In the middle of July the United American-English Reconnaissance Committee presented its advice to the United Committee of Staff Commanders. It argued that as soon as the Soviet Union declared war against Japan, the Japanese government would be willing to end the war on any terms. Taking that into consideration, the American higher military command doubted that the use of the atomic bomb was a military necessity and made a decision to restrict themselves to a demonstration of the new weapons power by means of an explosion over either the Sea of Japan or another uninhibited location.
But the final decision to use the new “wonder-weapon” was in the hands of the politicians. Under President H. Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt, the government looked upon the weapon as the chief means by which the United States could dictate conditions to all the other countries in the final stage of the war and at the beginning of the post-war period. On June 1, 1945 the interim committee headed by Stimson and founded by the US government to come up with a final solution to this problem advocated that the atomic bomb be used against Japan “as soon as possible.” On the other hand, the committee of atomic scientists headed by professor D. Frank presented the government with a report in which it spoke out against the use of the atomic bomb. The scientists considered it necessary first to demonstrate the new weapons in the presence of representatives of those states which were members of the United Nations Organization and then present an ultimatum to Japan. Only if the Japanese government rejected the ultimatum did the scientists favor the possibility of dropping the atomic bomb.
After the defeat of fascist Germany, Japan no longer hoped for victory and sought for avenues to peace negotiations so as to end the war. The higher military council of the Empire made a decision to address the Soviet Government and request that it mediate in negotiations with the United States. The personal message of the Emperor regarding this matter was to be delivered to Moscow by Prince Konoe. The Japanese Embassy in Moscow was ordered by a cipher radiogram from Tokyo to determine whether the Kremlin was willing to receive the Emperor’s envoy. No response followed – neither Stalin, nor Molotov were in Moscow as both had left for the meeting of the Big Three in Potsdam. American decoders managed to intercept this radiogram. As a result, the Pentagon began to insist on atomic bomb testing even more vigorously.
At Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945 5:29:45 a successful test of the Gadget charge is conducted (Trinity test).
Oppenheimer and Groves in the former epicenter of the first atomic explosion. On the right – a memorial stele, erected at the same place.
On July 16, 1945, in a desert in the state of New Mexico the first experimental explosion was conducted. The bomb testing was sacrilegiously called “Trinity.”
Chronicler journalist Lawrence noted: “It was such a brilliant sunrise the likes of which the world had never seen; an enormous green super sun, which in a split second rose at a height of more than three kilometers and kept on rising higher and higher, till it touched the clouds and lightened earth and sky around it with an amazing brightness. In a few seconds the stunning thunder of the explosion sounded. A flaming fireball grew larger and larger, attaining a kilometer and a half in diameter and continuing to widen.”
Somebody cried panic-stricken, “My God, they’ve lost control over the chain reaction!!” In the sky at a height of twelve kilometers an atomic cloud was spreading in the air.
Arms folded, Robert Oppenheimer silently observed the results of his work. Journalist Lawrence asked him, “Robert, what did you feel during the explosion?”
Oppenheimer looked at him sadly and answered with a phrase from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds...”
Yet it was not Oppenheimer but General Groves who had become death. He was entrusted with the approval of the bombing targets in Japan, as even the United Committee of Staff Commanders did not know about the deadly weapon at that time. The building contractor began to direct the atomic strategy. He chose four targets – the Japanese cities of Kokura, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Niigata.
General Groves chooses an object for a strike.
“To estimate the bomb effect correctly, the target should not be damaged by preceding air attacks...,” said General Groves. In selecting the targets for atomic bombardment Groves was guided by reasons far from humane. When objections to the bombing of Kyoto were voiced, Groves countered with two arguments: firstly, that city had a population of over a million, which therefore promised a good explosion effect; secondly, it occupied a vast territory, quite suitable for the assumed diameter of destruction zone. In short, the area of the city suited him very well so far as bomb power estimation. For a long time Groves insisted on Kyoto for the first atomic bombardment. But now even the politicians who had encouraged his persistence realized that the general had gone too far. Later the targets of the atomic strikes were selected and instead of Kyoto, the notorious city of Nagasaki turned up on the list. Groves stipulated that history’s first nuclear strike “had to be an eye-catcher, so that the significance of the weapon received international recognition, when press releases appear”.
Aerial photo of Hiroshima.
By August 1945 any Japanese city could be considered both important as a military center and at the same time strategically useless – the Japanese Army and Navy were on the decline, and the Japanese economy in ruins. The war had already been lost more than once, and capitulation was inevitable. Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not supply anyone with anything. They did not produce weapons and were not the centers of the broken down and barely existent Japanese defence.
The town of Hiroshima was founded in the delta of the Otagava River in the XVII century. It is fan-shaped, as if repeating the form of the delta, widening to the south towards the internal sea of Setonaikai. During the war numerous military quarters and military cargo transportation departments were located in Hiroshima. The fifth part of the town was at the disposal of the army, and Hiroshima was the most important military town in the region of Kansai.
Nagasaki’s foundation goes back to the XVI century. Like Hiroshima, Nagasaki acted as provision center for the Japanese army during the Pacific war.
President Truman is content - he has a “big stick”, and Generalissimo Stalin is in no laughing mood. Potsdam Conference, August 1, 1945.
Immediately after the successful testing of the nuclear weapons, Truman convened a meeting at which most participants spoke in favor of immediate use of the atomic bomb against Japan. The corresponding decree was signed by the President on July 24.
Justifying use of the atomic bomb, Secretary of War Stimson, stressed that the government now must always proceed with reference to the historic role which the USA would have to play after the war. He understood that role as one of predominant force and setter of laws. At that moment the USA possessed two atomic bombs, which they were in a hurry to put into action before the USSR entered the war against Japan.
It was decided to conduct the bombardment of Hiroshima on August 6. A squadron of seven B-29 bombers was detached for the bombardment: three look-out planes, a reserve plane on Iwo Jima Island, two planes with scientific equipment and observers and one carrier of the bomb itself. Before dropping the bomb, a public worship service was conducted. That Pharisaic ritual was apparently intended to signify that the Lord was at one with the sons of America and approved of their fratricidal step.
The bomber is rolled onto a bomb pit to mount it with the atomic bomb.
Little Boy before its mounting to the aircraft.
B-29 Enola Gay taxies out, to make its “contribution” to history.