Contents - Hirohito's War
37 Potsdam, Hirohito, and the Atom Bomb
[July 1945–August 1945]
[Drawings: 37.1, 37.2] [Maps: 37.3, 37.4]
Enola Gay and the Dropping of Little Boy (p 1047) The MANHATTAN Project (p 1049) Harry Truman and the Potsdam Conference (p 1055) Did They Have To Use It? (p 1056) Did the Atom Bomb Save Lives? (p 1061) The Conspiracy Theories (p 1064) The Moral Issues of Using the Atom Bomb (p 1068) Final Negotiations for Japan’s Surrender (p 1071) Hirohito’s Radio Announcement (p 1076)
Enola Gay and the Dropping of Little Boy: [Drawing: 37.1] [Drawing 37.2] At 8.15 a.m. on 6 August 1945, a lone B-29 bomber piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, which had been hastily named the Enola Gay after his mother, dropped a single bomb over Hiroshima and headed out to sea. The bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, 10.5 feet long, 29 inches in diameter, weighing 9,700 pounds and, according to one of its crew, looking like ‘an elongated trash can with fins,’ fell toward its target, the Aioi Bridge, in the heart of Hiroshima. Surrounded by steep hills, the city sat in a basin fashioned from the fingers of land created by the delta of the Motoyasu River.
Hiroshima was just awakening to a warm and sunny morning. The temperature was already 27 degrees centigrade; the trams just north of Aioi Bridge at the Fukuya department store were packed; the streets were full of cyclists on their way to work; at the parade grounds to the west of the Aioi Bridge, bare-chested soldiers, some of the 43,000 stationed in the city, were doing morning exercises. Further from the center, school children were being coaxed into classrooms. A junior college student recalled looking up at the sky after hearing her teacher exclaim, “Oh there’s a B . . .!”1 At that moment, the bomb, inappropriately name Little Boy, which had drifted to a point some 550 feet southeast of its target to 1,900 feet above the Shima Hospital, exploded in a tremendous flash of lightning. “In an instant we were blinded and everything was just a frenzy of delirium.”2 At the center of the explosion site, the temperature reached 5,400 degrees. Even metal at proximity to the explosion was vaporized. People simply disappeared, sometimes leaving their shadows imprinted on stone or tarmac. Those Japanese within 600 yards of the explosion had their internal organs melted within a millisecond; over 90 percent of them died. Birds ignited in mid-air. At two miles away poles burst into flames. At three-quarters of a mile away 70 percent of people died; at one mile away 30 percent were killed. Some 62,000 buildings, two-thirds of the city, were destroyed. Within an instant Little Boy killed 50,000 of the 340,000 inhabitants of Hiroshima.
By the end of the year a further 20,000 had died of radiation sickness and eventually the total number of dead from the attack rose to 150,000. The well-constructed Fukuya Department Store, which had been completed in 1938, was 776 yards from Little Boy’s hypocenter and was completely burnt out but remained intact and was used as an isolation unit for the sick for a month after the atom bomb until the symptoms of