Seventy Two Years Ago This Sunday Morning …
The Western World Stood Still In Shocked Amazement
We are soon upcoming on August 6, 2017. Seventy two years ago this Sunday morning, Paul Tibbets took the B-29 Enola Gay from Tinian in the Marianas to Hiroshima Japan in perfect weather, flew a picture perfect mission and successfully dropped the 9,000 pound nuclear device “Little Boy”, the first nuclear weapon ever used in war time… the entire world gasped when the United States made the announcement the next day.
The one huge bomb effectively destroyed the entire Japanese city of over 80,000 urban inhabitants. The U.S. government and the U.S. military as well as the scientific community believed the Japanese would comprehend the overwhelming destructive force of the single bomb and elect to capitulate immediately. We had previously advised them by millions of Japanese language pamphlets of our new all-powerful weapon and its overwhelmingly destructive force. No surrender was forthcoming. The Japanese were completely stunned, they were in disbelief, denial. Neither the Japanese government nor the military leadership could believe the unimaginable destructive force of one bomb. They were so awestruck that anything of a surrender nature was more than their traditional oriental minds could even think about. They were in utter disbelief … their shock was so great they chose to literally do nothing … so they did nothing.
When the anticipated surrender proclamation did not come forward Curt LeMay, with Generals Hap Arnold and Carl Spaatz knowledge and approval, ordered a second nuclear bomb drop mission. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, Chuck Sweeney and crew took the B-29 Bockscar to Nagasaki Japan and made the second drop with “Fat Man”, a plutonium nuclear device. It was a solidly successful mission although it encountered unanticipated overcast weather conditions which required major in flight adjustments. The primary target on August 9 was the City of Kokura Japan, however the primary was completely covered with an overcast which precluded the ordered “visual drop only, the target must be identified and bombed visually”. Bockscar made three separate individual compass course heading approaches to Kokura, the city was never visible on any of the three different heading attempts.
Bockscar then proceeded to the secondary, Nagasaki; it too had near complete overcast conditions. Bockscar, because its fuel supply was now well down, would be able to make but one single approach and drop attempt at Nagasaki. That one attempt was made, miraculously the city became visual at the last possible moment; the last minute hurried drop was made visually as ordered. It wasn’t an absolutely picture perfect bomb run or drop, but “Fat Man” still effectively destroyed the entire City of Nagasaki Japan. Chuck Sweeney and crew had now done their job.
By this time, Bockscar had consumed far more fuel than ever anticipated because of (a) a 45 minute extended “hold” at an early three ship rendezvous point, (b) the three different compass course heading attempts to accomplish the drop at the primary, (c) the flight to the secondary to make the successful drop at Nagasaki, and (d)an inoperative fuel pump which made it impossible to transfer and use 640 gallons of fuel in its rear belly aux tank. Bockscar was now critical on fuel, a return to Tinian, or even Iwo Jima was out of the question. Okinawa was the only possible outside hope. Bockscar turned south toward Okinawa. It barely, barely made Okinawa … as it touched down, its #2 inboard engine died on rollout from fuel exhaustion. The crew had long been prepared to ditch in the open ocean.
Still, even after the two horrendously powerful nuclear bomb drops and the loss of approximately 150,000 urban inhabitants, no surrender was forthcoming from the Japanese.
Generals Arnold, Spaatz and LeMay came to correctly believe Japan was simply stalling and continuing to behead captured U.S. Army Air Corps aircrewmen on a daily basis; they could wait no longer. Five days after the Nagasaki drop, on August 14, 1945, Curt LeMay, long a proponent of the Eighth Air Force European style 1,000 plane raids, ordered the B-29s on Tinian to bomb multiple targets on Japan whereupon thousands upon thousands of 500 to 2,000 pound conventional bombs (6,000 tons!) rained down on Japanese cities, industrial and military installations on August 14 and August 15, 1945. The missions were massive in scope and numbers; they were constant, never ending. Further, the Japanese never knew whether or not the next B-29 bomb drop might be yet another nuclear device. There were hundreds upon hundreds of B-29s returning to Tinian as hundreds upon hundreds of others were departing for Japan. By August 15, 1945, the Japanese could take no more — they surrendered August 15, 1945. Their surrender saved the two planned upcoming Allied land invasions of Japan scheduled for November 1, 1945 and February 1, 1946, the first only 75 days away! The estimated overall Allied and Japanese casualties were predicted to be in the four million people range as it was anticipated the Japanese would fight to the last man, woman and child. Paul Tibbets and Enola Gay, Chuck Sweeney and Bockscar, and Curt LeMay’s over 800 plane B-29 missions precluded that holocaust. The two big bomb drops and LeMay’s huge 828 plane B-29 raids had brought Japan to her knees.
If you are of an age to remember those days, they are forever etched in your memory; if you were not as yet of an age to have lived it, thank your luck stars.
The United States of America, with its indomitable spirit and its unlimited will to win, with its magnificent men and women in uniform, with its military and industrial complex, with its superior overall political and military leadership, combined with FDR, Leslie Groves and the Manhattan Project, Harry Truman, the 509thComposite Group (Tibbets’ B-29 Group) the unimaginable world-wide logistics support effort all combined to save western civilization.
Count your blessings, 72 years ago, August 6, August 9 and August 15, 1945.
Over 400,000 young Americans gave their lives during the 3 1/2 years of World War II for the freedoms we enjoy today … Lest We Forget!
Lest We Ever Forget!!