What would become known as: The Bomb

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

In a 1958 interview, Truman was asked about the soul-searching decision he went through to decide on dropping the bomb. He replied, “Hell no, I made it like _ (snapped his fingers) _ that!” One year later at Columbia University, he said, “The atom bomb was no great decision.” He likened it to a larger gun.

The components for the 20-kiloton weapon were being shipped to Tinian Island, in the Marianas, aboard the “Indianapolis.” The top-secret package arrived at its destination a mere 24 hours after the official operational order for the bomb was sent to General Carl (“Tooey”) Spaatz.

Prince Konoye, after laboring two years for a route to peace, swallowed poison and died the day before he was to turn himself in as a war criminal.

Prince Konoye

Prince Konoye

Sadly, four days later, the ‘Indianapolis’ was hit by three torpedoes and sunk within twelve minutes. The ship was without a sufficient number of lifeboats, her disappearance went unnoticed for almost four days and the navy search team was called off early. Therefore, only 316 men of her 1,196-man crew were rescued. This has been considered the most controversial sea disaster in American history.

The bomb, when it arrived, was a metal cylinder approximately 18 inches in diameter and two feet high, but when fully assembled, it measured ten feet long and 28 inches in diameter. It had originally been nicknamed “Thin Man” after the movie and the expected shape, but when it was completed, they changed it to “Little Boy” and gave the small bundle its own hiding place. The secrecy involving the bomb storage area was so secure that a general was required to have a pass to enter.

The other members of the 509th Bomber Group, not included in the mission, knew something was brewing, but they also were unaware of the exact plans. Hence, an anonymous writer was inspired:
Into the air the secret rose,
Where they’re going, nobody knows.
Tomorrow they’ll return again,
But we’ll never know where they’ve been.
Don’t ask about results or such,
Unless you want to get in Dutch.
But take it from one who is sure of the score,
The 509th is winning the war.

The crew of the ‘Enola Gay’ even received a humorous menu as they entered the mess hall for breakfast:
Look! Real eggs (How do you want them?)
Rolled oats (Why?)
Milk (No fishing)
Sausage (We think it’s pork)
Apple butter (Looks like axle grease)
Butter (Yep, it’s out again)
Coffee (Saniflush)
Bread (Someone get a toaster)

After takeoff, they met up with their two escort planes, ‘The Great Artiste,’ which carried scientific equipment and Number 91 (never named) carrying photographic gear.

men of Enola Gay

men of Enola Gay

6 August 1945, “Enola Gay,” dropped the first atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, on the city of Hiroshima, killing 180,000 people. The B-29 bomber was piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, Jr. and First Lieutenant Morris Jeppson. The crew was required to wear special goggles after the bomb was released to avoid blindness. Due to the lack of information, the crew of the Enola Gay did not expect to return from their bombing mission. The Manhattan Project (two cities built to develop the weapon) originally cost two billion dollars (The equivalent today would be approximately 27 billion.)

All clocks in Hiroshima stopped precisely at 8:15 am.

Bomb released on Hiroshima

Bomb released on Hiroshima

Hiroshima University surprisingly stood intact after the explosion presumably due to its completely white veneer, but for some unknown reason its clock had eerily stopped at 8:15 — the previous day.

The Emperor, throughout his life, had been described as looking like a small town mayor, completely unselfish, without vanity or ambition. He had always wished to be a marine biologist rather than a monarch. As Emperor, once the military leaders and the cabinet made a decision, he could not withhold his support. He had never wanted war, but had complied. (To explain the complex layout of the Japanese government at that time would require much more room than we have here.) Once the atomic bombs were dropped, the Emperor threw tradition to the wind and emphatically insisted upon peace. This would cause a civil war of sorts with the government.

Emperor seeing Hiroshima for the first time.

Emperor seeing Hiroshima for the first time.

8-9 August, at midnight, the Soviets declared war on Japan and Manchuria. This was contrary to their original agreement to wait until the 15th of the month. It became obvious to all that Stalin was now making his agenda quite clear as to his wish for the “spoils of war.” Truman, who had wanted the Soviets in the war, now realized that they would be a hindrance.

9 August, ‘Bock’s Car’ dropped the next atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” which was nicknamed after Churchill or Sidney Greenstreet’s character in “The Maltese Falcon,” there are two conflicting stories. The bomb killed 80,000 people. This second bomb was different in that it was a spherical plutonium missile, ten feet long and five feet in diameter. The plane made three unsuccessful runs over the city of Kokura, but due to the lack of visibility, they went on to Nagasaki. Jake Beser, an electronics specialist, was the only crew member
to make both atomic bomb runs.

navigator's view, Nagasaki bombing

navigator’s view, Nagasaki bombing

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Always sad to see another veteran pass on …

11th Airborne Obituary

11th Airborne Obituary

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Resources: Pacific War On-line Encyclopedia; “The Rising Sun” by John Toland; “The Last Great Victory’ by Stanley Weintraub; “VFW Pictorial History of WWII”; AOL Images; Palm Beach Post.

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Remeber to click on a photo to view more clearly.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 22, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Never read the poem, never heard about the clocks at the university stopping 24 hours before the bomb dropped. My mom always told me they had to drop the bombs, that the Japanese would have fought to the last man if they hadn’t dropped those bombs. I know one thing. My grandpa might have died if the war hadn’t ended when it did, and three of my aunts would never have been born. That’s all I know. So many people, dead. It’s incredible.

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  2. I’d never even heard of Kokura before.

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  3. Thanks for the unerring support. You have fantastic posts; this is all incredibly interesting!

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    • That moment of idiocy when your mind shuts down and you submit while mentally wording what else you meant to say.

      I consistently use the atomic bomb as the subject of history class semester projects (especially memorable is the museum exhibit), and really wish I had found this in time to use as a resource. The human touches are especially interesting, though they wouldn’t have helped my grade. That the Emperor actually wanted to be a marine biologist and his dissent against tradition, for example (and I would enjoy reading more about the “complex layout of the Japanese government at that time,” nudge and wink).

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    • Thank you, I hope you enjoy past and future posts as well.

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  4. I knew the name of the plane “Enola Gay” but I don’t think I remember ever hearing the name of the second plane, “Bock’s Car.” Thanks again for quite a bit of new information!

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  5. WOW… There was so much lacking from my education on this momentous event. I learned so much – especially about the aftermath in Japan and Russia. Loved the poem – although “they” did find out where”the secret” went – and the menu. Thank you, gpcox, for your usual splendid research.

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    • Definitely my pleasure, Judy. Always looking for little know details. I found a considerable pile of them here, but were too gory to publish. First hand accounts are overwhelming.

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  6. Each blog is another history lesson reminder and so much more. Everything comes into a personal perspective.

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  7. EmilyAnn Frances

    Excellent posting. I felt like I was reading a combination of a history book and an actual newspaper of he day.

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  8. Some new and interesting facts here. I wonder, do they have photos/videos of the two atomic droppings, frame by frame? Great read

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  9. Reblogged this on kjmhoffman.

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  10. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    About the Bomb

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  11. I know some of this story but such momentous events need to be told and retold. They lose nothing in the retelling.

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  12. Pierre Lagacé

    Another great post. I hope the veteran’s relatives find your blog.
    Did you try to make contact?

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  13. Pierre Lagacé

    Just to let you know…

    About the bomb picture, it is not Little Boy. That’s a 1000 pound bomb.

    This is Little Boy

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  14. The poem and the menu for the Enola Gay’s crew are new for me. Nevertheless, a good refresher. Thank you.

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