During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date. American soldiers dropped Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, followed by Fat Man over Nagasaki on 9 August.
The A-bombs...also "created" a new group of human beings--hibakusha, literally "A-bombed persons"...Hibakusha share not only traumatic memories of the A-bomb explosion itself but also, and above all, a common identity as the "radiation-exposed," living with the reality and perpetual threat of delayed radiation effects.
..."Radiation" came to be perceived as a polluting, defiling substance...Contamination fears are an integral theme in community reactions to hibakusha, who are suspected of "transmitting" the impurity of death theough genetic transmission or through "contagion" via bodily contact; this motivates discrimination in marriage and the workplace.
...in 1945 and for approximately two decades thereafter no significant controversy accompanied the use of atomic weapons to end the Pacific War. A broad national consensus formed around three basic premises: 1) the use of the weapons was justified; 2) the weapons ended the war; and 3) in at least a rough utilitarian sense, the use of the weapons was morally justified as saving more lives than they cost. One later historian branded this as “The Patriotic Orthodoxy.”
Beginning in the mid-1960s...critics developed a canon of tenets that in their purest incarnation likewise number three: 1) Japan’s strategic situation in the summer of 1945 was catastrophically hopeless; 2) Japan’s leaders recognized that their situation was hopeless and were seeking to surrender; and 3) American leaders, thanks to the breaking of Japanese diplomatic codes, knew Japan was on the verge of surrender when they unleashed needless nuclear devastation.
Just before midnight on August 9, Japanese Emperor Hirohito convened the supreme war council. After a long, emotional debate, he backed a proposal by Prime Minister Suzuki in which Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration "with the understanding that said Declaration does not compromise any demand that prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as the sovereign ruler"...
...the United States answered that "the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers." After two days of debate about what this statement implied, Emperor Hirohito brushed the nuances in the text aside and...ordered the Japanese government to prepare a text accepting surrender.
Clouds covered Nagasaki when Bock's Car arrived. Contrary to orders, weaponeer Ashworth determined to make the drop by radar if they had to due to their short fuel supply. At the last minute a small window in the clouds opened and bombardier Captain Kermit K. Beehan made the drop at 10:58 A.M. Nagasaki time.
Fat Man exploded at 1,840 feet above Nagasaki and approximately 500 feet south of the Mitsubishi Steel and Armament Works with an estimated force of 22,000 tons of TNT.
...However, the hilly topography limited the total area of destruction to less than that of Hiroshima, and the resulting loss of life, though horrifically high, was also less...The Japanese listed only those they could verify and set the official estimate at 23, 753 killed, 1,927 missing, and 23, 345 wounded.
Sweeney and his crew were under orders to only bomb visually. When they got to Kokura they found the haze and smoke obscuring the city as well as the large ammunition arsenal that was the reason for targeting the city. They made three unsuccessful passes, wasting more fuel, while anti-aircraft fire zeroed in on them and Japanese fighter planes began to climb toward them. The B-29s broke off and headed for Nagasaki.
At 08:15, the Enola Gay dropped the nuclear bomb called "Little Boy" over the centre of Hiroshima. It exploded about 600 meters (2,000 feet) above the city with a blast equivalent to 13 kilotons of TNT, killing an estimated 70–80,000 people. At least 11 U.S. POWs also died. Infrastructure damage was estimated at 90% of Hiroshima's buildings being either damaged or completely destroyed.
Hiroshima was the primary target of the first U.S. nuclear attack mission, on August 6, 1945. The B-29 Enola Gay, piloted and commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets, was launched from Tinian airbase in the West Pacific, approximately 6 hours' flight time away from Japan...
About an hour before the bombing, the Japanese early warning radar net detected the approach of some American aircraft headed for the southern part of Japan...At nearly 08:00, the radar operator in Hiroshima determined that the number of planes coming in was very small—probably not more than three—and the air raid alert was lifted. (To save gasoline, the Japanese had decided not to intercept small formations, which were assumed to be weather planes.)
...the targets would be a city undamaged by conventional bombing and had geographical layouts that would maximize damage from the bomb's blast wave. By the end of May 1945, the Committee selected, in order of priority, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kokura and Niigata. The Army Air Forces were ordered not to firebomb these cities.
Kyoto, the top choice of Major General Groves' Target Committee, was never bombed. On May 30, 1945, Groves met Secretary of War Stimson, who asked for the target list. Stimson vetoed Kyoto because it "was he ancient capital of Japan, a historical city, and one that was of great religious significance to the Japanese." He had visited the city several times and was "very much impressed by its ancient culture." Stimson was concerned that the destroying Kyoto would permanently embitter the Japanese against the United States and increase Soviet influence in Japan. Groves argued that Kyoto had a population of over a million, did much war work and had a highly suitable geography for the bomb. He fought for two months to reinstate the city to the target list, but to no avail. In July the port city of Nagasaki was added instead.
...Radio Tokyo and the Domei News Agency, without stopping to reflect on the implications of the word mokusatsu, had rushed to broadcast to the world in English the bald statement that Japan was "ignoring" the Potsdam Declaration...In any case, the world's interpretation was that Japan had spurned the Potsdam Declaration, disdaining even to take notice of it...
Who knows but that save for that fateful word mokusatsu, Japan might have been spared the horror of the atomic bomb...
...the cabinet decided not to commit itself publicly one way or the other...the only course for the moment was to remain silent, and the government accordingly announced that its policy was one of mokusatsu.
...It might be translated roughly as "to be silent" or "to withhold comment" or "to ignore." "To withhold comment" probably comes the closest to its true meaning...Certainly that is what the Japanese government meant.
...Truman believed that unless he used the atomic bomb, an invasion of Japan would be necessary and that the casualties would be enormous.
...In 1945, the doubts and disagreements about use of the atomic bomb were mostly of a strategic nature, reflecting the belief that an invasion might not be necessary or that bombing and blockade would be sufficient.
Naturally, the American plan considered Japanese resistance. It noted the possibility that the invasion "will be opposed not only by the available organized military forces of the Empire, but also by a fanatically hostile population", which would result in high casualties. In a study done by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff in Apr 1945, at least 456,000 casualties were to be expected for Operation Olympic alone. Some other evaluations were also done, and their casualty estimates ranged anywhere from 30,000 to 1,000,000. In preparation, the United States manufactured 500,000 Purple Heart medals to award to those injured in combat.
The official plan [for Operation Downfall] called for an invasion in two stages:
Operation Olympic, to begin Nov. 1, 1945, would be a land invasion of Kyushu, southernmost of the Japanese main islands.
Operation Coronet, planned for March 1, 1946, was an invasion of Honshu, the largest island.
...the two-stage invasion would involve some five million troops...The invasion was to be preceded by a massive aerial bombardment...One memorandum said that "more bombs will be dropped on Japan than were delivered against Germany during the entire European war."
The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, WILL mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter destruction of the Japanese homeland.
...We call upon the Government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.