6 August: Hiroshima

Col. P.W. Tibbets, Jr. with the Enola Gay. (Wire photo.)

Col. P.W. Tibbets, Jr. with the Enola Gay. (Wire photo.)

The statement from President Harry S. Truman that the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city is heard around the United States and the world. So is Phillips’ simple, direct, short report heard around Europe and much of the world.

Truman’s terse description of the city will be debated for decades to follow, but the simple fact is that Hiroshima was a significant Imperial Japanese military outpost. The most significant element was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata’s 2nd General Army, responsible for all of southern Japan and comprised of a reported 400,000 personnel. But the Japanese 59th Army, 5th Division, and 224th division also headquartered in the city, and though it provided a minor supply and logistics base for Japanese military operations Hiroshima—untouched by Allied air raids until the atomic bombing—also included significant stockpiles of military supplies.

Neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki, which would be hit with the second atomic bomb, were heretofore targets of any significant Allied bombing until five days before Little Boy was dropped from the Enola Gay, when bombers hit Nagasaki conventionally, aiming toward shipyards, docks, and the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms works.

Unidentified reporter observing the harrowing aftermath. (Wire photo.)

Unidentified reporter observing the harrowing aftermath. (Wire photo.)

Little Boy and his immediate successor Fat Man (over Nagasaki, which turned out to be the alternate target on the day’s mission–the original target was Kokura until bad weather prompted a re-direct) were aimed at forcing a Japanese surrender at last, particularly after the Imperial Japanese refused the so-called Potsdam Declaration outlining surrender terms and proclaiming a surrender refusal would result in a further massive Allied attack and invasion.

Neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki were chosen at random. But perhaps not even the bombs’ developers could have predicted the breadth or the absolute cost of the bombs’ power. The surrealistic destruction the bombs wreaked, the mass of lives lost (despite Hiroshima provoking Nagasaki to evacuate as best it could to rural areas, which helped assure lesser death there than at Hiroshima), provoked an ongoing introspection and debate on man’s annihilative potential—not to mention how many Japanese would have died (often estimated in the potential millions) had the war continued to a full-tilt ground invasion of Japan’s home islands.

The debate continues in the 21st Century, not just on the anniversaries of those two atomic bombings but whenever war or weaponry is discussed.



Bulletin: Hiroshima (Mutual? 1945)

Frank Phillips: Reporting the Bombing (BBC, 1945)

Short and to-the-point reports of the Enola Gay‘s fateful mission. “If I live a hundred years,” recorded co-pilot Capt. Robert A. Lewis, “I’ll never quite get these few minutes out of my mind.”

Further Channel Surfing . . .

My Favourite Husband: The Portrait Artist (Comedy; CBS; AFRS Rebroadcast, 1948)
Gunsmoke: Innocent Broad (Western; CBS, 1955)
Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network: The Army Amateur Show (Improvisational comedy; think about it, 1959)
Suspense: Bells (Mystery/thriller; CBS, 1961)

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