Today is the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. I wanted to write down a few thoughts and facts as I understand them.

  • Dan Carlin's Hard Core History episode, Destroyer of Worlds, mentions an interwar conference which discussed implementing a ban on arial bombing. The US delegation decided that this was a bad idea. That precision arial bombing could be a postive force in ending war and preventing it as precision bombing could quickly destroy industry and manufacturing. No ban on arial bombing was ever agreed upon universally.
  • Non precision bombing of cities had already begun during WWII way before the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs were dropped. Nazi Germany began bombing London early in the war and the British under Bomber Harris began night bombing (very imprecise) of German cities.
  • In February of 1945 the British and US bombed the city of Dresdon Germany over 3 days. Over 700 heavy bombers participated in this operation which is described in Kurt Vonnegut's book, "Slaughterhouse-Five". Incindeary bombs were used during these raids, these are munitions designed to start fires.
  • March 9, 1945, the USAAF under Curtis Lemay performed a massive fire bombing of Tokyo using low level B29 bombers and incendiary munitions. Estimates of the raid are close to 100,000 dead. Interestingly, the B29 was designed to do high altitude precision bombing. But high altitude bombing had been tried and failed. (One high level raid on Tokyo went bad when the bombs ended up falling in Tokyo bay. Japanese military thought the Americans were trying to drown them!) About 300 B29s took part in the March raid. More fire bombing raids were performed in the following weeks.
  • The Hiroshima bombing used only 3 B29s. One plane for observation and reconnaisance, one backup, and the primary bomber (Enola Gay). Thus, the atomic bomb did not represent a change in policy but rather a change in efficeincy. One bomb, one plane to destroy a city.
  • If Hiroshima was a significant military target, why wasn't it bombed earlier?
  • There was industry in Hiroshima located on the outskirts of the city, not near ground zero.
  • There were several important military entities in Hiroshima but again, if these were significant, why was it not targeted earlier?
  • Scientist Leo Szilard was instrumental in getting Eisntein to petition then president Roosevelt to begin an effort to create an atomic weapon. Later, when the bomb was developed, he attempted to get President Truman to refrain from using the bomb against Japan. He met with Secretary of State James Byrnes but was rebuffed as Burnes believed the use of the bomb would be instrumental in the handeling of the Soviet Union after the war.
  • The Hiroshima bomb was a simple uranium gun bomb. The Nagasaki bomb was a more complex plutonium bomb. This could have been a factor in the reasoning to drop the 2nd bomb. That is, the need to test the technology in a real world situation. Plutonium was much easier to obtain than uranium even though the bomb itself was more complicated. Plutonium was the future of atomic weaponry.
  • A second atomic bomb used would also demonstrate ongoing capability to manufacture more bombs.

Reference

Here are some references to articles and books that were mentioned this week or that I have benefited from in the past: