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Why is the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima so much more infamous than that of Nagasaki?

Why is the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima so much more infamous than that of Nagasaki?


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I am not American, so this might just be something in my country, but growing up everyone knew about the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. However, when we began studying this in high school everyone was surprised to learn that a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Many times I've encountered people who have heard about Hiroshima but not Nagasaki.

Were they reported on differently at the time? Is there some historical reason for one being more infamous than the other (other than one being the first)?


Is there some historical reason for one being more infamous than the other (other than one being the first)?

I think that being the first is, by far, the main reason that, when someone says "atomic bombing", most people think "Hiroshima", or, perhaps, "Hiroshima… and, oh, Nagasaki".

I would say that another factor is, as a deleted answer hinted, the fact that more people died in Hiroshima than in Nagasaki (the bomb in Hiroshima hit the city in full, while Nagasaki was partially protected by hills surrounding the city, that provided some "shadow"). Another possibility is that Nagasaki is probably more well known in the "West" than Hiroshima, for other reasons besides being victimated by an atomic bomb - particularly for having been the only Japanese port left open to international trade during the Tokugawa shogunate and its policy of purposeful national isolation.


Obviously, Hiroshima was the first and except for the witnesses to the test less than 2 months before and some top military and politicians, it was a complete shock. On the other hand, that the second bomb was used probably was also shocking in it own way.


Big Red Car here on a nice but cloudy ATX day. Going to rain, y’all. Getting into the Memorial Day flood cycle. Flash flood warning last night. Lakes more than fill and flooding the marina parking lots. Lots of water.

So, the President is in Hiroshima becoming the first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima whereat the United States unleashed the power of a new weapon, a nuclear bomb called “Little Boy” which was delivered by a B-29 bomber on 6 August 1945.

Little Boy nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on 6 August 1945, killing an estimated 145,000 civilians

On 15 August 1945, the Japanese surrendered entering into a formal surrender on the USS Missouri (one of the refloated ships sunk at Pearl Harbor by the Japs) on 2 September 1945.

The war the Japs started was finally over.


&34Big Bang Hell&34

&34Manhattan Project&34 is the code name of the nuclear weapons project secretly studied by the US government during World War II. It was implemented in June 1942 One month later, the world&rsquos first nuclear explosion was successfully carried out, and two atomic bombs were finally used in actual combat.

In October 1939, the President of the United States Roosevelt received a letter from the famous physicist Einstein, The letter mentioned the possibility of Germany establishing a nuclear weapons research and development committee, telling them that Germany may already be experimenting with developing nuclear weapons. The Americans immediately felt the urgency and began to formulate a systematic nuclear weapons research and development plan.

By 1944, in addition to Nazi Germany, a total of 6000 scientists and engineers from leading universities and industrial research laboratories in Western countries participated in the study. The main person in charge of leading the Manhattan project is the physicist Robert Oppenheimer , and the main research and development institution is the Los Alamos National Experiment room. In order to ensure the safety and privacy of the project, the R&D site was set up in the desert near Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Many private companies were involved, the most important of which was DuPont, which helped to manufacture the uranium and various components needed for the bomb. These nuclear materials are in the Hanford District of Washington and Oak Ridge, Tennessee reactor. In its heyday, the Manhattan Project employed 130,000 people in 37 factories in the United States.

On July 16, 1945, at dawn in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the darkness did not completely fade away. With a loud noise, the first nuclear bomb was successfully tested. A magnificent mushroom cloud rose from the desert, and the windows of houses fifty miles away were shattered.

The birth of the atomic bomb is undoubtedly a crucial turning point in the history of human warfare, marking the arrival of the terrible era of nuclear weapons, and its subsequent development has deeply affected the international situation throughout the twentieth century. During the Cold War, the spy of the Los Alamos R&D Center Klaus Fox provided the Soviet Union with information about the nuclear program Information helped the Soviet Union to develop its own atomic bomb before 1949. Nuclear weapons are no longer unique to the United States. The bipolar pattern of the United States and the Soviet Union for hegemony has been further established.

With the growth of the world&rsquos anti-fascist forces, the war situation was once reversed. Two months before the atomic bomb, the Allied powers defeated Germany, and only Japan was still fighting. Although it is at the end of the road, Japan, under the brainwashing of militarism, vowed to fight to the end and even shouted the slogan of&rdquo100 million jade broken&rdquo. In order to force Japan to surrender, a war against Japan is imminent.

U.S. President Truman&rsquos military advisers warned that the land war after Japan&rsquos landing would kill thousands of soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces through conventional warfare Forcing Japan to surrender will pay a huge price. Truman&rsquos response to this was that if Japan insists on not surrendering, then it will&rdquoimmediately destroy it&rdquo and authorize Japan&rsquos resolution to use the atomic bomb.

History finally recorded this important event:1945 On August 6, 2005, a B-29 bomber dropped its first atomic bomb over Hiroshima. The device used 12,500 tons of TNT. The explosion in the city directly destroyed the entire city of Hiroshima. 70,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, of which about 48,000 were razed to the ground. In the months after the explosion in Hiroshima, about 140,000 people were killed, including different groups who died that day, were seriously injured and died of poisoning due to radioactive materials.

Hiroshima was almost razed to the ground

The survivors who escaped by a fluke still have lingering fears when they recall this unforgettable experience. When describing what he saw and heard, a professor of Japanese history said:&34I saw Hiroshima disappear, and I was deeply shocked by the sight in front of me. I still can&rsquot describe the feeling at that time.

I have seen many terrible scenes after the explosion, but it&rsquos nowhere near as terrifying as I lower my head and see the empty Hiroshima, so much so I can&rsquot express my feelings&hellipIf I had to describe it, it would be that &39Hiroshima does not exist&39, yes, that&rsquos what I saw&mdash&39Hiroshima doesn&rsquot exist at all&39!

&34Except for a few reinforced concrete buildings, nothing is left&hellip&34 Another surviving Doctor Michihiko Yatani described:&rdquoIf it weren&rsquot for the bricks and tiles scattered everywhere, the city would have been no different from the desert. To use one word to describe what I see, it is &39destroy&39. But in fact, I couldn&rsquot find one or more precise words to describe my feelings. &34

Japanese writer Yoko Ota wrote this text in his work:&34I walked to one On the bridge, I saw that Hiroshima had been completely razed to the ground, and my whole heart was trembling like a huge wave. The people who fled in a panic seemed to step on my heart, making me very sad&hellip&hellip&34

Japanese child injured in the atomic bomb

Hiroshima became a&rdquobig bang hell&rdquo, which greatly accelerated the demise of Japanese militarism and the end of World War II, and also caused a lot of casualties and economic losses. For the first time, the power of the atomic bomb was truly presented to the world. On August 9, 1945, just three days after the time of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, the second atomic bomb exploded in Nagasaki . The Japanese government finally announced surrender.


Why is the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima so much more infamous than that of Nagasaki? - History

The Power of Independent Thinking

Being a U.S. war criminal means never having to say sorry. Paul Tibbets, the man who flew the Enola Gay and destroyed Hiroshima, lived to the impressive age of 92 without publicly expressing guilt for what he had done. He had even reenacted his infamous mission at a 1976 Texas air show, complete with a mushroom cloud, and later said he never meant this to be offensive. In contrast, he called it a “damn big insult” when the Smithsonian planned an exhibit in 1995 showing some of the damage the bombing caused.

We might understand a man not coming to terms with his most important contribution to human history being such a destructive act. But what about the rest of the country?

It’s sickening that Americans even debate the atomic bombings, as they do every year in early August. Polls in recent years reveal overwhelming majorities of the American public accepting the acts as necessary.

Conservatives are much worse on this topic, although liberals surely don’t give it the weight it deserves. Trent Lott was taken to the woodshed for his comments in late 2002 about how Strom Thurmond would have been a better president than Truman. Lott and Thurmond both represent ugly strains in American politics, but no one dared question the assumption that Thurmond was obviously a less defensible candidate than Truman. Zora Neale Hurston, heroic author of the Harlem Renaissance, might have had a different take, as she astutely called Truman “a monster” and “the butcher of Asia.” Governmental segregation is terrible, but why is murdering hundreds of thousands of foreign civilians with as much thought as one would give to eradicating silverfish treated as simply a controversial policy decision in comparison?

Perhaps it is the appeal to necessity. We hear that the United States would have otherwise had to invade the Japanese mainland and so the bombings saved American lives. But saving U.S. soldiers wouldn’t justify killing Japanese children any more than saving Taliban soldiers would justify dropping bombs on American children. Targeting civilians to manipulate their government is the very definition of terrorism. Everyone was properly horrified by Anders Behring Breivik’s murder spree in Norway last month—killing innocents to alter diplomacy. Truman murdered a thousand times as many innocents on August 6, 1945, then again on August 9.

It doesn’t matter if Japan “started it,” either. Only individuals have rights, not nations. Unless you can prove that every single Japanese snuffed out at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was involved in the Pearl Harbor attack, the murderousness of the bombings is indisputable. Even the official history should doom Truman to a status of permanent condemnation. Besides being atrocious in themselves, the U.S. creation and deployment of the first nuclear weapons ushered in the seemingly endless era of global fear over nuclear war.

However, as it so happens, the official history is a lie. The U.S. provoked the Japanese to fire the first shot, as more and more historians have acknowledged. Although the attack on Pearl Harbor, a military base, was wrong, it was far less indefensible than the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s civilian populations.

As for the utilitarian calculus of “saving American lives,” historian Ralph Raico explains:

[T]he rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single colossal fabrication, which has gained surprising currency: that they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American lives. These, supposedly, are the lives that would have been lost in the planned invasion of Kyushu in December, then in the all-out invasion of Honshu the next year, if that was needed. But the worst-case scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands was forty-six thousand American lives lost.

The propaganda that the atomic bombings saved lives was nothing but a public relations pitch contrived in retrospect. These were just gratuitous acts of mass terrorism. By August 1945, the Japanese were completely defeated, blockaded, starving. They were desperate to surrender. All they wanted was to keep their emperor, which was ultimately allowed anyway. The U.S. was insisting upon unconditional surrender, a purely despotic demand. Given what the Allies had done to the Central Powers, especially Germany, after the conditional surrender of World War I, it’s understandable that the Japanese resisted the totalitarian demand for unconditional surrender.

A 1946 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey determined the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nukings were not decisive in ending the war. Most of the political and military brass agreed. “The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing,” said Dwight Eisenhower in a 1963 interview with Newsweek.

Another excuse we hear is the specter of Hitler getting the bomb first. This is a non sequitur. By the time the U.S. dropped the bombs, Germany was defeated and its nuclear program was revealed to be nothing in comparison to America’s. The U.S. had 180,000 people working for several years on the Manhattan Project. The Germans had a small group led by a few elite scientists, most of whom were flabbergasted on August 6, as they had doubted such bombs were even possible. Even if the Nazis had gotten the bomb—which they were very far from getting—it wouldn’t in any way justify killing innocent Japanese.

For more evidence suggesting that the Truman administration was out to draw Japanese blood for its own sake, or as a show of force for reasons of Realpolitik, consider the United States’s one-thousand-plane bombing of Tokyo on August 14, the largest bombing raid of the Pacific war, after Hirohito agreed to surrender and the Japanese state made it clear it wanted peace. The bombing of Nagasaki should be enough to know it was not all about genuinely stopping the war as painlessly as possible—why not wait more than three days for the surrender to come? But to strategically bomb Japan five days after the destruction Nagasaki, as Japan was in the process of waving the white flag? It’s hard to imagine a greater atrocity, or clearer evidence that the U.S. government was not out to secure peace, but instead to slaughter as many Japanese as it could before consolidating its power for the next global conflict.

The U.S. had, by the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, destroyed 67 Japanese cities by firebombing, in addition to helping the British destroy over a hundred cities in Germany. In this dramatic footage from The Fog of War, Robert McNamara describes the horror he helped unleash alongside General Curtis LeMay, with images of the destroyed Japanese cities and an indication of what it would have meant for comparably sized cities in the United States:



“Killing fifty to ninety percent of the people in 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional—in the minds of some people—to the objectives we were trying to achieve,” McNamara casually says. Indeed, this was clearly murderous, and Americans are probably the most resistant of all peoples to the truths of their government’s historical atrocities. It doesn’t hurt that the U.S. government has suppressed for years evidence such as film footage shot after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet even based on what has long been uncontroversial historical fact, we should all be disgusted and horrified by what the U.S. government did.

How would it have been if all those Germans and Japanese, instead of being burned to death from the sky, were corralled into camps and shot or gassed? Materially, it would have been the same. But Americans refuse to think of bombings as even in the same ballpark as other technologically expedient ways of exterminating people by the tens and hundreds of thousands. Why? Because the U.S. government has essentially monopolized terror bombing for nearly a century. No one wants to confront the reality of America’s crimes against humanity.

It would be one thing if Americans were in wide agreement that their government, like that of the Axis governments of World War II, had acted in a completely indefensible manner. But they’re not. The Allies were the white hats. Ignore the fact that the biggest belligerent on America’s side was Stalin’s Russia, whom the FDR and Truman administrations helped round up a million or two refugees to enslave and murder in the notorious undertaking known as Operation Keelhaul. We’re not supposed to think about that. World War II began with Pearl Harbor and it ended with D-Day and American sailors returning home to kiss their sweethearts who had kept America strong by working on assembly lines.


Why Did Americans Accept Barbaric Slaughter of Japanese Civilians? – Peter Kuznick

In 1939, President Roosevelt called on nations at war to refrain from the “inhuman barbarism” of targeting civilians. In 1945, the U.S. firebombed Japanese cities and dropped nuclear weapons killing hundreds of thousands. On the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Peter Kuznick joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news podcast.

Hi, I’m Paul Jay, and welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast. On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th, 1945, I think it’s important to understand how the mass killing of civilians in war became acceptable, and how U.S. public opinion and media, on the whole, supported the use of weapons of mass destruction. Now joining us to discuss this is Peter Kuznick. He’s a professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University and is the author of “Beyond the Laboratory Scientists as Political Activists in the 1930s America” and with filmmaker Oliver Stone, he co-authored the twelve-part Showtime documentary film, series, and book, both titled “The Untold History of the United States.” Thanks for joining us, Peter.

Peter Kuznick

Happy to be with you, Paul

So my understanding is that, more or less in the 19th century, even up until the First World War, as a tactic of war, strategy of war, the mass killing of civilians was more or less considered outside the bounds of acceptable warfare. Now, of course, civilians got killed and there was a certain amount of targeting, but mostly armies fought armies. But in the Second World War, that really changes where civilians on a mass basis become targets. And it’s not just by any means the Nazis that do it. It’s the British and the Americans as well. And so this targeting of civilians before the use of the atomic bomb, I think, created the conditions to help make it acceptable to make the decision to drop the bomb. Can you talk a little bit about the history of the development of this large scale killing of civilians and then up to leading us to the decision to drop the bomb?

