509th Composite Group HQ, Tinian, Mariana Islands · August 9, 1945

Despite the shockwaves that Hiroshima’s destruction on August 6, 1945, sent through Imperial circles, Japan’s govern­ment refused to agree to an uncon­di­tional surrender, their leaders insisting on precon­ditions that pro­tected the status of Hirohito as emperor. (Without Japa­nese foot-dragging, would the war have been over before August 6 or per­haps August 8?) The Soviet decla­ra­tion of war on August 9 and a fast-moving Red Army in­va­sion of the Japa­nese pup­pet state of Man­chu­kuo and North Korea shattered any expec­ta­tion that Japan’s large army on the Asian main­land could hold back her enemies’ con­ven­tional forces, yet even that failed to move Japan’s war­lords. After dropping mil­lions of leaf­lets warning Japan of further devas­ta­ting raids following Hiro­shima’s destruc­tion, to no avail, the U.S. settled on ex­ploding a second, more power­ful atomic device over Kokura on this date in 1945. Bocks­car, the B-29 carrying “Fat Man,” as the plutonium-239 bomb was nick­named, circled Kokura three times but did not drop the bomb due to cloud cover and smog. Because of fuel con­straints, Bocks­car moved to its back­up tar­get, Naga­saki, a large in­dus­trial port city. That city was also covered by the same storm system, but at the last minute the bom­bar­dier was able to secure the required visual con­tact with the tar­get through a hole in the clouds. The bomb destroyed about 44 per­cent of Naga­saki, killed perhaps 35,000, and injured 60,000 out of 263,000 who were there that day. Further aerial immo­la­tion of Japa­nese cities was averted in part by a nine-day U.S. pro­pa­ganda cam­paign that in­cluded radio broad­casts and air-dropping 5–6 million leaf­lets that graph­i­cally described what remained of the two cities. The leaf­lets caused con­di­tions close to panic in some cities. By now U.S. air raids had killed 600,000 Japa­nese civil­ians. The car­nage stopped on August 15 (Tokyo time), 1945, when Hirohito ad­dressed his sub­jects by radio in courtly, Orwel­lian double­speak. A lover of peace (the name of his reign, Shōwa, means “bright peace”), Hiro­hito said it was “far from Our thought either to in­fringe upon the sover­eignty of other nations or to em­bark upon terri­torial ag­gran­dize­ment.” Approxi­mately 4.4 mil­lion mili­tary and 24 mil­lion civil­ian deaths later, the em­peror had no words of apol­ogy for what his sub­jects had done to “assure Japan’s self-preser­va­tion and the stabi­li­zation of East Asia.” The words “sur­render” and “defeat” never crossed his lips, which left some lis­teners won­dering if Japan had sur­rendered or if the emperor was exhorting his subjects to resist the anticipated enemy invasion.

[amazon_carousel widget_type=”ASINList” width=”600″ height=”200″ title=”Recommended Reading” market_place=”US” shuffle_products=”False” show_border=”False” asin=”0380788748,0826516122,0804754276,080785607X,433301204X,0674022416,141281104X,052173536X,1494322064,0307342026″ /]

Nagasaki: Object of America’s Second Atomic Bomb, August 9, 1945

Bockscar crew, photo taken two days after Nagasaki bombingMitsubishi Steel and Armament Works, Nagasaki, after destruction

Left: Bockscar and crew delivered death and de­struc­tion when dropping “Fat Man” on Naga­saki on August 9, 1945. Twenty-five-year-old Maj. Charles W. Sweeney, Bockscar’s commander, stands in the second row wearing the dark jacket. Bocks­car and Enola Gay were “Silverplate” B-29s, which were specially con­figured to carry nuclear weapons. They were two of 15 Silver­plate B-29s used by the 393nd Bom­bard­ment Squad­ron, 509th Com­posite Group, which carried out the two nuclear bombings.

Right: The smokestacks of Nagasaki’s sprawling Mitsu­bishi Steel and Arma­ment Works. The plant was located about 2,500 ft down­river from ground zero. Naga­saki’s hilly ter­rain tempered the bomb’s de­struc­tive effects, where­as Hiro­shima was flat and open and thus suffered much greater devastation.

Side 1 bombing leafletSide 2 bombing leaflet

Above: Front and back of leaflets that urged the country’s quick sur­render were dropped over Japan by the 509th Com­posite Group, a group that comprised B-29 bombers and trans­port air­craft. The 509th was the USAAF com­po­nent of the Man­hattan Project under the command of Col. Paul Tibbets, Jr.

="Fat Man" in transit to airfield, Tinian, August 8, 1945

Left: After being assembled, “Fat Man” under­went a final pro­ce­dure outside the assem­bly building, where exte­rior cre­vices were filled with putty and then sprayed with seal­ant to main­tain the pro­per environ­ment within the device during the time it would take to deliver it over its tar­get. Once the seal­ant appli­ca­tion had been sub­stan­tially com­pleted, workers began scrawling their names and mes­sages on the tail fin assem­bly and body of the device (nearly impos­sible to see in this image), in­cluding one from Rear Admiral William R. Pur­nell, who wrote: “A Second Kiss for Hiro­hito!” Pur­nell, one of the “Tinian Joint Chiefs,” was the U.S. Navy repre­sen­ta­tive on the Mili­tary Policy Com­mi­ttee, the three-man com­mit­tee that over­saw the Man­hat­tan Pro­ject, and the per­sonal repre­sen­ta­tive of Admiral Ernest J. King, Com­mander in Chief, United States Fleet.

Right: This photo shows “Fat Man” being towed to Tinian’s North Field under mili­tary police escort. On arrival, the bomb was lowered by hydrau­lic lift into a bomb pit, Bocks­car backed up over the pit with bomb bay doors open, and the bomb was raised into the plane’s belly. Before Bocks­car’s com­mander left on his mis­sion to Naga­saki, Major Sweeney ran into Admiral Pur­nell, who stumped him by asking him to guess the cost of the bomb on his air­craft. Two billion dollars, Pur­nell said. Sweeney answered the admiral’s second ques­tion corr­ectly when he esti­mated the value Bocks­car at over a half-million dollars. “I’d suggest you keep those rela­tive values in mind for this mission,” Purnell told Sweeney.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki mushroom clouds, August 6 and 9, respectively

Left: At the time this photo was made, August 6, 1945, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiro­shima while it spread over 10,000 feet at the base of the rising column. Six planes of the 509th Com­po­site Group par­ti­ci­pated in the Hiro­shima mis­sion: one to carry the bomb (Col. Paul Tibbet’s Enola Gay); one to take scien­tific measure­ments of the blast (The Great Artiste under the com­mand of Maj. Charles Sweeney); and a third to take photo­graphs (Neces­sary Evil). The other three flew approxi­mately an hour ahead to act as weather scouts. Bad weather dis­quali­fied a tar­get, as scien­tists in­sisted on a visual delivery. The pri­mary tar­get that day was Hiro­shima. Secondary and ter­tiary tar­gets were Kokura and Nagasaki, respectively.

Right: Atomic bombing of Nagasaki, August 9, 1945, by the crew of Bocks­car. “Fat Man” had a blast yield equi­va­lent to 21,000 tons of TNT, a quarter more than the device dropped over Hiro­shima. The next day, August 10, the Japa­nese govern­ment presented a letter of pro­test for the two atomic bombings to the U.S. govern­ment via the Swiss embassy. It was not, however, until after the war that the full measure of the atomic horror sunk in.

Air Force Story (1953), “Air War Against Japan, 1944–1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-Bombs” (May want to skip first minute)