog readers as well.

Is it too much to ask if I were to request for a post on your wartime experiences? If it is too painful to recall, please forgive me for asking.

As always, may God bless you and yours.

warmest regards