Peter Kuznick

You’re correct to say that this really is a phenomenon that occurs during World War Two. And that’s partly because even in World War I, air warfare was just taking off. In World War I there was some bombing of civilians. WWI is really the first time that airplanes are used to drop bombs on a large scale. And that happens during World War I. By the end of the war that was happening much more commonly in the interwar period. The British were using bombings to secure their empire in places like Iraq in the 1920s. But still, at the start of the war, there was a general sense that killing civilians deliberately was off-limits. The US State Department in 1937 condemned this and said “Public opinion in the US regards such methods as the slaughter of civilian populations, in particular women and children – as barbarous. Such acts are a violation of the elementary principles of those standards of human conduct which have been developed as an essential part of modern civilization.” The State Department was very clear in its moral condemnation. Franklin Roosevelt, when war broke out in Europe in 1939, called upon the combatants to refrain from this “inhuman barbarism,” but it was already starting. The most interesting comment that I’ve seen about it at the time, before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was by Dwight MacDonald, founder of Partisan Review, Politics, and other publications. MacDonald says in the summer of 1945 before Hiroshima, “I remember when Franco’s planes bombed Barcelona for the first time. What a chill of unbelieving horror and indignation went through our nerves at the idea of hundreds, yes, hundreds of civilians being killed. It seems impossible that that was less than 10 years before. Franco’s Air Force was a toy compared to the sky-filling bombing fleets deployed in this war. And the hundreds killed in Barcelona have become the thousands killed in Rotterdam and Warsaw, the tens of thousands in Hamburg and Cologne, the hundreds of thousands in Dresden and the millions in Tokyo. A month ago, the papers reported that over one million Japanese men, women, and children perished in the fires set by a single B-29 raid on Tokyo – one million. I saw no expression of horror or indignation in any American newspaper or magazine of sizable circulation. We have grown callous to massacre and the concept of guilt has spread to include whole populations. Our hearts are hardened, our nerves steady, our imaginations under control as we read the morning paper. King Mithridates is said to have immunized himself against poison by taking small doses, which he increased slowly. So the gradually increasing horrors of the last decade have made each of us, to some extent, a moral Mithridates, immunized against human sympathy.” So that was the process.

And tell us again who that was, and when?

Peter Kuznick

Dwight MacDonald, a very, very brilliant progressive political analyst, in the 1930s and -40s, and that was the reality. In the beginning, people were horrified that hundreds of people would be killed. By the end of the war, we had grown so callous. The Germans start it, and the British retaliate and say they’re going to pay them back tenfold, targeting civilian populations. The reality was that bombing was very, very inaccurate during the beginning of World War II, especially against heavily defended targets. In 1941, for example, the British reported that only 22% of bombers got within five miles of targets and only 7% got within five miles of heavily defended targets. Therefore the British, who couldn’t do the precise bombing, would do mass urban area bombing. The interesting thing is that the US avoided that until the end of 󈧯. The US went after transportation sites, industrial sites, key strategic nodal points in the German economy, and war machine. But we avoided urban bombing because it was so offensive to our ethics at the time. And that begins to change at the end of 󈧯 and 󈧰. But still, for the most part in the European war, we avoided targeting civilian populations. Of course, it happens in Dresden and that’s horrific and we regret that. But overall, we avoided it.

The British were doing massive fire bombings of German cities and that seemed to help create acceptability to doing such.

Peter Kuznick

Some acceptability for the United States not really yet. The attitude was still that this was horrendous and inhumane. For example, General Ira Eaker comments: “Hap Arnold, the head of the Air Force, feared the reaction of the US public to urban-area bombing of women and children. He pointed to a large percentage of German people in this country and those who felt we should have not have become involved in a war with Germany at all. But 90 percent of Americans would have killed every Japanese.” So there was a big difference in attitude between the European war, where we showed some restraint and the Pacific War where we showed no restraint. In fact, Major General Haywood Hansell, the head of the 21st bomber command that was doing the bombing in Japan, resisted orders to abandon precision bombing at the end of󈧰. He didn’t want to bomb urban areas. So Hap Arnold sacked him and installed General Curtis LeMay as commander of the 21st Bomber Command and LeMay had no such compunction. The large-scale bombing on the night of March 9th through 10th when 324 aircraft attacked Tokyo and killed probably one hundred thousand people, destroyed 16 square miles, injured a million, at least 41,000 seriously injured, more than a million homeless. The air reached eighteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit. LeMay says that the victims were scorched and boiled and baked to death. He referred to this as his masterpiece.

So Roosevelt must have had to OK this.

Peter Kuznick

This is while Roosevelt was still alive – a month before his death. What we know is that the political leaders did not micromanage the military side of this. They put this responsibility in the hands of Gen. Arnold and people in Tokyo. But Roosevelt bears responsibility for this and not just Roosevelt. Robert McNamara was involved in this planning in the Pacific War – he was on Lemay’s staff. And Lemay said to them, if we lose this war, you know, we’re all going to be tried as war criminals because of the strategic bombing. and MacNamara has acknowledged that and said that they should have been, because of the killing, targeting Japanese cities. We’re using mostly incendiary bombs by the end of the war three-quarters of the bombs were incendiaries. And they were designed to burn down Japanese paper cities, paper and bamboo cities, and they succeeded: destruction reached 99.5% in the city of Toyama. However, and I write about this in “Untold History,” the Toyama city leaders invited us to come to Toyama a couple of years ago and we met with some of the victims of the US bombing. We did some big public events and they actually began a bombing museum in Toyama, based on our visit there. But the U.S. firebombed more than one hundred Japanese cities. And it gets so bad that in June of 1945, Secretary of War Stimson says to Truman, I don’t want to have the US get the reputation of outdoing Hitler in atrocities. Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, who was an aide to MacArthur, described the bombing of Japan in a confidential memo as one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of noncombatants in all history. But clearly, the policy in Japan was very different and it went against everything decent that the US was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t just the US, of course it was the British as well. Freeman Dyson, the renowned British physicist, was part of the tiger force fleet of 300 British British bombers and was set to go over to Okinawa.

And he says, “I found this continuing slaughter of defenseless Japanese even more sickening than the slaughter of well-defended Germans. But still, I didn’t quit. by that time I had been at war so long I can hardly remember peace. No living poet had words to describe that emptiness of the soul which allowed me to go on killing without hatred and without remorse. Shakespeare understood it. He gave Macbeth the words, ‘I am in blood stepped in so that should I wait no more returning were as tedious as going over.’ And that that was what we did.” So, yes, we did lower the moral threshold. Strategic bombing and pervasive racism lowered the moral threshold. And when we did drop the atomic bombs, there was almost no expression of regret and remorse. Not in terms of the killing of Japanese civilians, women and children.

Was it seen as just an extension of the firebombing?

Peter Kuznick

On a moral level, I think it was. The US media reacted very strongly to the atomic bombings. It was, as H.V. Kaltenborn says in his evening address on August 6, in his national radio address: “We’ve unleashed a Frankenstein and someday the weapons that we’re using against Japan will come back to haunt us that we’ll be victimized ourselves. And that was the refrain that was widely repeated by the American media at the time – August sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, up to the end of the war. That, as Edward R. Murrow says, there’s no sense of exhilaration and elation over the end of the war. There’s this sense of remorse and foreboding and the fear that eventually we’re going to be a victim of the same horrific weapons that we’re using now. And what you see is that newspaper after newspaper, in the city of Minneapolis or Denver, they have a map of their city and they show what would happen in terms of the layers of destruction if a bomb the size of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were dropped on their cities. So that was fascinating. There is none of that attitude of, Wow, we gave it to ’em. Truman in his initial statement about the atomic bomb said “This is revenge for Pearl Harbor” – that’s what he talks about initially. Then he later changed to the idea that we had to drop the bomb as the only way to avoid an invasion. Hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of Japanese were killed in the invasion, and that’s why the bombings were necessary and humane and benevolent.

What does this tell us about a very complex person of FDR who is seen as this sort of progressive visionary? Certainly in defense of private property and capitalism, as he said, but, heading towards a kind of social democracy, when you see what he was trying to achieve. That being said, this all had to happen under his watch. The development of the bomb and the fire-bombings are as bad or worse than the actual destruction caused by a nuclear bomb. What does it tell us about who Roosevelt was?

Peter Kuznick

I don’t know what it tells us about Roosevelt, being Roosevelt. I know what Roosevelt said about using the atomic bombs. He was very ambivalent about it, he talked about it. Initially, US develops the bomb under Roosevelt as a deterrent against the German bomb. And if we go back to that early history after the Germans split the Uranium atom in December of 1938, scientists knew that meant theoretically the capability of developing atomic bombs, but the American military was not interested in what that represented because they thought that it would take years and this war bomb, and this new weapon wouldn’t be ready in this war, and so they wanted to focus on other things. The ones who got the United States to build the bomb were the emigres, the physicists who had escaped from Nazi occupied Europe and had come to the United States and were terrified of what it would mean if Hitler got ahold of atomic bombs. So they tried to pressure American leaders to develop the bomb, but Americans were not interested. That was why on July 16th, 1939, Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner, two brilliant Hungarian physicists, went out to see Einstein, who was vacationing in Peconic, Long Island and told Einstein that the Germans had split the uranium atom, Einstein didn’t even know. And Einstein wrote that famous letter to Roosevelt urging the US to begin the bomb project and it got off the ground very, very slowly. It doesn’t really take shape until the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942 with the establishment of the Manhattan Project.

And it was because, the idea was that the bomb would be a deterrent against a German bomb. There was no thought initially to using the bomb against Japan because we knew Japan did not have the technological scientific ability at that point to develop their own bombs.

Ellsberg writes in Doomsday Machine, somewhere in the 42-43 period, I believe the Americans find out that Hitler is not building a bomb. One of the theories is that when they try to test one of these bombs, it might set the entire atmosphere on fire. And Hitler actually decides it’s not worth the risk to set the entire world on fire.

Peter Kuznick

It’s a little different. What happened was Arthur Holly Compton told Oppenheimer to develop a brain trust in the summer of 42′ and Oppenheimer, Bethe, Teller and other luminaries went out to Berkeley and they were doing their deliberations. And during that, they all froze in terror because they realized that an atomic bomb could either ignite all the nitrogen in the atmosphere or the hydrogen in the seas and set the world on fire so they stop what they’re doing. Oppenheimer gets on a train, rushes out to see Arthur Holly Compton, who is vacationing in Michigan, and lays this out to him. And Compton says, “better to live in slavery to the Nazis than to bring down the final curtain on mankind”. And they swallowed the bomb project, they go back out to Berkeley and they realized they didn’t account for all the heat that would be absorbed by radiation it’s complicated. But they realize that the odds of blowing up the world were only three in a million. They say those odds are acceptable and so they go back and they continue the bomb project.

Hitler actually did begin it in 42′. Paul Hardtack, who had been a Rutherford student, alerted the German war office in April 42′ to the possibility of making atomic bombs and they began the project. But then Hitler and Speer decided that rather than spend so many resources on a weapon that wouldn’t be available for another two years or more, maybe not in this war, they focused instead on the V1 and V2 rockets. The debate there is whether Heisenberg was head of the cars of Vilhelm Institute, actually was undermining the bomb project deliberately, as he later claimed. But we find out in late 44′ that the Germans aren’t developing a bomb,

And that does not stop the U.S. from continuing to develop theirs once it’s known the Germans are not?

Peter Kuznick

No, in fact, Oppenheimer says that at that point they sped it up faster than ever because the pressure was to have it ready for when Truman met with Stalin at Potsdam. And so Oppenheimer said, we will work around the clock at breakneck speed to have it ready for Potsdam. One of the things about it is that, when they found out that Germany was not developing a bomb, only one scientist left the Manhattan Project, and that was Joseph Rotblat, a wonderful man who later gets the Nobel Peace Prize.

And Rotblat left on principle when he found out. But it was also Rotblat who Leslie Groves said, Groves shocked Rotblat over dinner in March of 󈧰 when he said, you realize, of course, that the main purpose of this project is to subdue the Russians. I mean, Groves was clear about that, that the bomb project was designed as a tool against the Soviet Union, he later said, “There was never from about two weeks from the time I took charge of this project any illusion my part that Russia was our enemy and the project was conducted on that basis”.

And the scientists went along with it based on this, even though they’d all gotten into it because they thought they were going to stop Hitler from having a bomb.

Peter Kuznick

Well, the scientists at some point, the momentum of doing it just carries them away. Not all the scientists, because many of them urged the government not to use the bomb. In fact, Leo Szilard circulated a petition after they formed committees that met in Chicago. And in June of 45′, the Frank Committee, headed by James Frank, said that even if the United States develops the bomb, which we probably shouldn’t use because it’s going to lead to an uncontrollable arms race with the Soviet Union and put the world in mortal danger.

And then they blocked them from circulating that statement. And so Szilard drew up his own petition and says, we’re opening the door to an era of slaughter on an unimaginable scale. He said these weapons can be made as big and powerful as people wanted. And that’s what they understood for quite some time, is back in 󈧮 that, Edward Teller said to the other luminaries and Oppenheimer’s group, “let’s not waste our time on the atomic bomb, it’s trivial. Let’s immediately go for the Super bomb”, and Oppenheimer briefs the members of the interim committee on May 31st, America’s top political and military leaders and says that within three years the US will likely have weapons between seven hundred and seven thousand times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. And we knew that we went into this with our eyes wide open. And that’s what I call the apocalyptic narrative because Truman understood this better than anybody in his own primitive way.

Truman writes that he first got seriously briefed on the bomb by James Byrnes and on his first day in office on April 13th. And Truman writes that Byrnes told me this is a weapon great enough to destroy the whole world. Truman gets a fuller briefing on the bombings from Stimson and Groves, Secretary Stimson and General Groves, head of the Manhattan Project on April 25th, after which he writes, Truman writes, “Simpson says gravely that he didn’t know whether we should or could use the bomb because he was afraid that it was so powerful it could end up destroying the whole world. I felt the same fears as he and Groves continue to talk about it when I read Groves 24 page report”. And then the kicker for me is on July 5th when Truman is at Potsdam and he gets the full briefing and how powerful a bomb tested on Alamogordo was, and Truman says, “We’ve discovered the most terrible weapon in history. This may be the fire destruction prophecy and the Euphrates Valley era after Noha’s ark, not a more powerful bomb, but the fire destruction and still knowing that Truman proceeds to use it, knowing there are alternatives, knowing the Japanese are defeated, knowing that they’re trying to surrender, knowing that the Soviets are about to come in, that the Japanese will certainly surrender then, he goes ahead and he uses this in precisely the way he was warned was most likely to trigger an arms race between the US and the Soviets, that could spell the doom of all life on our planet. Truman is not a bloodthirsty evil individual, but his actions certainly are incomprehensible from an ethical standpoint.

