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The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

By Mike McLoughlin

At 2:45 a.m. on Monday, August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, took off from a North Pacific island 1,500 miles south of Japan.

A twelve-man crew was on board to make sure this secret mission went smoothly. Just before take-off, the plane’s nickname was painted on its side. The pilot, nicknamed the B-29 the “Enola Gay” after his mother.

The chief of the Ordnance Division in the “Manhattan Project” was the Enola Gay’s weaponeer. Since he had been instrumental in the development of the bomb, he was now responsible for arming it while in flight. About fifteen minutes into the flight he began to arm the atomic bomb; taking him another fifteen minutes. Parsons thought while arming the bomb nicknamed “Little Boy”: “I knew the Japs were in for it, but I felt no particular emotion about it.”

“Little Boy”, using radioactive uranium-235, was a product of $2 billion of research, had never been tested, nor been dropped from a plane. Some politicians pushed for not warning Japan of the bombing in order to save face in case the bomb malfunctioned.

Four cities were chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata. The cities were chosen because they had been relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be “sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released.”

On August 6, 1945, the first choice target, Hiroshima, had clear weather. At 8:15 a.m. (local time), the Enola Gay’s door sprang open and “Little Boy” Was dropped. The bomb exploded 1,900 feet above the city

The tail-gunner, described what he saw: “The mushroom cloud itself was a spectacular sight, a bubbling mass of purple-gray smoke and you could see it had a red core in it and everything was burning inside. . . . It looked like lava or molasses covering a whole city. . .

The co-pilot, said, “Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could no longer see the city. We could see smoke and fires creeping up the sides of the mountains.” Two-thirds of Hiroshima was destroyed. Within three miles of the explosion, 60,000 of the 90,000 buildings were demolished.

Clay roof tiles melted together. Shadows had imprinted on buildings and other hard surfaces. Metal and stone had melted.

The aim of this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilians, women, men and children. Hiroshima’s population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years.

A survivor described the damage to people:

The appearance of people was . . . well, they all had skin blackened by burns. . . . They had no hair because their hair was burned, and at a glance you couldn’t tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back. . . . They held their arms bent [forward] like this . . . and their skin – not only on their hands, but on their faces and bodies too – hung down. . . . If there had been only one or two such people . . . perhaps I would not have had such a strong impression. But wherever I walked I met these people. . . . Many of them died along the road – I can still picture them in my mind — like walking ghosts.

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