Monday, August 9, 2010

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, And The American Victory Over The Japanese Empire............

On August 9th 1945 a B-29 bomber named Bock's Car piloted by Col. Charles W. Sweeney released a Atomic Weapon nicknamed "Fat Man" over the city of Nagasaki, Japan. At 11:02 local time the device detonated at 1,650 feet above the aiming point. The blast yielded a estimated 21 kilotons, about 40 percent greater than the bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th. It has been estimated that 40,000 died in the initial blast with 60,000 injured.

There has been a great deal of observation and comment on the anniversary of this event. A great deal of pontification on the horror of these acts and even questioning of whether or not the bombing was justified. I would like to explore these thoughts just a bit. Since this was just a bit before my time, I have asked almost every vet of World War II what they thought of using the bomb. I have yet to find one that disagreed with the decision to use this weapon.

It seems to me that people are looking at this without looking at the context of the time and place that the decision was made to drop the bombs. Japan as late as 1945 was NOT a defeated nation. Granted, the Allied forces had pushed the majority of Japanese forces back to the home islands and American submarine forces had a stranglehold on the abilities of the Japanese nation to bring in raw materials and food via shipping channels. What few Japanese garrisons and occupied islands which still existed in the Pacific had been cut off to "wither on the vine" However, the Japanese military and people were still ready, willing and able to fight, even to their death.

Japanese tactics had changed by the last year of the war. The Japanese view was to cause as many casualties to the Allies as they could. Their thinking was that if they made the Allies pay a high enough cost in blood, that they could win a negotiated settlement to end the war. The Japanese use of Kamikaze aircraft and the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were prime examples of these new tactics. The American plan for the invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall gave estimates of over 1,000,000 Allied casualties before the landings were secured.

The American forces had also changed their tactics. High level strategic bombing had been ineffective due to poor weather conditions over the targets and to the fact that the Japanese has dispersed their factories and had developed a piece meal method of manufacturing that placed smaller factories in residential neighborhoods. Army Airforce General Curtis LeMay leader of the newly formed XXIst Air Force developed the concept of the incendiary raid. Since most Japanese buildings were made of wood and paper, they were very vulnerable to fire. LeMay ordered his B-29's to be stripped of defensive armaments loaded with incendiary bombs and flown at low altitudes. The results were shattering. Tokyo was hit by 325 bombers on March 9-10 1945. They dropped 1,665 tons of bombs and burned out 16 square miles of the city in three hours. Casualties were estimated to be over 100,000 dead. The crews of bombers in the end of the bomber strings reported the smell of burning flesh being noticeable in their aircraft at 8,000 feet. This bombing mission produced a firestorm which had been observed first in German cities bombed by the British and American forces. A firestorm acts very much like a hurricane of fire destroying everything in it's path. In this three hour raid, more civilians were killed than in either the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

By the end of the war, LeMay's tactics had destroyed 40% of 66 major cities in Japan. It was getting to the point that it was hard to find a suitable target for bombing missions by August of 1945.

So based on this information I don't think that using the bomb to stop the war was a bad thing, in a twisted way it may have saved lives American, Allies and Japanese.

Oh and a couple of other things. Because of the mountains surrounding Nagasaki, and the general layout of the city, even though the Fat Man bomb was more powerful, the amount of damage was on a par with Hiroshima. Also the aiming point was somewhat off. You see, Nagasaki was not the original target. The primary target was the city of Kokura. When Bock's Car arrived over Kokura, it was clouded over so they had to divert to their secondary target Nagasaki. When they arrived over Nagasaki, it too, was clouded over. With barely enough fuel to get them back to their base, the clouds cleared just long enough to site their aim point and release their weapon.

So once again fate and luck changes history.............

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