Well, trying to make them comprehensible, what motivates it? The Soviet Union does not have the bomb at that point. There was the opportunity to close it all down after the Second World War and not enter this world of potential, even imminent, total annihilation.

One of the things that Ellsberg talks about now is how much the commercial interests of what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, that a lot of the impetus for developing all kinds of weaponry, including nuclear weaponry, but also the impetus for creating this Cold War, that there was a commercial imperative. That was one of the things that drove it. Do you agree with that?

Peter Kuznick

I agree with it, but I consider that less than the military and strategic imperatives. You know, certainly, during the bomb project in World War Two, the commercial motives were not driving force at all. Commercial interests are not part of the decision to use the bomb and the military-industrial complex does certainly play an important role in the development of American armaments and American research and the misdirection of American scientific research at the universities in the laboratories after the war. And I think that’s all very important.

And you could talk about the commercial interests in the sense that so many of the top leaders during World War Two and after with these dollars a year, men who came from Wall Street. I mean, if I did an accounting at one point about all the people who were the main planners of the Cold War policy who came out of Wall Street, whether it’s a Forrestal, I mean, you go through the list, almost all of them came from that world. So the way they saw the world was a banker’s worldview in developing an American empire. But that, to my mind, doesn’t really explain the use of the bombs in World War Two, because American leaders knew, full well, that there were two ways to end the war without using the atomic bombs. And they were very clear about this and they were explicit about it.

And the first way was to tell the Japanese they could keep the emperor because the main stumbling block to Japanese surrender was the idea that the emperor would be tried as a war criminal. Now, the emperor to them was a deity to most Japanese. MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Command issued a background briefing the summer of 45′ that said execution of the emperor to them would be comparable to the crucifixion of Christ to us, all would fight to die like ants to stop it. Leahy, Stimpson Forestal, almost everybody around Truman told him that this might be impossible to get the Japanese to surrender under any circumstances. They implored Truman to change the surrender terms. Joseph Grew, who was at times the acting secretary of state, and former US ambassador to Japan, a very conservative man, Joseph, who was one of the only ones who knew anything about Japan.

And he urged Truman over and over again change surrender terms, not just the people in the administration, but you’ve also got The Washington Post writing an editorial in June of 45′ called Fatal Phrase saying they’ve got to change the surrender terms. They’ve got the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Senator White, making a speech in July in 45′, urging Truman to clarify the surrender terms. They all knew that that was a huge stumbling block and we knew it in part because we’d broken the Japanese codes. We were intercepting their telegrams and they said over and over again explicitly, these are especially the telegrams of Foreign Minister Tōgō in Tokyo to Ambassador Sato in Moscow, trying to get the Soviets to intervene on Japan’s behalf to get better surrender terms. And Togo and Sato, back and forth, said the only obstacle to surrender is a demand for unconditional surrender. We can have peace tomorrow if the Americans would recognize our honor and our future existence if they would allow us to keep the emperor on the throne back and forth explicitly.

And Truman knew that because Truman refers to the intercepted on July 18th cable as the telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace. Those are Truman words. Everybody around him shared that understanding. As Walter Brown, who is James Byrnes assistant, commented on the USS Augusta on the way back from Japan on August 3rd, three days before the atomic bomb says aboard the Augusta, the president, Admiral Leahy and Byrnes agree the Japanese are looking for peace. That was very, very clear. It was obvious to everybody. And we also know it from the Japanese war cabinet meetings at the time, again, explicit comments along those lines. But Truman, instead of listening to almost all of his advisers, listened to James Byrnes, and Byrnes kept telling him, don’t change the surrender terms, if you allow them to keep the emperor, you’ll be politically crucified.

Now, who is Byrnes and why did he have so much influence? My understanding is even people like Dwight Eisenhower were against dropping the bomb. Why did Byrnes have so much sway with Truman?

Peter Kuznick

Truman had a very difficult childhood. He was born to John Peanuts Truman, who was about five feet four inches tall and would go around picking fights with guys a foot taller and beating them up to show how tough it was. He really wanted a macho son. Harry, his firstborn, didn’t fit the bill. He was forced to wear what they called hypermetropia, flat eyeballs, he wore these thick glasses. He couldn’t roughhouse, couldn’t play sports. And the kids would always treat him very badly and chase him home crying. And his mother would greet him at the door and say, Harry, don’t worry, you were meant to be a girl anyway. And he had a lot of psychological issues and is a failure in most aspects of life. He wasn’t able to go to college, not because it wasn’t smart enough, of course, but because family didn’t have money. And he went to work on his father’s farm. He went to three businesses and they all went bankrupt and was a failure in life and he says to his daughter at turning 49, he says, “Tomorrow I’ll be 49, for all the good in the world, they may as well take away the 40, I am maybe nine years old, for all the good I’ve done in the world”.

So he does well in World War One and he comes back and he gets offered a job by Tom Pendergast’s, who runs the Pendergast machine in Kansas City and is a dirty, corrupt machine. Truman is about as honest as they come, but at age 50, felt he was going nowhere. He wanted to run for Congress. Pendergast overlooked him. And so he was going to tell Pendergast’s on his 50th birthday that he’s going back to the farm and leaving the machine.

Pendergast meets with him and says, no, you can’t do that. We want to run you for the Senate. He says, running for the Senate, what do I know about the world? I just know how to build courthouses. The roads here, Missouri, Pendergast says, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you elected. We’ll get people to tell you what to do”. He does get him elected. Truman goes there and the other senators shun him. They call him the senator from Pendergast.

They won’t give him the time of day. This is 1934 the one person who befriends him is James Byrnes. And so while Truman is isolated there and shunned, Byrnes, who’s a very prominent senator from South Carolina, reaches out to befriend Truman. Truman is very grateful for that. When Truman is running for reelection in 1940, Roosevelt didn’t even support him and Truman was coming in third, looked like he was going to lose. Pendergast couldn’t help him because he was in federal prison in Kansas City.

So Truman then at the last minute, turns to the Hannegan Dyckman machine, the corrupt machine that runs Saint Louis, they cobble it together, they give them enough support, and he barely ekes out a victory in nineteen forty. So but Truman had this relationship with Byrnes. The story that Truman should never become vice president in 1944, that the man who was vice president between 41′-45′, Henry Wallace was the second most popular man in the United States.

Gallup released a poll asking potential voters who they wanted on the ticket as vice president in 44′, 65% of potential voters said they wanted Wallace back as vice president, 2% said they wanted Harry Truman. But Truman gets in there, is vice president for 82 days, Roosevelt dies, Truman becomes president on April 12th, 1945, the day that shall live in infamy. And so Truman on April 13th, his first day in office, Secretary of the Navy, Forrestal sends his private plane down to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to bring James Byrnes back to Washington. Truman was desperate. He sits down with Byrnes and he says, I don’t know anything, Roosevelt didn’t talk to me about what was going on, or the agreements at Yalta, I don’t know anything, fill me in on everything and Byrnes then starts to lay it out. That the Soviets can’t be trusted, that you know, that they’re breaking their agreements. So that’s a Truman who was inclined to think that way anyway, starts hearing it from Byrnes.

And even though that was the opposite of what Roosevelt believed and Roosevelt said right up to his dying day, Roosevelt was sure that the US and the Soviets would get along after the war.

And Wallace’s as vice president was very much for cooperation with the Soviet Union.

And while Wallace was still in the cabinet, Roosevelt begged him to stay in the cabinet as Secretary of Commerce, and from that position, he wages a fight for more than a year or almost a year and a half against Truman’s Cold War nuclear proliferation policies from inside the cabinet until finally, Truman fires him in September of 1946. So that’s why he turns to Byrnes and trusts Byrnes and he looks to Byrnes, and he says from the first day that I can’t make you my secretary of state now because we’re finishing up the negotiations for the United Nations but as soon as that’s over, I’m going to make you secretary of state. But I want you to be my main adviser from behind the scenes. And so he looks to Byrnes for advice and Byrnes urges him not to change the surrender terms. Byrnes is the one who poisons his mind about the Soviet Union more than pretty much anybody in the beginning. And so Byrnes is his trusted adviser and values Byrnes over all these other advisers.

So why does all this matter now? Because it does because we continue to live in a world, populated by more nuclear weapons and more destructive nuclear weapons, and including let’s jump ahead to the Obama administration, where Obama during his term decides to expand, I believe it’s a trillion-dollar investment over 30 years, but most of it’s spent in the first 10. And the Russians apparently are going to spend the same amount or are spending to modernize and create a whole new arsenal of nuclear weapons. In other words, we’re into another nuclear arms race. And barely a noise is made when this big expansion of nuclear weapons takes place. And I have to make one note here. As much as I’ve been mostly critical of Biden’s foreign policy positions, with the exception of Iran, apparently he was against doing this expansion and Obama went ahead with it anyway. So where are we now?

Peter Kuznick

We are a mess. Number one, because what you’re saying about Obama, we had great hope for Obama. Obama marched, in a huge anti-nuclear march in Central Park. Million person march, in 1982, Obama was there. Obama wrote critical things at Columbia about nuclear weapons. There was reason to believe that Obama would actually do something dramatic about it. It gives his Prague speech in June of 2009 in which he calls for nuclear abolition, but even there, if you look at the wording carefully, says the United States won’t be the first country to give up its nuclear weapons, it will be the last country. So Obama was never you know, that’s the thing about Obama, even when his heart was in the right place, he never had the backbone to follow through on any of the good things that he thought or wanted to do. But then he does pass the new START treaty, (a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms). And it’s a very important treaty because it limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons and it limits the number of delivery vehicles that you have. But as part of that, he agrees to this modernization, a 30 year modernization, one trillion dollars. Initially, the estimate then jumps to 1.2 trillion, and we now assume it’s 1.7 trillion, this is going to cost over 30 years. The modernization of the entire nuclear arsenal making it more efficient and more deadly, more lethal. And how do other countries respond? As you said, Russia responds, Russia really started back in 2003 when the U.S. pulls out of the ABM Treaty. Then Russia decides, and as the US is building its missile defenses, that they’ve got to find a way to circumvent it. And in March of 2018 in Vladimir Putin’s State of the Nation address, he announces that Russia now has five new nuclear weapons, all of which could circumvent American missile defenses. So all those tens of billion dollars that we spend are largely wasted at this point. So Russia is modernizing the US and in fact, all nine nuclear powers are modernizing. But to make it worse then, Obama gets the Nobel Peace Prize for that speech he made in Prague in 2009. But then update to Trump, and we’re really in much more dangerous territory from the beginning, at least. Obama and his nuclear posture review does lower the status of nuclear weapons. Trump and his Nuclear Posture Review in 2018 elevates the status of nuclear weapons, number one.

What does that mean, “elevated” in terms of how early you might make such a choice?

Peter Kuznick

Yes. And the circumstances under which you can make that decision. So it’s not just going to be in terms of nuclear retaliation, it would be in terms of any kind of attack that has a fundamental impact on the United States. So that could be a cyberattack, we can use nuclear weapons for now, other kinds of WMD attacks. So it’s not just in retaliation for a nuclear attack. Number one, Trump’s attitude and he says explicitly is “what’s the point of having nuclear weapons if we can’t use them”? To a sane person that means get rid of nuclear weapons to a madman like Trump, it means make nuclear weapons more usable.

And he talks about tactical nuclear weapons battlefield. Which, he or people that think like him, may think it’s possible to use against non-nuclear powers like, for example, Iran.

Peter Kuznick

Yes, in fact, Sy Hersh reported back in the George W. Bush administration that one of the things that was on the table when it looked like we were going to invade Iran or attack Iran was the use of nuclear weapons. So, yeah, there’s always that kind of planning. And the idea is that if Israel ever tries to take out those nuclear facilities in Iran, that they would have to use nuclear weapons in order to do so for the hardened targets, the underground targets. So in terms of the Trump policy, Trump’s first phone call he had with Vladimir Putin, Putin implores him to extend the new START treaty when it expires in February 2021.

And just quickly, what are the most important parts of the START treaty?

Peter Kuznick

Well, I guess we have to back up a little bit because you look at Trump’s record on this. First thing he does is he dismantles the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal. That was as successful nuclear deal as we’ve ever had. There’s not just the United States, it was also the other original nuclear powers in Germany that negotiated this. Russia played a very important role in negotiating that deal with Iran. It was a great deal from the American perspective and the Israeli perspective, even though Netanyahu did everything he could to undermine it. It basically shipped 97% of the enriched uranium outside of Iran. It mothballed a high percentage of Iran’s nuclear reactors in the centrifuges and put great limits on the amount and the degree of enrichment that was acceptable for Iran’s nuclear program. It was tremendously successful. There were inspections after inspection of what was going on in Iran. The U.N. was reporting that this was working and Trump tears it up, okay, that’s number one. Then he pulls the United States out of the INF treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear forces treaty in 2019. Then he pulls the United States out of the Open Skies Treaty. So the only piece left now of this nuclear architecture, the anti-nuclear arms control architecture, really is the new START treaty, which expires on February 2021. And the new START treaty had put sharp limits on the number of strategic weapons that each side can deploy and on the number of other delivery systems. So Trump’s on the phone with Putin and Putin says we have to extend the new START treaty. Some Trump excuses himself puts the phone down and asks the people at the table his advisers, what’s the new START treaty? He didn’t even know what it was, idiot. And then he gets back on it, says, no, no, I don’t like that treaty. And so the understanding since then has been that the United States will likely withdraw from the new START treaty. Now, there are discussions going on and maybe even Trump will reconsider.

Certainly, Biden will renew the new START treaty, once he’s in power

In the journalist, Kaplan’s, book on nuclear weapons, he has a section where with the START treaty, Obama’s trying to get the Republicans to go along with it and they don’t want to. And they often say, well, if you put a trillion dollars into nuclear weapons, then we’ll go along. Biden apparently, according to the book, said you don’t need to make this kind of a deal to get to do the START treaty because these guys never keep their word anyway.

Do you know anything about this whole thing? It tells us something about who Biden is, if the story’s true.

Peter Kuznick

I’ve seen that from other sources as well, that insiders knew that Obama was giving away the store unnecessarily. And that’s always the history of the Obama presidency. He always negotiates against himself and gives away and makes concessions that were unnecessary. And what Obama has done there is open the door to this, the worst kind of nuclear arms race that could happen because as Biden apparently understood, this was a terrible policy to allow this kind of extension, making it more lethal, making nuclear weapons more deadly, more efficient. There’s just no rationale that justifies that. I also have heard that Biden pushed Obama to go to Hiroshima, and that was a great thing that Obama did. He undermined it by with what he did there and even more so with what he said there. But it was certainly the right thing to go to Hiroshima. So, we know that Biden is a super hawk or had been throughout much of his life, but maybe he’s learned some lessons.

Even Robert Gates now just came out with a new memoir. And Gates has said that he learned a lot of lessons. Gates was opposed to the US operations in Libya, he said he was opposed to the bombing of Syria, said we haven’t we learned anything from Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya that these kinds of things have unintended consequences? I think Biden’s learned some of that, too.

So, so many of the former secretaries of state and military leaders and others have been sounding the alarm about not just the possibility of an accidental or deliberate nuclear war. They almost say it’s inevitable. It’s as if there’s a 100% chance there will be something, you know, if and when, but not if. I shouldn’t say if, just when. Don’t the Bidens and others in the elites understand how dangerous this is, and yet they seem, in terms of their policy, to be completely blind to it?

Peter Kuznick

One of the ones who felt most strongly that way was Robert McNamara. Having lived through the Cuban missile crisis, McNamara shared Kennedy’s and Khrushchev’s understanding that when these crises start, they go out of control. What terrified Kennedy and Khrushchev the most during the Cuban missile crisis was that even though they both were doing everything they could to try to prevent a war and a nuclear war, they both knew that they had lost control of the situation and that we avoided annihilation in 󈨂 during the Cuban missile crisis, not by brilliant statesmanship, but by pure blind, dumb luck.

And that’s why Khrushchev writes to Kennedy afterwards and says, “From evil, we must make some good. Our populations that felt the flames of thermonuclear war, we have to do now is take advantage, turn that into something positive. We have to eliminate every conflict between our two nations that could cause another crisis”. And Kennedy responded in kind, with Norman Cousins help, Kennedy did respond and toward the end, the two of them were moving toward ending the Cold War and mean we could have entered a period of great peace and prosperity for the human race. Kennedy was assassinated, Khrushchev was ousted, and we went back to the old Cold War.

But that potential was there. And so even now, the idea is that by accident or by design, and it’s not just US and Russia and US and China and those US relations, Russia and China are the worst they’ve been in decades. But you look at India and Pakistan, the latest scientific studies show that a limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan, which 100 Hiroshima sized nuclear weapons were used, to create partial nuclear winter, the cities would burn five million tons of smoke and soot would be raised into the stratosphere within two weeks circle the world, block the sun’s rays, lower temperatures on much of the earth below freezing, destroying agriculture. And that limited nuclear war could lead to up to two billion deaths. That’s one hundred Hiroshima sized nuclear weapons. The reality is we’ve got almost 14,000 nuclear weapons between 70-80 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. And that’s the reality. India, Pakistan almost went to war last year after the terrorists killed 40 Indian troops in Kashmir and they bombed each other’s countries.

And we know that the previous one, the former head of the Pakistani army, says, well, you could get killed getting hit by a car. You can get killed in a nuclear war. What’s the difference? You have to die sometime. We look at who we have making policy. So you’ve got Trump, “Make America Great Again” and Modi, “Make India Great Again”.

And Trump and Biden are competing in their anti-China rhetoric.

Peter Kuznick

Larry Wilkerson says when he was in government, in the Army, they did various war games where they would play out what a conflict with China would look like if there became a confrontation in the South China Sea. And he says each time they played it, it ended up in nuclear war. So they had to stop the game.

Peter Kuznick

And the other thing is that for years, they did these nuclear war studies about limited nuclear war. OK, so we drop one on Russians and they drop one on us and then we negotiate. But study after study found it impossible to reach an endpoint that these limited nuclear war scenarios don’t work in the war games that we’ve tried to conduct, that they almost always go completely out of control and to complete nuclear war. So, yeah, it just becomes increasingly untenable to maintain these nuclear weapons

As much as there’s a nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia, to a much lesser extent, apparently, China. And there’s been studies, according to Wilkerson as well, about how many nuclear weapons are really needed to defend the United States. And it’s like thousands less than there are.

What do we know about what the Chinese are doing?

Peter Kuznick

The Chinese approach makes much more sense. First of all, they’ve got a no first use policy, which means they would never use nuclear weapons to initiate a war. Right now, Russia and the United States have about 93% percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. China has had a very different approach. They’ve got about 300, whereas we have maybe 7,000, they have three hundred. What they understand is that 300 is as effective as 7000 as a deterrent.

Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, asked McNamara. He said, what is it? What are the chances, the likelihood that even one Soviet bomb will get through? And McNamara said, it’s inevitable. And Kennedy said, even that makes this unthinkable. One nuclear bomb, Einstein and Russell in the manifesto in 1955 said that if there’s a nuclear war and New York, Moscow and London are destroyed, then within a few hundred years, the human species will recover from that from the cities being wiped out.

But the danger is a complete annihilation and a full-scale thermonuclear war with the Chinese, understand, is that to deter another country from attacking them, three hundred nuclear weapons is more than enough of a deterrent. 300 nuclear weapons would end the United States as a nation and probably cause enough pollution in the atmosphere and to cause billions of deaths worldwide, including in China. But what Trump keeps saying is, I don’t want to extend the new START treaty unless China is involved.

China’s got to become part of this, too. That’s nonsense. The Chinese arsenal is a fraction of the arsenal of the United States and Russia and the Chinese are not going to be involved in this. So we need an arms control deal between the United States and Russia immediately because that’s where the real threat is. But we also need to deal with the situation between India and Pakistan, India and China. I mean, there are so many hotspots around the world.

The situation in Europe seems to have come that calm down a little bit in Eastern Europe from what it was. But that’s still a powder keg. Syria could unravel at any point. The situation with North Korea, despite Trump’s bluster, has not improved. So all of these scenarios are still hotspots, which is why the Bulletin Atomic Scientists have the hands of the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds before midnight because any one of these could still unravel and spiral out of control.

And we hear next to nothing about any of this in any presidential election campaign and most of the mainstream media. It’s just not even part of the discourse.

Peter Kuznick

No. And it’s too bad because Biden could make a big issue out of this. Biden could talk about the new START treaty and could show what Trump’s been saying and messaging and show that Trump’s been calling for a new arms race and make it clear what that means. And he can put himself on the other side of this and he could even talk about the UN nuclear ban treaty, which the United States doesn’t support, and neither have any of the other nuclear powers thus far, but the rest of the world, over a majority of nations in the world, have called for the banning of nuclear weapons, which was something, as mentioned before, that could have happened as early as nineteen 1945-1946.

Henry Wallace fought for this, the Atcheson Lilienthal plan in 45′ and 46′ before the United Nations would have eliminated nuclear weapons. We’ve had various opportunities, at Reykjavik in 1986, Reagan and Gorbachev came within one word of eliminating all strategic offensive nuclear weapons there. If Reagan had been willing to limit testing of Star Wars to the laboratory for the next ten years, Gorbachev would have signed the agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons. So we’ve come close. It’s not impossible and there’s no reason for us to give up. There’s no reason to even be totally pessimistic about this. Human species is in some ways potentially evolving positively. Look at how history is being rethought of in the United States in terms of slavery, in terms of Confederate monuments, in terms of women’s issues. We can rethink our nuclear history. We can understand that the atomic bombs in World War Two were not only unnecessary, they were reprehensible. We can understand that seven of America’s eight, five-star admirals and generals are opposed to using nuclear weapons, that Truman himself says he went to Potsdam to make sure that the Soviets were coming in. And then he says when Stalin tells them for coming in, he says, Finie Japs (ed: finish the Japs). When the Russians come into the war, Truman knew the war was over without using atomic bombs. Let’s restudy this history, let’s learn the lessons and let’s project them into the present and the future and begin to develop the kind of anti-nuclear movement that we had so powerfully in the 1980s in this country and around the world. But that doesn’t exist anymore on the campuses, in the state, houses, and the media. There’s been silence about this issue, and we have to try to bring this to people’s attention again, because this is the near term way of ending life on the planet and not giving ourselves a chance to solve global warming, to solve global poverty, to solve issues of environmental degradation. The other things that we want to solve so that human beings can live a decent life, they should be living.


Why is the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima so much more infamous than that of Nagasaki? - History

Ferocious Black Templar Castellan

Freakazoitt wrote:
EmilCrane, are you joking? This bombing will be remembered after thousands years. Reasons will be forgotten, but bombing fact - never. Its about humanity vs nuclear weapons

Hamburg and Dresden were firebombed and destroyed, Berlin was destroyed with high explosive, Tokyo was destroyed with napalm, Hiroshima was destroyed with a atomic bomb, why is one way of destroying a city more special than any other?

We can wipe human life off the planet with nuclear weapons. It'd be unfeasible at best to amass enough conventional explosives to do so, and that's not even taking the radiation into account.

Member of the Ethereal Council

Freakazoitt wrote:
EmilCrane, are you joking? This bombing will be remembered after thousands years. Reasons will be forgotten, but bombing fact - never. Its about humanity vs nuclear weapons

Hamburg and Dresden were firebombed and destroyed, Berlin was destroyed with high explosive, Tokyo was destroyed with napalm, Hiroshima was destroyed with a atomic bomb, why is one way of destroying a city more special than any other?

hotsauceman1 wrote:

One reason.
One plane, one plane flying over the city destroyed these cities. All those you mentioned required massive massive hordes of planes.
But a nuke, flown and dropped by a single plane, leveled these cities wholesale in a matter of seconds.

Poor reason. That one plane is a huge liability. The actual bombing run that saw the nuke used plenty of planes.

Plus, the one bomb on that one plane cost a lot more than the total cost for a good conventional bombing run.

Nowadays we've got different means of deployment and all. But that's not much of a reason IMO .

The Dread Evil Lord Varlak

EmilCrane wrote:
I don't understand why atmoic bombs occupy this special place of hate in people minds, especially the early ones, the modern ones are significantly more destructive, to be sure. The same effect can be achieved with lots of high explosive, Hamburg and Dresden copped city destroying bombings, as did Tokyo. What makes the bombing of Hiroshima so special?

Because within a decade of their use nuclear weapons had become powerful and numerous enough to potentially wipe life from the planet.


Automatically Appended Next Post:

Kilkrazy wrote:
This is absolutely true. Let's remember that the USA entered WW1 in protest at German unrestricted U-Boat warfare. Almost the first order given by the navy on 8th December 2941 was for all submarines to carry out unrestricted warfare against the Japanese. This was done very successfully, but it was against the rules of war at sea. Everyone else was doing the same, of course, so you can't single out the USA for opprobrium.

Yep. And WWII closely resembled WWI in terms of Atlantic strategy - Germany only restrained from open war on the seas until they realised that they couldn't inflict serious damage on Britain without it. Both times they underestimated the scope and effectiveness of the US response. Second time was only different in that they arranged for Japan to join in hopes they'd distract the US. It didn't really work.

Then the US did the same. Japan didn't, but only because they didn't really get the idea of total war, they thought their subs were more important working with the fleet to give them their final decisive victory over the US fleet. That also didn't really work.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/07 08:38:34

“We may observe that the government in a civilized country is much more expensive than in a barbarous one and when we say that one government is more expensive than another, it is the same as if we said that that one country is farther advanced in improvement than another. To say that the government is expensive and the people not oppressed is to say that the people are rich.”

Adam Smith, who must have been some kind of leftie or something.


Somewhere in southern England.

Interestingly I read somewhere that the programme to develop, deploy and operate the conventional B26 fleet was more expensive than the programme to develop the bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it.

CL VI Store in at the Cyber Center of Excellence

sebster wrote:

CptJake wrote:
A land invasion would have had LESS casualties?

I'm really not sure how you can say that. A land invasion would have included bombing more cities, destroying even more infrastructure, prolonged the war (which means things like disease and starvation kill more civilians) and so on. And then you have to consider allied losses. The Enola Gay didn't lose any one. An amphibious landing would have been pretty damned bloody.

A land invasion would have been a lot less bloody if it prompted a surrender, or Japanese resistance collapsed in spite of government. People like to theorise and claim those things would never have happened, but they're guessing. We don't know, though it is likely given the political changes in Japan's inner circle following the Soviet advance, that surrender was likely. But Truman likely knew little of that.

Probably the bigger issue was the insistence on unconditional surrender.

It may be speculation, but it is based on facts. The defenders of Saipan, Guam, Okinawa, Iwo Jima and many other places didn't up and surrender when it was clear they had lost. The Divine Wind that killed many US sailors was not the tactic of a people prone to surrender. Fighting for the home islands was not going to be easy. Yes that statement is speculation, but it is a lot more logical than 'they would have given up because the war was getting harder' which is basically the position you put forth.

Freakazoitt wrote:
EmilCrane, are you joking? This bombing will be remembered after thousands years. Reasons will be forgotten, but bombing fact - never. Its about humanity vs nuclear weapons

Hamburg and Dresden were firebombed and destroyed, Berlin was destroyed with high explosive, Tokyo was destroyed with napalm, Hiroshima was destroyed with a atomic bomb, why is one way of destroying a city more special than any other?

We can wipe human life off the planet with nuclear weapons. It'd be unfeasible at best to amass enough conventional explosives to do so, and that's not even taking the radiation into account.

As I said, I understand the importance attached to nukes now, but why does the act of destroying one city in a special way get so much attention attached to it in a war where cities were destroyed with alarming regularity.

EmilCrane wrote:


As I said, I understand the importance attached to nukes now, but why does the act of destroying one city in a special way get so much attention attached to it in a war where cities were destroyed with alarming regularity.

Other cities were destroyed but by things and on a time scale humans can at least somewhat comprehend. Ancient sieges destroyed cities in a matter of months. You might wipe out a city with conventional explosives but it'll take a lot of planes, and days maybe even weeks of sustained effort to do so. There will be extended process than people can see and conceptualize. Fire consumes and spreads over buildings, it's something real.

With the nuke a city and tens of thousands of people were wiped out in an instant. Even earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis have been slower and less complete in their destruction at times. It was something beyond a force nature,a human act more destructive than those of god.

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2015/08/07 10:51:18

whembly wrote:
In Total War™. yes. yes it does dude.

You kill your enemies and their supporters until they stop.

Total War doesn't mean you're free to do any amoral, horrific gak you can think of. While total war expands the targets beyond the military and to civilian targets that support the war effort, you still have a moral obligation to consider if the harm done to the target is worth the gain.


Automatically Appended Next Post:

But they did bad things is a gak defense.

The lives of his men and the preservation of his nation are certainly priorities, but they are not the only things to be considered.

The arguments some people make here do Truman a grave disservice.


Automatically Appended Next Post:

Do_I_Not_Like_That wrote:
I'm the first to criticise the USA's dubious foreign policy post WW2, but with regard to Japan in WW2, they brought that calamity upon themselves - Pearl Harbour, Bataan death march, China in the 1930s etc etc

"The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naïve theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."

- Sir Arthur 'bomber Harris, chief of RAF bomber command WW2

Seeing Harris call Nazi bomber command naive is comedy of the highest order. He spent the lead up to the war and it's duration in a cloud of naivety bordering on deliberate ignorance, first about the capabilities of his bombers, and later about their effect on the war effort.

I think I sense another thread that needs to be started

EmilCrane wrote:


As I said, I understand the importance attached to nukes now, but why does the act of destroying one city in a special way get so much attention attached to it in a war where cities were destroyed with alarming regularity.

Other cities were destroyed but by things and on a time scale humans can at least somewhat comprehend. Ancient sieges destroyed cities in a matter of months. You might wipe out a city with conventional explosives but it'll take a lot of planes, and days maybe even weeks of sustained effort to do so. There will be extended process than people can see and conceptualize. Fire consumes and spreads over buildings, it's something real.

With the nuke a city and tens of thousands of people were wiped out in an instant. Even earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis have been slower and less complete in their destruction at times. It was something beyond a force nature,a human act more destructive than those of god.

Also the way people die from the Atom bomb. From the moment of detonation and over next few days people die from burns, vomiting, flesh falling off, extreme loss of energy, fire storms, vaporization, melting eyes, buried in collapsed rubble, or being thrown around from the impact and probably more. It also brought about a darkness that apparently confused many of the people waking up after the blast. Pretty creepy weapon and it almost seems a blessing to die from vaporization rather than die from the above afterwards.

Now yes some of that stuff happens from napalm or explosives. but the Atom bomb sounded like a combination of all the methods used to bomb cities AND MORE in one small package Happening in what is described as a flash by survivors. Radiation sickness also effected people for a loong time, as did the burns.


Near Failure at Nagasaki

Hiroshima lay in ruins. Eighty thousand people had been killed instantly and two-thirds of the city destroyed by the atomic bomb dropped by the B-29 Enola Gay on Aug. 6, 1945. For Japan, the war had been lost for some time. Since the beginning of the year, American B-29s had been systematically demolishing Japan’s urban areas and industrial centers with incendiary bombs.

The military regime refused to accept defeat. Japan still had five million troops, 10,000 airplanes—more than half of them configured for suicide missions—and a seven-month supply of aviation fuel. The United States resumed the firebombing missions and continued planning for an invasion of Japanese home islands.

Sooner or later, the bombing and naval interdiction would make it impossible for Japan to continue, but no one knew how long that would take. The invasion plan called for the commitment of a US force of 1,865,000. Another year of war plus an invasion of Japan probably meant US casualties in the range of a quarter million and similar losses for the Japanese.

Bockscar en route to Japan, carrying Fat Man, the nuclear bomb that would be dropped on Nagasaki.(USAF photo)

The alternative was to drop another atomic bomb. A second bomb was in place at North Field on Tinian in the Mariana Islands, home base of the 509th Composite Group, which had flown the Hiroshima mission. No other atomic bombs were yet available, but the United States wanted the Japanese to believe there was an unlimited supply.

The mission was planned for Aug. 11 but a forecast for bad weather moved it up to Aug. 9. The bomb, called “Fat Man,” was stored under tight security and controlled conditions in an air-conditioned hut with a rubberized floor to prevent accidental sparks. On the evening of Aug. 8, it was loaded aboard the B-29 that would deliver it. Thus began the chain of events that would culminate in the detonation of the atomic bomb at Nagasaki the next day.

Whereas Hiroshima was a perfectly executed operation, almost nothing went right on the second atomic mission, and it came close to failure. This mission drew less attention, both in news at the time and by historians later, than did the bombing of Hiroshima. The main problems with the Nagasaki operation have been known since 1945, but the extent of difficulties and the discord among participants were not fully disclosed until the 1990s.

The pilot in command for Nagasaki was Maj. Charles W. Sweeney, 25, chosen for the assignment by the 509th commander, Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., who had flown the Hiroshima mission himself. Sweeney was commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron. He had been on the Hiroshima mission, flying the instrument plane, The Great Artiste, which measured the effects of the detonation. Over Hiroshima, he was 30 feet off the right wing of Tibbets’ plane, the Enola Gay. Sweeney had drawn that assignment because Tibbets intended him to fly the next mission, if there was one, and wanted him to have the step-by-step experience.

The primary target for the next mission was not Nagasaki. It was Kokura, about 95 miles southwest of Hiroshima, where one of the largest arsenals in Japan was located, surrounded by urban industrial structures. Nagasaki was the secondary target, to be struck only if circumstances ruled out the attack on Kokura.

Six B-29s were allocated to the mission. Sweeney would fly the lead aircraft and drop the bomb. The Great Artiste was still rigged with the instrument package it carried at Hiroshima, so Sweeney and Capt. Frederick C. Bock switched airplanes. Sweeney and his crew took Bockscar and Bock and his crew flew The Great Artiste, which would again serve as the instrument plane.

To avoid identification as atomic bomb aircraft, the six B-29s bore the triangle N tail marking of the 44th Bomb Group instead of the forward arrow of the 509th. None of the mission aircraft had their names painted on the nose. This led to confusion for William L. Laurence of the New York Times, who was authorized to go along and write a first-person account. He thought Sweeney was still flying The Great Artiste and so reported in his article. In fact, Laurence himself was aboard The Great Artiste, which was flown by Bock.

Lt. Col. James I. Hopkins Jr., the group operations officer, flew the observation/photo airplane, inelegantly named Big Stink. According to Sweeney, Hopkins had a noncooperative attitude, possibly because the mission commander was his junior. He walked away from Sweeney’s reminder about the rendezvous plan, saying, “I know how to make a rendezvous.”

There were two weather airplanes. Enola Gay, flown by Capt. George Marquardt, would go ahead to report conditions from the primary target, Kokura, and Laggin’ Dragon, flown by Capt. Charles F. McKnight, would scout the weather at Nagasaki. Capt. Ralph Taylor would position the sixth B-29, Full House, at Iwo Jima as a backup aircraft.

Three mission specialists augmented Sweeney’s regular crew on Bockscar: a radar countermeasures officer and two weaponeers with special knowledge and understanding of the atomic bomb. The senior weaponeer was Navy Cmdr. Frederick L. Ashworth, who had managed the field testing of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, N.M.

Bockscar and crew (note the missing nose art). Capt. Kermit Beahan (wearing glasses), whom many believe saved the mission from failure, stands next to Maj. Charles Sweeney (dark shirt), the pilot and mission commander.

Sweeney had no previous combat experience, but Ashworth had commanded a squadron of Grumman TBF Avengers at Guadalcanal. In the aftermath of the mission it would be said, notably by Tibbets, that Sweeney had deferred too much to Ashworth.

“The job of Ashworth was to arm the bomb, assure its readiness to be dropped, and, ultimately, make the ‘no drop’ call if something went wrong with the detonating system,” Tibbets said. “Those tasks defined the realm of his authority aboard Bockscar.”

It is sometimes argued that Sweeney and Ashworth were in “joint command.” That is wrong. Sweeney was clearly the mission commander. Ashworth’s authority covered decisions about the bomb because of his specialized knowledge. Influence was another matter, and Ashworth exerted a powerful influence on Sweeney.

Fat Man was loaded into Bockscar’s bomb bay at 10 p.m. on Aug. 8. It was a plutonium bomb, more complex and more efficient than the “Little Boy” uranium device dropped at Hiroshima. Fat Man worked on an “implosion” principle. At its core was a subcritical mass of plutonium, surrounded by 64 high-explosive charges. Upon detonation, the inward pressure of the charges compressed the plutonium core from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, achieving the supercritical mass to trigger the bomb.

The crews briefed shortly before midnight, had their pre-mission breakfast at the mess hall and were driven out to their airplanes at 1 a.m. The first big problem came when flight engineer MSgt. John D. Kuharek notified Sweeney that the fuel in the reserve tank in Bockscar’s rear bomb bay bladder was not pumping. Of 7,250 gallons of fuel aboard, 600 gallons were in the reserve tank. Sweeney climbed out of the aircraft and went to talk with Tibbets, who was watching from the ramp.

Tibbets told Sweeney he did not need the fuel in the bladder, it was only there to balance the weight of the bomb in the forward bomb bay, but if Sweeney disagreed, he had the authority as commander to cancel the mission. Sweeney decided to go. Tibbets pointed out that he was off to a late start and that he should not linger at the rendezvous point if the escort aircraft did not show up.

Bockscar roared down the runway and into the night sky at 3:49 a.m. On the Hiroshima mission, the Little Boy bomb had not been armed until Enola Gay was airborne. Fat Man was too complicated for that. However, some of the arming and firing circuits in the nose of the bomb were disabled by two green-handled “safing” plugs. After Bockscar was off the ground and before it reached pressurization altitude, Ashworth opened a hatch between the cockpit and the bomb bay, removed the two green plugs, and replaced them with red arming plugs. The bomb was ready to go.

The original plan had been for the three aircraft to reassemble over Iwo Jima, which had been the rendezvous for the Hiroshima mission. On Aug. 9, a typhoon was gathering momentum around Iwo Jima so the rendezvous point was Yakushima, a small island off the coast of Kyushu. “Because of bad weather at lower altitudes and our proximity to the Japanese mainland, the rendezvous would be at 30,000 feet instead of 8,000 as on the Hiroshima mission,” Sweeney said, which consumed additional fuel.

Bockscar is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.(USAF photo)

The Great Artiste was at the rendezvous point but Big Stink was not. The orders from Tibbets were explicit. Make a single 360-degree circle of the rendezvous area, then proceed. “My orders were to wait 15 minutes and then leave for the target, but the mission brief also called for three airplanes to proceed to the target,” Sweeney said. A message from Marquardt in the Enola Gay said the weather at Kokura was clear for bombing, but Sweeney circled the rendezvous for 45 minutes. Unknown to Sweeney, who was maintaining radio silence, Hopkins in Big Stink was circling at 39,000 feet, 9,000 feet higher than he was supposed to be.

“When only one plane showed up, I told Sweeney that I wanted to be sure that we had the instrument-carrying aircraft with us,” Ashworth said. “Why Sweeney didn’t tell me that the instrument aircraft was already with us, I don’t know.” In later years, Tibbets said Sweeney’s delay may have been due to pressure from Ashworth, a point that Ashworth vigorously denied.

Sweeney said, “When Hopkins failed to make the rendezvous and couldn’t find us, for some inexplicable reason he broke radio silence and radioed back to Tinian, ‘Has Sweeney aborted?’ The message got garbled in transmission and was received on Tinian as ‘Sweeney aborted.’ ” Emergency air-sea rescue preparations were terminated as a result. “If we had to ditch in the ocean, no one would be there to pick us up,” Sweeney said.

The extra time spent at the rendezvous was costly. When Bockscar got to Kokura, the target was no longer clear, partially obscured by drifting smoke from a B-29 firebomb strike, two nights before, on a steel mill at Yawata, just to the north.

As Sweeney approached the initial point to begin his bomb run, some of the landmarks, including the river and some streets and buildings, were visible, and he thought there was a good chance of sighting the target, the Kokura arsenal. This was important because the target had to be bombed visually, not by radar. “Kermit Beahan, our bombardier, had to see the target to insure accuracy during the bomb run,” said Lt. Fred J. Olivi, the third pilot on Bockscar. “The orders were very specific.”

But Beahan couldn’t see the target on the bomb run, nor could he see it on two additional bomb runs that Sweeney made. Again, Tibbets blamed the influence of Ashworth, who denied responsibility for the decision but acknowledged years later in an interview, “After the first run and no drop, I did go up to the flight deck and suggested to Sweeney that it might be possible to see the target if we approached it from a different direction.”

“By this time, Bockscar had consumed so much fuel that there was serious question of whether she could make it to Nagasaki, drop the bomb, and return to Okinawa,” which was the closest American airfield, Tibbets said. “At this point, the mission should have been scrubbed.” Instead, Sweeney headed for the secondary target, Nagasaki, 97 miles to the southwest and in the same general direction as Okinawa.

The mushroom cloud that rose over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Nagasaki was a major military port, one of Japan’s largest shipbuilding centers and the location of several large plants of the Mitsubishi Corp., which turned out torpedoes and other weapons and war materiel. The city lay at the head of a long bay, with a long ridge of hills screening the main residential section from the Urakami river valley where the Mitsubishi factories were, a mile and a half to the north.

As Bockscar and The Great Artiste began their approach, it was 11:50 a.m. Tinian time and 10:50 a.m. in the city below. Nagasaki was under heavy cloud cover, making a visual drop impossible.

Sweeney had enough fuel for only one bomb run and he was not going to pass it up. He conferred with Ashworth in the “interest of interservice harmony” and proposed a drop by radar, contrary to the explicit orders. Ashworth concurred.

Twenty-five seconds out, with the bomb bay doors open, a break suddenly developed in the clouds and Beahan yelled, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” Sweeney immediately gave control of the airplane to Beahan, whose Norden bombsight was linked to the autopilot. It was too late to drop on the original aiming point, the docks on the east side of the harbor, so Beahan quickly picked a new aiming point in the industrial valley.

As the bomb fell free, Sweeney swung the airplane into a steep, diving 155-degree turn to the left to put some distance between Bockscar and the shock wave. Bock made a corresponding high-G turn in the other direction. The bomb detonated at 1,890 feet over the Urakami Valley at 11:02 a.m. local time in Nagasaki. When the shock wave reached Bockscar, it was 12 miles away.

The mushroom cloud rose toward 45,000 feet. The explosion was almost midway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works, which were destroyed. The damage was less severe in the main part of the city, on the other side of the hills. About 40,000 persons were killed instantly, a staggering death toll, but much lower than it would have been if the bomb had fallen on the original aiming point around the docks.

Pictures of Nagasaki both before and after Bockscar’s atomic bombing mission.

Between circling at the rendezvous and the three bomb runs at Kokura, Sweeney had lost more than an hour and a half of time, and it was catching up with him. Fuel had become critical. He set course for Yontan Field on Okinawa, which was the nearest airfield, some 350 miles farther on. He descended by stages to save fuel, and throttled the propellers back from 2,000 rpm to 1,600.

Fifteen minutes out, Bockscar called the Yontan tower with a Mayday but got no response. Another call and an emergency flare made no change in airfield traffic. Bockscar then fired every flare it had, including those signaling “aircraft out of fuel,” “prepare for crash,” and “dead and wounded aboard.” Traffic cleared and Sweeney took it in for a rough landing. The fuel remaining, as measured later by the flight engineer, was seven gallons.

“The instrument–carrying airplane landed on Okinawa shortly after we did, and strangely who should arrive shortly thereafter but the third plane that had never joined us,” Ashworth said. “It had gone to Nagasaki and done some observing after the bomb was dropped.”

Sweeney was taken to see Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, commander of Eighth Air Force, who had moved his headquarters to Okinawa a few weeks earlier. Doolittle heard Sweeney’s story and did not delay his return to Tinian. After a quick meal and refueling, the crew flew the last leg of their mission, landing on Tinian at 11:30 p.m.

Sweeney got a cool reception from Tibbets and an even cooler one the next morning from Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, chief of staff of Strategic Air Forces of the Pacific. In the end, LeMay decided that an investigation into the conduct of the Nagasaki mission would serve no good purpose, and little was said about the problems.

The Nagasaki mission had tipped the balance toward the faction in Japan that wanted to end the war. The military hardliners continued to resist surrender, but even Gen. Korechika Anami, the war minister, acknowledged that the Americans might have 100 bombs and “the next target might be Tokyo.” The emperor announced the surrender Aug. 15.

Sweeney left active duty in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel, went to the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and retired in 1976 as a major general. He died in 2004. Ashworth rose to the grade of vice admiral, commanded the Sixth Fleet, and retired from the Navy in 1968. He died in 2005.

Shortly after the mission, Bockscar’s name and familiar nose art were painted on the fuselage. The airplane can be seen at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where it has been on display since 1961.

Leading figures in the operation differed in the way they remembered and told the story, but their disagreement was not widely known until the 1990s. An unsuccessful attempt by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in 1994 to exhibit the Enola Gay in a politically charged exhibit inspired Sweeney to write his memoirs, published in 1997.

Ashworth wrote a letter to Sweeney’s publisher itemizing numerous mistakes. In 1998, Tibbets revised his memoirs, adding a chapter on Nagasaki, sharply critical of Sweeney.

“Sweeney blames Hopkins for the delay at the rendezvous point, but Tibbets blames both Ashworth and Sweeney,” said historian Donald L. Miller. “Tibbets is convinced that Ashworth told Sweeney to wait for the observation plane.”

Ashworth said that “we had the wrong guy flying the plane,” Miller added. “Yet he blames Tibbets for picking Sweeney.”

Everyone credited bombardier Beahan for saving the mission. “Major General Sweeney wouldn’t be a general and Admiral Ashworth wouldn’t be an admiral if Beahan hadn’t done the job that he did,” said Ashworth.

A particularly valuable account came in Decision at Nagasaki: The Mission That Almost Failed, privately published in 1999 by the third pilot, Fred Olivi, who avoided accusations and acrimony and who had no need to defend his own actions. Olivi reconstructed the flight in detail from his diary, written in 1945 with the aid of an official logbook borrowed from navigator James F. Van Pelt.

The amazing thing is that, despite all, the mission succeeded. The military results were more effective and the death toll was lower than if the operation had been flown as planned. Nagasaki was the final blow that induced the Japanese to surrender, bringing World War II to an end.


John Hersey - 1914-1993

  • Born in China, the son of US missionaries
  • Returned to the US aged 10, later studied at Yale
  • Began writing for Time in 1937, reported from Europe and Asia during the war
  • His first novel, A Bell for Adano (1944) - about a Sicilian town occupied by US forces - won a Pulitzer Prize
  • Hiroshima tops one list of the best 20th Century American journalism

Hersey's editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, knew they had something quite extraordinary, unique, and the edition was prepared in utter secrecy. Never before had all the magazine's editorial space been given over to a single story and it has never happened since. Journalists who were expecting to have their stories in that week's edition wondered where their proofs had gone. Twelve hours before publication, copies were sent to all the major US newspapers - a smart move that resulted in editorials urging everyone to read the magazine.

All 300,000 copies immediately sold out and the article was reprinted in many other papers and magazines the world over, except where newsprint was rationed. When Albert Einstein attempted to buy 1,000 copies of the magazine to send to fellow scientists he had to contend with facsimiles. The US Book of the Month Club gave a free special edition to all its subscribers because, in the words of its president, "We find it hard to conceive of anything being written that could be of more important at this moment to the human race." Within two weeks a second-hand copy of The New Yorker sold for 120 times its cover price.

If Hiroshima demonstrates anything as a piece of journalism it is the enduring power of storytelling. John Hersey combined all his experience as a war correspondent with his skill as a novelist.

It was a radical piece of journalism that gave a vital voice to those who only a year before had been mortal enemies. There in a cataclysmic landscape of living nightmares, of the half-dead, of burnt and seared bodies, of desperate attempts to care for the blasted survivors, of hot winds and a flattened city ravaged by fires we meet Miss Sasaki , the Rev Mr Tanimoto, Mrs Nakamura and her children, the Jesuit Father Kleinsorge and doctors Fujii and Sasaki.


'Fallout' Tells The Story Of The Journalist Who Exposed The 'Hiroshima Cover-Up'

When the U.S military dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the American government portrayed the weapons as equivalent to large conventional bombs — and dismissed Japanese reports of radiation sickness as propaganda.

Military censors restricted access to Hiroshima, but a young journalist named John Hersey managed to get there and write a devastating account of the death, destruction and radiation poisoning he encountered. Author Lesley M.M. Blume tells Hersey's story in her book, Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed it to the World.

She writes that when Hersey, who had covered the war in Europe, arrived in Hiroshima to report on the aftereffects of the bomb a year later, the city was "still just a sort of smoldering wreck."

"Hersey had seen everything from that point, from combat to concentration camps," Blume says. "But he later said that nothing prepared him for what he saw in Hiroshima."

Hersey wrote a 30,000-word essay, telling the story of the bombing and its aftermath from the perspective of six survivors. The article, which was published in its entirety by The New Yorker, was fundamental in challenging the government's narrative of nuclear bombs as conventional weapons.

"It helped create what many experts in the nuclear fields called the 'nuclear taboo,' " Blume says of Hersey's essay. "The world did not know the truth about what nuclear warfare really looks like on the receiving end, or did not really understand the full nature of these then experimental weapons, until John Hersey got into Hiroshima and reported it to the world."

Interview Highlights

On what Americans knew about the nature of nuclear weapons in 1945

Americans didn't know about the bomb — period — until it was detonated over Hiroshima. The Manhattan Project was cloaked in enormous secrecy, even though tens of thousands of people were working on it. . When President Harry Truman announced that America had detonated the world's first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, he was announcing not only a new weapon, but the fact that we had entered into the Atomic Age, and Americans had no idea about the nature of these then-experimental weapons — namely, that these are weapons that continue to kill long after detonation. It would take quite a bit of time and reporting to bring that out.

Everybody who heard the announcement [from Truman] knew that they were dealing with something totally unprecedented, not just in the war, but in the history of human warfare. What was not stated was the fact that this bomb had radiological qualities, [that] blast survivors on the ground would die in an agonizing way for the days and the weeks and months and years that followed.

On how military generals focused on physical devastation when they testified before Congress about the effects of the atomic bomb

In the immediate weeks, very little [was said.] A lot of it was really painted in landscape devastation. Landscape photographs were released to newspapers showing the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were rubble pictures, and also obviously people are seeing the mushroom cloud photos taken from the bombers themselves or from recon missions. But in terms of the radiation — even in Truman's announcement of the bomb — he's painting the bombs in conventional terms. He says these bombs are the equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT. And so Americans, they know that it's a mega-weapon, but they don't understand the full nature of the weapons, the radiological effects are not in any way highlighted to the American public, and in the meantime, the U.S. military is scrambling to find out how the radiation of the bombs is affecting the physical landscape, how it's affecting human beings, because they're about to send tens of thousands occupation troops into Japan.

On America's PR campaign and cover-up of the radiation aftermath

[The U.S. military] created a PR campaign to really combat the notion that the U.S. had decimated these populations with a really destructive radiological weapon. Leslie Groves [who directed the Manhattan Project] and Robert Oppenheimer [who directed the Manhattan Project's laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M.] themselves went to the Trinity site of testing [in New Mexico] and brought a junket of reporters so they could show off the area. And they said that there was no residual radiation whatsoever, and that therefore, any news that was filtering over from Japan were "Tokyo tales." So right away they went into overdrive to contain that narrative. .

The American officials were saying, for the most part, these are the defeated Japanese trying to create international sympathy, to create better terms for themselves and the occupation — ignore them.

On how reporters had limited access to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their reports were often censored

In the early days of the occupation, there obviously would have been enormous interest in trying to get to Hiroshima and Nagasaki . but as the occupation really took hold and became increasingly organized, the reports were intercepted. The last one that came out of Nagasaki was intercepted and lost. There was almost no point in trying to get down there because the obstacles that were put up for reporters were so tremendous by the military censors. . I can't overstate how restricted your movements were as a reporter, as part of the occupation press corps. . You could not get around, you could not eat. You couldn't do anything without the permission of the Army. . The control was near total.

On concerning Japanese reports about "Disease X" affecting blast survivors

As news started to filter over from Japanese reports about what it was like on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath, wire reports started picking up really disturbing information about the totality of the decimation and this sinister . "Disease X" that was ravaging blast survivors. So this news was starting to trickle over early in August of 1945 to Americans.

And so the U.S. realized that not only were they going to have to really try to study very quickly how radioactive the atomic cities might have been, as they were bringing in their own occupation troops. But they [also] realized that they had a potential PR disaster on their hands, because the U.S. had just won this horribly hard-earned military victory, and were on the moral high ground, they felt, in defeating the Axis powers. And they had avenged Pearl Harbor. They had avenged Japanese atrocities throughout the Pacific theater in Asia. But then reports that they had decimated a largely civilian population in this excruciating way with an experimental weapon — it was concerning because it might have deprived the U.S. government of [its] moral high ground.

On how Hiroshima and Nagasaki were seen as souvenir sites for American military

Hiroshima was seen as a site of just enormous victory for these guys. And a lot of them would go even to ground zero of the bombings in Hiroshima. . They saw it as a souvenir site. It's essentially a graveyard. There are still remains that are being dug up in Hiroshima and Nagasaki today. But many of them kind of pillaged the ruins to grab a souvenir to bring home. It was the ultimate victory souvenir. So whether it's a broken teacup to use as an ashtray or what have you, they went and they took their equivalent of selfies at ground zero. At one point in Nagasaki, Marines cleared a football field-sized amount of space in the ruins and they had what they called the "Atomic Bowl," which was a New Year's Day football game where they had conscripted Japanese women as cheerleaders. It was an astonishing scene in both cities. They were seen as sites of a victory. And most of the "occupationaires" were totally unrepentant about what had gone down there.

On Hersey getting a firsthand account from the Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto of what the moment of the bombing was like

Rev. Tanimoto, at the moment of the bombing, was slightly outside of the city. He had been transporting some goods to the outskirts of the city, and he was up on a hill. And so therefore, he had a bird's-eye view of what happened. He fell to the ground when the actual bomb went off. But then when he got up, he saw that the city had been enveloped in flames and black clouds. And . he saw a procession of survivors starting to straggle out of the city. He was just absolutely horrified by what he had seen and baffled, too, because usually an attack on this level would have been perpetrated by a fleet of bombers. But this was just a single flash.

And the survivors who were making their way out of the city and who would not survive for long, I mean, most of them were naked. Some of them had flesh hanging from their bodies. He saw just unspeakable sights as he ran into the city because he had a wife and an infant daughter. He wanted to find his parishioners. The closer he got towards the detonation, the worse the scene was. The ground was just littered with scalded bodies and people who were trying to drag themselves out of the ruins and wouldn't make it. There were walls of fire that were consuming the areas. The enormous firestorm was starting to consume the city. He, at one point, was picked up by a whirlwind, because winds had been unleashed throughout the city, and . he was lifted up in a red-hot whirlwind. . It was just unbelievable that he survived not only the initial blast, but then [headed] into [the] city center and the extreme trauma of having witnessed what he witnessed. It's remarkable that he came out of it alive.

On how Hersey's reporting changed the world's perception of nuclear weapons

The Japanese could not, for years, tell the world what it had been like to be on the receiving end of nuclear warfare, because they were under such dire press restrictions by the occupation forces. And so it took John Hersey's reporting to show the world what the true aftermath and the true experience of nuclear warfare looks like. . It changed overnight for many people, what was described by one of Hersey's contemporaries as the "Fourth of July feeling" about Hiroshima. There was a lot of dark humor about the bombings in Hiroshima. [The essay] just really imbued the event with a sobriety that really hadn't been there before. And also it just completely deprived the U.S. government of the ability to be able to paint nuclear bombs as conventional weapons. . [Hersey] himself later said the thing that has kept the world safe from another nuclear attack since 1945 has been the memory of what happened in Hiroshima. And he certainly created a cornerstone of that memory.

Sam Briger and Seth Kelley produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Meghan Sullivan adapted it for the Web.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. This month marks the 75th anniversary of the first wartime use of a nuclear weapon - the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. While the horrors of the explosion and radiation from the bomb are now widely acknowledged, they were far less known in the months after the attack. American GIs serving in the occupation force in Japan would regularly visit Hiroshima to pick up atomic souvenirs from the rubble to take home.

The scale of the destruction and suffering was eventually told in the book "Hiroshima" by journalist John Hersey, which became an international best-seller. What many don't know is that Hersey's book was originally a lengthy article that took up an entire issue of The New Yorker magazine a year after the bombing. It became one of the most influential pieces of journalism ever written.

Our guest today, writer Lesley Blume, has a new book which tells the story of Hersey's quest to bring the real story of Hiroshima to the American public and the impact it had on the world's understanding of nuclear weapons. Lesley Blume is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author and biographer. She spoke to me from her home office via an Internet connection about her new book "Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up And The Reporter Who Revealed It To The World."

Well, Lesley Blume, welcome to FRESH AIR.

LESLEY BLUME: Thank you for having me.

DAVIES: You know, we've all grown up in a world with nuclear weapons. And we know they were developed during World War II in this top-secret Manhattan Project and then used, of course, in 1945 to end the war with Japan. But in 1945, this was all new. First of all, how much did Americans know about the nature of the weapon that was used in Hiroshima?

BLUME: Well, Americans didn't know about the bomb, period, until it was detonated over Hiroshima. And you know, the Manhattan Project was cloaked in enormous secrecy even though tens of thousands of people were working on it. I mean, many of them didn't even know what the end product of their labor was going to be. President Harry Truman did not know about the bomb. He learned about it only upon the death of his predecessor, you know, in the spring of 1945. That's how under wraps the project was.

So when President Harry Truman announced that America had detonated the world's first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, he was announcing not only a new weapon but the fact that we had entered into the Atomic Age. And Americans had no idea about the nature of these then-experimental weapons, namely that these are weapons that continue to kill long after detonation. And it would take quite a bit of time and reporting to bring that up.

DAVIES: So a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered. And after years of war, Americans were, of course, deliriously happy that it was over. What did they know about the destruction and death that the weapon had visited on Hiroshima?

BLUME: Well, I mean, at first, it appeared that the U.S. government was being almost ecstatically forthright about the new weapon. And when, you know, President Truman announces the bombing, he says, look this is the biggest bomb that's ever been used in the history of warfare. And the Japanese should surrender or they can expect a reign of fire and ruin from the sky unlike, you know, anybody's ever seen before. We've unleashed the power of the sun. I mean, it was almost biblical language. So they knew - everybody who heard the announcement knew that they were dealing with something totally unprecedented, not just in the war but in the history of human warfare.

What was not stated was, you know, the fact that this bomb had radiological qualities and that even blast survivors on the ground would be - you know, would die in an agonizing way for the days and the weeks and the months and years that followed.

DAVIES: Right. And so in the weeks and months that followed, what was being said about radiation and its effects? I mean, American generals had testified before Congress on this. How did the characterize the risk?

BLUME: Well, very - yeah. In the immediate weeks, you know, very little - I mean, a lot of it was really painted in, you know, landscape devastation. You know, photographs - landscape photographs were released to newspapers showing, you know, the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I mean, they were rubble pictures. And also, you know, obviously, people are seeing the mushroom cloud photos taken from the bombers themselves or from recon missions and - but in terms of the radiation, you know, even in the announcement - Truman's announcement of the bomb, he's painting the bombs in conventional terms. He says, you know, these bombs are the equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT. And so Americans, you know, they don't understand - they know that it's a mega weapon. But they don't understand the full nature of the weapons yet. You know, the radiological effects are not in any way highlighted to the American public.

And in the meantime, you know, the U.S. military is scrambling to find out, you know, how the radiation of the bombs is affecting the physical landscape, how it's affecting human beings - because they're about to send tens of thousands occupation troops into Japan. So they - you know, they're sending their own recon missions in late August of 1945 onto the ground to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see if they can, in good conscience, clear the atomic cities for occupation. And they do declare, you know, privately amongst themselves that the radiation has dwindled to nothing. Because of the height at which the bomb had been detonated, they said that much of it had been reabsorbed back into the atmosphere.

But they would also, you know, start to study the blast survivors who had taken in radiation to their bodies, you know, when the blast went off and look at how it affected them. The fact is that the people who created the bombs didn't have a full understanding of what the bombs were going to wreak on landscape and humans and were going to be studying that for years while they were on the ground occupying Japan.

DAVIES: You mentioned Lieutenant General Leslie Groves. I think he was actually involved in the Manhattan Project, right?

BLUME: Rather involved, yes - the spearheader of said project. He was charged with building the bomb for wartime use and managed to do it in three years, which is quite miraculous. And in his mind - I mean, Leslie Groves never had any moral qualms whatsoever about how - you know, the decimation or, you know, the radiation agonies afterwards. He had been told to get this bomb ready for wartime use, and he did that. And you know, that was, in his eyes, a huge triumph.

DAVIES: Right. And he was - I think he was the one who said that you could live there forever - of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - right? - no problem.

BLUME: Yeah. So - well, you know, again, as news started to filter over from Japanese reports about what it was like on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath, you know, the wire reports started picking up, you know, really disturbing information about, you know, the totality of the decimation and, you know, this sinister what they called, you know, disease X that was ravaging blast survivors.

This was starting - you know, so this news was starting to trickle over early in August of 1945 to Americans, and so the U.S. realized that not only were they going to have to really try to study very quickly, you know, how radioactive the atomic cities might have been, you know, as they were bringing in their own occupation troops. But they realized that they had a potential PR disaster on their hands, you know, because the U.S. had just won this horribly hard-earned military victory and were on the moral high ground, they felt, in defeating the Axis powers. And you know, they had avenged Pearl Harbor. They had avenged Japanese atrocities throughout the Pacific theater in Asia. But then, you know, reports that they had decimated, you know, a largely civilian population in this excruciating way with an experimental weapon, you know, it was concerning because it may deprive the U.S. - it might have deprived the U.S. government of their moral high ground.

DAVIES: You know, there were reports from Japan about the level of destruction and also about lasting effects from radiation poisoning. How did U.S. - the U.S. military respond to these reports?

BLUME: Well, they went on a PR - they created a PR campaign to really combat the notion that, you know, the U.S. had decimated these populations with a really destructive radiological weapon. And, you know, they dispatched - Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer themselves went to the Trinity Site of testing to - and brought a junket of reporters so they could, you know, show off the area. And they said, you know, that there was no residual radiation whatsoever and that therefore, any news that was filtering over from Japan were, quote, "Tokyo tales." So right away, they went into overdrive to contain that narrative.

DAVIES: So I understand. You're saying they took them to a site in the United States where a weapon had been tested and showed them that there was no residual radiation.

BLUME: Yes, they did. They went to the Trinity Site, which is in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb had been tested - successfully tested on July 16 of 1945. And meanwhile, you know, this junket of, you know, two dozen reporters gets there. And around the detonation site, you know, the sand in the desert has been turned to green glass because of the impact of the bomb. And they're all wearing booties, you know, to cover their shoes from possible radiological particles. But, you know, Leslie Groves is there to give a junket saying that, you know, hey, everything's OK here, and, you know, you could live here forever. You could live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki forever, too. There's nothing to see here, folks.

DAVIES: So the U.S. military was saying these reports of terrible suffering and lingering radiation effects were Japanese propaganda. This also happened in the context of, you know, the moral judgments that people might make about such a weapon. And the military was putting it in the context of the way the war had begun and the way the Japanese had behaved. How did all that set the context for the American response?

BLUME: Look Americans were still enraged by Pearl Harbor, and they, you know, had had a horrific time fighting in the Pacific theater. And, you know, casualties were enormous. You know, Japanese tenacity in battles was unlike anything Americans had encountered before. You know, Americans were horrified by Japanese atrocities in China and throughout Asia, and the feeling of righteousness, of righteous rage and vengeance in dropping the bombs, was near total. And, you know, Harry Truman himself articulated that in his speech. When he announced the bombing, he said the Japanese have now been repaid manyfold.

And just, you know, one quick stat really illustrates the mindset of the Americans towards the bombings at that time. In August of 1945, a poll was taken, and nearly a quarter of the Americans surveyed said that they wished that they could have dropped many more atomic bombs on Japan before the country had surrendered. So that's a pretty strong indication of how high the support was.

DAVIES: There were clearly reporters in the Pacific theater who wanted to get the story about the effects of atomic weapons, and there was some reporting. On the whole, did it capture and convey what was happening to the American people?

BLUME: Yeah. I mean, many of the reporters who were coming in with the occupied forces, for them, getting in on the ground to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a huge scoop. And a few of them did make it in there, and a few of them were able to get out really alarming initial reports that were, you know, heavy on facts about devastation and the fact that there was some kind of a terrible affliction still killing off blast survivors but light on details because nobody knew what on earth, you know, was in reality happening in the aftermath of the bombings. However, they didn't - you know, these reports, some of them appeared only in truncated form in American press. And after they came out, General MacArthur's occupation forces were able to quickly organize to suppress additional such reporting.

DAVIES: Right. So people - so reporters couldn't get in, and meanwhile, you had the American government saying, you know, you're hearing a lot of Japanese propaganda that you should be skeptical of.

BLUME: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the American officials were saying for the most part, you know, this is just - you know, these are - the defeated Japanese is trying to create international sympathy, to create better terms for themselves in the occupation. Ignore them.

DAVIES: We need to take a break here. Let me just reintroduce you. We're speaking with Lesley Blume. Her new book is "Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up And The Reporter Who Revealed It To The World." We'll talk some more after we take a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF AVISHAI COHEN'S "GBEDE TEMIN")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with journalist and author Lesley Blume. Her new book is about journalist John Hersey, who, in 1946, wrote the first detailed account of the death, destruction and radiation poisoning in Hiroshima, which U.S. military censors had largely hidden after the bombing there. Her book is called "Fallout."

So there was a lot that people didn't know about what had happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And it was John Hersey that ultimately kind of changed that. Tell us a bit about him. Who was John Hersey? Where was he in his career?

BLUME: So John Hersey was - he was young, but he was already, you know, incredibly celebrated. He had won the Pulitzer Prize for a wartime novel called "A Bell For Adano." He had been a war correspondent since 1939 for Time Inc. He at one point had been groomed to be Henry Luce's managing editor and heir apparent to Time Inc., which he neglected to take Mr. Luce up on his offer. He was also a commended war hero, and he had been in an embed covering a battle between the Japanese and the Americans in the Solomon Islands and had helped evacuate a wounded marine, for which he received his commendation. He was an extremely well-known and well-regarded war correspondent in August of 1945 when the bombs went off.

DAVIES: Right. So he leaves Time Magazine. He ends up at The New Yorker. What kind of magazine was The New Yorker in 1945?

BLUME: Well, The New Yorker, it was - you know, one of the great ironies of my book and of this story is that The New Yorker would be the one to break this story. The New Yorker had been founded in the 1920s as an intentionally niche, sophisticated humor magazine about urban life. And, you know, its co-founder, Harold Ross, used to freak out if the circulation got to be over 300,000. He would say, you know, something must be wrong.

But, you know, Pearl Harbor really changed everything for The New Yorker. I mean, he - both Harold Ross, the founder, and his deputy editor, William Shawn, they'd been newsmen. And that - you know, the newsman blood surged back right away. There was - in their eyes, there was no option other than to take the magazine onto a wartime footing. You know, even though it'd been a humor magazine, you know, up to that point, Harold Ross said to, you know, one of his colleagues, nothing feels funny anymore. And they, too, began to dispatch war correspondents around the world. So they were the little guys in the field of media publications. But they could pack a powerful punch.

DAVIES: You know, it's interesting. You write that in the months following, you know, the end of the war that there was an American occupation force. And there were lots of American reporters in Tokyo, and yet relatively little interest in trying to get to Hiroshima to see what had happened. Why?

BLUME: Well, I think it was a combination of factors. I mean, first of all, in the early days of the occupation, there obviously would have been enormous interest in trying to get to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, again, if you were successful. But, you know, as the occupation really took hold and became increasingly organized, these - the reports were intercepted. You know, the last one that came out of Nagasaki was intercepted and lost. I mean, there was almost no point in trying to get down there because the obstacles that were put up for reporters were so tremendous. I mean, occupation.

DAVIES: By military censors, you mean. Yeah.

BLUME: By military censors and by General MacArthur's - what they called the PRO - the press relations office. I mean, I can't overstate how restricted your movements were as a reporter as part of the occupation press corps. You know, there was a joke that went around, you know, that the occupation forces, they told you how much gasoline you could use. They told you how much, you know, food you could eat and how many cigarettes you could smoke, namely because they were the dispensers of all those things, you know?

So you could not get around. You could not eat. You couldn't do anything without the permission of the army. They had - the control was near total. By the time Hersey would attempt to get in, you know, months later, you would have to apply for clearance to come into the country. You had to apply for clearance to travel anyplace in the country. You were given X amount of time on the ground, you know, wherever you went. And you were closely monitored. I mean, even the FBI was keeping tabs on who was coming and going from Japan within the press corps.

DAVIES: You know, and I find it fascinating you write that while journalists didn't have access to wherever they wanted to go, like Hiroshima, there were plenty of visitors among American GIs. You referred to them as occupationaires, meaning what? What were they doing?

BLUME: Yeah. That was an extraordinary term that I came across. And it's how occupation officials and soldiers referred to themselves. And, you know, look at one point, tens of thousands of troops were in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki as occupation troops. Most of them had been withdrawn by the time Hersey is on the ground, you know, months later. But, you know, again, Hiroshima was seen as a sight of just enormous victory for these guys. And a lot of them would go even to ground zero of the bombings in Hiroshima. And, you know, as you mentioned earlier, they saw it as a souvenir site. I mean, so the - it's essentially a graveyard. I mean, there are still remains that are being dug up in Hiroshima and Nagasaki today.

But, you know, many of them kind of pillaged the ruins to grab a souvenir to bring home. I mean, it was the ultimate victory souvenir. So whether it's a broken teacup to use as an ashtray or what have you, you know, they went. And they took, you know, their equivalent of selfies at ground zero. At one point in Nagasaki, Marines cleared, you know, a football-field-size amount of space in the ruins. And they had what they called the Atomic Bowl, which was a New Year's Day football game, where they had conscripted Japanese women as cheerleaders. I mean, it was an astonishing scene in both cities. But, again, they were seen as sights of victory. And most of the occupationaires were totally unrepentant about what had gone down there.

DAVIES: Do we know if any GIs got any radiation poisoning from their souvenirs?

BLUME: Unclear. I mean, a lot - there is a movement of former occupationaire GIs who call themselves the atomic vets who believe that they received high radiation doses from their occupation periods during their time in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

DAVIES: Let me reintroduce you again. Lesley Blume's new book is "Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up And The Reporter Who Revealed It To The World." She'll be back to talk more about John Hersey and the story of Hiroshima after we take a break. I'm Dave Davies. And this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH, ALAN PIERSON AND LONDON SINFONIETTA'S "VARIATIONS FOR VIBES, PIANOS, AND STRINGS: SLOW")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. My guest is Lesley Blume, whose new book tells the story of journalist John Hersey's reporting, which revealed the scale of destruction and suffering visited on the people of Hiroshima, Japan, by the atomic bomb dropped on the city 75 years ago. Blume's book is "Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up And The Reporter Who Revealed It To The World."

So John Hersey manages to get to Hiroshima. And he, of course, had covered the war in Europe and had seen horrific damage from Allied bombing of German cities. What did Hiroshima look like then, and how did it compare to Hersey's expectations?

BLUME: I mean, Hersey had seen everything from that point, from combat to concentration camps. But he - and let's not forget he came in through Tokyo, which had been decimated. But he later said that nothing prepared him for what he saw in Hiroshima. I mean, the devastation was just so total. And even though he and, you know, people around the world had seen devastated cities for years at that point, the thing that terrified him the most was that this had been done by one single 10,000-pound primitive bomb. One weapon had created all of this destruction and misery. And, you know, even though it was nearly a year later, I mean, it was still just a sort of smoldering wreck. You know, many people had returned to Hiroshima to try to start rebuilding their lives on the ruins, but, I mean, that really amounted to living in these rusted shanties on top of, again, what is essentially a graveyard.

DAVIES: Right. Now, he had to find people who had experienced the explosion, survived it and were willing to talk about it. And he didn't have a lot of time. How did he do it?

BLUME: Well, he was lucky. He - but he was also strategic. He had read an article before he got in about some German priests who had been in Hiroshima and survived and had given a survival testimony to - that had run in Time Magazine. And so he knew that they had returned to Hiroshima. So he sought them out, and fortunately, a couple of them spoke English. And Hersey won over their trust. They gave him their testimonies about what it had been like for them on August 6, 1945. And then not only did they agree to be his translator because they spoke Japanese - Hersey did not - they also began to make introductions for him within the blast survivor community.

DAVIES: Right. So he ends up focusing the story on six people who survived the blast. Two were clergymen - one Catholic, one Methodist - two were physicians - both of those were men - and then two women - one was a widow who had three children and was at home cooking rice when the explosion happened, and then a 20-year-old woman who was at work at her job as a clerk in a tin works.

I thought maybe you could tell us about Reverend Tanimoto, who was a - I guess he was a Methodist clergyman who was in the area at the time. And I'll just give a little warning to listeners that we're going to be dealing here with some accounts that are obviously - may be very upsetting about what happened in Hiroshima. So if you don't want to hear that, you might turn away for a couple of minutes. So tell us a little bit about what Reverend Tanimoto experienced.

BLUME: Reverend Tanimoto at the moment of the bombing was slightly outside of the city. He had been transporting some goods to the outskirts of the city, and he was up on a hill. And so therefore, he had a bird's-eye view of what happened. He fell to the ground when the actual bomb went off. But then when he got up, he saw that the city had just been enveloped in flames and black clouds.

And slowly, he would see - he saw a procession of survivors starting to straggle out of the city. He was just absolutely horrified by what he had seen and baffled, too, because, you know, usually an attack on this level would have been perpetrated by, you know, a fleet of bombers. But this was just a single flash. And the survivors who were making their way out of the city and who would not survive for long, I mean, most of them were naked. Some of them had flesh hanging from their bodies. I mean, he saw just unspeakable sights.

As he ran into the city because he had a wife and an infant daughter he wanted to find and his parishioners, the closer he got towards the detonation, the worse the scene was. I mean, the ground was just littered with scalded bodies and people who were trying to drag themselves out of the ruins and wouldn't make it. You know, there were walls of fire that were consuming the area. An enormous firestorm was starting to consume the city. He just, at one point, was picked up by a whirlwind because winds had been unleashed throughout the city, these tornadic whirlwinds. And he was lifted up in a red-hot whirlwind and then dropped from a height of about eight feet.

I mean, it was just unbelievable that he survived not only the initial blast but then heading into city center. And, you know, the extreme trauma of having witnessed what he witnessed, it's remarkable that he came out of it alive.

DAVIES: Right. And he mentioned grabbing some cushions and dousing them with water to try and get through the flames and find his family. He did find his wife and daughter, right?

BLUME: Now, again, another near miracle. Somehow - you know, his wife and child had been in their house which collapsed on them upon detonation. They'd somehow been managed - they somehow managed to escape. And as Reverend Tanimoto is, you know, tearing hysterically through the city center looking for survivors, he runs into his wife, who's in a bloodstained dress and just making her way out of the neighborhood with their baby in her arms trying to find any respite. But it's unclear to any of them where there's going to be any kind of place to escape from the flames.

Eventually, the family does make its way to a park on the outskirts of the city. And the park was, you know, at one time, you know, this manicured, beautiful topiary garden. And it becomes a scene from hell as survivors make their way into it. And the ground is just - frankly, it's just slick with corpses. And that's where they are able to seek refuge.

DAVIES: Did many of the people that he spoke to seem to be suffering from radiation poisoning?

BLUME: Yes. And he was able to, including - Reverend Tanimoto had been very sick with what, you know, he called in his own diary, you know, the atom disease. You know, they still really didn't understand - they understood at that point, you know, what had happened is that they had, you know, taken into their bodies an enormous amount of radiation during the blast. But there was still no way to treat them. Japanese doctors were completely at a loss. I mean, sometimes they would give them, you know, vitamin injections, and it would have terrible, terrible effects.

Father Kleinsorge, who was the German priest who had been Hersey's main entree to the blast survivor community, also had been horrifically ill. The young widow who Hersey also profiled, Mrs. Nakamura, you know, she and her children were all, you know, wracked with radiation poisoning and had been throwing up since the early hours of escaping.

So one of the things that Hersey did in detailing, you know, really in excruciating detail, the after effects of having received these astronomical amounts of radiation was he was showing the world that these were not conventional weapons and they were not, as General Leslie Groves had told Congress earlier - a few months earlier - that they were not - they did not give blast survivors, quote, "a very pleasant way to die," end quote.

DAVIES: The general actually said that to Congress - that dying of radiation poisoning is a very pleasant way to die?

DAVIES: I know that John Hersey went back decades later to revisit, and a lot of these people were still alive. Had they suffered from medical effects most of their lives from the radiation?

BLUME: In varying degrees, yes. Father Kleinsorge, the German priest, seems to have been most decimated. He was in and out of hospitals for, you know, his entire life. And, you know, by the time he died, you know, his doctors just said that he had been, quote, "a living corpse" for years.

Koko Tanimoto, who had been, you know, an infant at the time of the bombing, you know, had - on the other hand, had kind of a gallows humor about the effects of the bomb on her and her mother. They both lived into long age. Koko said that she, you know, had been rendered incapable of having children because of the radiation.

But, you know, Koko Tanimoto was actually studied at length by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, which was, you know, an American commission that came in to look at the Japanese guinea pigs to see how radiation affected their bodies in the long terms. And, you know, so she was an examination subject for years, something that she felt enormous humiliation about.

DAVIES: Let me reintroduce you. We're going to take another break here. Lesley Blume's new book is "Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up And The Reporter Who Revealed It To The World." We'll continue our conversation after this short break. This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with journalist and author Lesley Blume. Her new book is about journalist John Hersey, who in 1946 wrote the first detailed account of the death, destruction and radiation poisoning in Hiroshima, which U.S. military censors had largely hidden after the bombing there in 1945. Her book is called "Fallout."

So Hersey and his editors at The New Yorker knew they had some very compelling material. And they had to make some decisions, right? Does this all run once? Does it - do they do a series of articles? Do they include photos or other visuals? What's the approach in the writing? What'd they decide?

BLUME: Well, you know, initially, it was going to run in a four-part series called Reporter At Large, which was, you know, something that The New Yorker, you know, did regularly. And then when Hersey's editor, William Shawn, is reading through Hersey's initial report - and by the way, Hersey came home and wrote, you know, a 30 - an over-30,000-word story, which is enormously long for a magazine story. And so, you know, it was written that long because - with the expectation that it would be broken up over a few weeks, right?

But his editor reads it and he says it's just too powerful and it will lose traction. We have to run this all in one issue. And what's more, he says - and he presented this to his boss, Harold Ross, you know, the editor of The New Yorker. He said, what's more, nothing else can run in this issue. It has to be entirely devoted to this story, which was, you know, what one person told me - you know, called an unprecedented editorial splurge.

And the material was already going to be wildly controversial, but for them to present it in this way was hanging a lantern on what they were up to in a way that was just astonishing at the time.

DAVIES: You know, you note that there was some pushback. I mean, the military objected. President Truman didn't like it. And they - the opponents drafted former Secretary of War Henry Stimson to write a long piece about this, which appeared in Harper's Magazine. Did it dispute any of Hersey's reporting?

BLUME: It didn't mention Hersey's reporting by - at all. I mean, it did - but what was clear is that, you know, the U.S. military and the U.S. government had been put on the defensive. They didn't like being put on the defensive, and they needed to reassert the narrative right away.

And so even though Hersey never in his article brought up, you know, should we or shouldn't we, his story was not about the decision - explicitly about the decisions to drop the bomb, that, you know, all of a sudden, whether we should have dropped it or not was - had been called into question, you know, across the country and around the world. And the government is scrambling to state - you know, to reclaim the narrative, which is, we had to drop the bombs it saved both American and Japanese lives.

And, you know, that's the article - the sort of retort article is - it takes a sort of a page out of the Hersey book of reporting, where it appears to be just sort of a nothing-but-the-facts-ma'am-type article. But again, it doesn't ever affect - it doesn't ever address radiation in the article, and it doesn't address the fact that so much had been covered up from the American public over the last 18 months.

DAVIES: You know, he went back nearly 40 years later for a follow-up to visit some of the people that he had talked to after the Hiroshima bombing. And they'd all had interesting lives. One of them, Reverend Tanimoto, had become something of an activist. He'd gone around giving speeches and interviews and lectures. One of the most bizarre stories in this book is in 1951, he ends up in Los Angeles for what he thinks will be an interview on NBC TV - a standard interview. Tell us what happens.

BLUME: Yeah. Reverend Tanimoto turns up at the station, and it turns out he's not doing a news interview. He has been booked unwittingly on an episode of "This Is Your Life." And.

DAVIES: Now, people aren't going to remember this. You'll have to explain what this show is (laughter).

BLUME: Well, so it's a show, you know, in the 1950s where, you know, you sit down and the producers trot out, you know, people from - well, first, they're trotting out people who have been important to you throughout your life. And so, you know, the person - each person, as they're introduced, they stand behind a little curtain and they say, I was, you know, with you when you were 3 years old and you scraped your knee, or whatever.

And so in this case, they were bringing out people from Reverend Tanimoto's life, including one of the bombers from the Enola Gay. And so you know, poor Reverend Tanimoto. He's sitting there on this set and, you know, trying to maintain his composure. And it's a very - you know, the set is just full of bells and whistles. You know, they have the sound of, you know, the bomb whirring. They have the sound of the talk - the clock ticking. I mean, it's just this highly produced, dramatic production.

And, you know, this poor reverend is just sitting there just totally bewildered but trying so hard to stay composed. And the moment where they bring out the bomber to shake hands, I mean, it's just - you can't even imagine what's going - you know, going through that - Tanimoto's mind. And Hersey would report on this later on. And he said that the bomber appeared to be crying to many millions of viewers who were watching this. But in reality, Hersey reported, it turned out that he had been out bar hopping beforehand.

DAVIES: Is it too much to say that John Hersey's reporting here change the world's perception of nuclear weapons?

BLUME: I certainly don't think so. And he didn't think so either. And he was a extremely modest person when it came to, you know, evaluating his place in the world. Look the Japanese could not, for years, tell the world what it had been like to be on the receiving end of nuclear warfare because they were under, you know, such dire press restrictions by the occupation forces. And so it took John Hersey's reporting to show the world what the true aftermath and the true experience of nuclear warfare looks like. The Japanese would not be able to tell - you know, speak in their own words until, you know, the occupation was over in the early 1950s.

It changed overnight for many people what was described as one of - by one of Hersey's contemporaries as the, quote, "Fourth of July feeling" about Hiroshima. I mean, there was a lot of dark humor about, you know, the bombings and Hiroshima. I mean, it just really imbued the event with a sobriety that it really hadn't been there before. Hersey's reporting played an enormous role in creating that visceral feeling around the use of nuclear weapons. And he, himself, later said, you know, the thing that has kept the world safe from another nuclear attack since 1945 has been the memory of what happened in Hiroshima. And he certainly created a cornerstone of that memory.

DAVIES: You know, at the end of the book, you share some thoughts about why this story is important, this kind of journalism. Why?

BLUME: The project, for me, came from current events even though it's a historical narrative. And, you know, I'm a second-generation newsperson. I'm married to a newsperson. My father worked for Walter Cronkite. And, you know, the attacks from the highest levels of our government, you know, especially from our president, on our free press and journalists, inciting journalists as enemies of the people, has felt very personal to me. And I wanted to find a historical narrative that really drove home how deadly important a free press is not only as a cornerstone of democracy, but in protecting the common good. And John Hersey's story was the sharpest and most poignant example that I could find of that.

DAVIES: You know, it's a case where, you know, the government had a certain narrative about what happened to Hiroshima that they wanted to kind of impose. And it would have worked. Reporters were distracted by other things. But here's one case where somebody persisted, got in, found the story and had a vehicle for communicating it to people. And it just made an enormous difference, didn't it?

BLUME: And saved, potentially, millions of lives. I mean, the world did not know the truth about what nuclear warfare really looks like on the receiving end, or did not really understand the full nature of these then experimental weapons until John Hersey got into Hiroshima and reported it to the world.

DAVIES: Well, Lesley Blume, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BLUME: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me on.

DAVIES: Lesley Blume's new book is "Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up And The Reporter Who Revealed It To The World." Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews "Black Bottom Saints," Alice Randall's new novel about a once thriving African American neighborhood in Detroit. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOS SUPER SEVEN SONG, "CALLE DIECISEIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


How was the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima handled with in the Japanese media and just on the streets around the time it happened?

Were there a lot of emotional responses? I've never read anywhere about the suffering of the people that were victims of these bombings, so I was wondering how the Japanese people reacted to it. Did they understand what happened and why it happened? Did the population hold a grudge against the US because of it?

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My grandmother, who passed away last year, was born and lived in Japan during WWII. She was the fourth born in a family of seven, so her father sent her off to what she called the nunnery. Really she was training to become a shinto priestess. Our family, the Tasakis, owned half of Hiroshima in rice farms (according to her) and roughly 5 or 6 years ago we sold our land to the government of Japan to make a memorial on it. So all that said, let me tell you what she told me about Hiroshima.

The bulk of the Tasakis lived in Hiroshima, with some in Nagasaki. It was the day after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and she was asked to come to perform funerary rites for the dead. It was going to be a several day trip, as she was traveling via horse drawn cart.

She said she was sitting in the back of the cart watching the river. She said she watched the fish swimming and then all of a sudden, there was no fish. She could still see down to the bottom of the stream and the water was crystal clear. Then she saw the water turn black. After that she said she saw the water turn into a sludge. That's when she knew they had reached the city.

She's never gone into much detail about what had happened. All she said was it was gone, all of it. She was trying to figure out what bombs did this (as her experience at the time was with napalm and bomb dropping runs). People were telling her that it was one bomb and she didn't believe it.

She was really distraught by what she saw in Hiroshima so she decided to visit her aunt in Nagasaki. She had doubts about being a shinto priestess and whether the war was good. Her aunt told her everything was fine and that she shouldn't worry about anything. Just do her duties and be a good girl. Obey her now dead father's wishes.

She left Nagasaki and head back to the nunnery. The next day Nagasaki was hit. My grandmother said she quit the nunnery the next day after Nagasaki.

The only people to survive from our direct family is my brother, myself, my mom, and my grandmother's brother who was living with cousins in Hawaii at the time.

While my grandmother was alive, she was deathly afraid of fire or any open flame. I've heard a lot of stories of what happened in Japan while she was there. Some incredibly funny, others incredibly depressing.

For the most part my grandmother didn't believe that one bomb was able to do so much damage to her home in Hiroshima, but Nagasaki made her absolutely fearful of what America was able to do.


Watch the video: Hiroshima: Dropping The Bomb - Hiroshima - BBC (May 2022).


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