Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Tragedy of Nagasaki

When one refers to the WWII nuclear attack, one would recall immediately Hiroshima.

Today, the 6th of August, some 60 years ago, the Americans dropped the 1st atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The destructive power of the A-bomb was equivalent to 15,000 tonnes of TNT, and killed a total of 140,000 people, including those who perished in the longer term. Today virtually everyone knows the plane that dropped the bomb was the Enola Gay.

But not many people are aware of the facts or circumstance surrounding the 2nd nuclear bomb dropped on Japan on the 9th August 1945, other than it was Nagasaki.

The tragedy for Nagasaki and its inhabitants then was that it was not the designated target for the bomb. Rather, the city of Kokura was. Because clouds obscured Kokura from the air, the Americans changed the target for the second bomb to Nagasaki. 75,000 people were killed. The plane that dropped the bomb was Bockscar.

Other interesting information has been revealed.

Tokyo was spared for 2 reasons – the Emperor was there, and American postwar plans for Japan required his survival and role. Then there was the fact that there wasn’t much of Tokyo to be bombed after the incendiary bombs dropped by the Americans had razed most of the city.

There are now suggestions that the Americans used the N-bomb on Japan more to intimidate the USSR more than Japan. After all, Japan suffered far greater damage and deaths from the Tokyo bombings. The Americans learnt that the USSR was planning to move into Japan from the north. By dropping the devastating weapons in a show of superior military might, the USA was warning the USSR to behave. I wonder whether that had any effect on the USSR remaining out of Korea during the 1950 conflict. China was the only major communist country to go into Korea to support the North Koreans.

Related to this, it has been revealed that Japan surrendered unconditionally to the USA more out of fear of the USSR than the 2 bombs. As already noted, the Tokyo deaths and devastation was far more horrendous than what Hiroshima or Nagasaki had suffered, though of course the latter two experienced the effects from one single bomb each. As an example, on just one night, March 9 1945, Tokyo lost between 80,000 and 90,000 people to the American air raids.

Experts have indicated the Japanese High Command weren't all that intimidated by the 2 bombs, and comparing the effects of the two N-bombs to the Tokyo fire bombings, their findings do seem plausible.

However, when the Japanese saw the USSR moving into Manchuko, its controlled part of China, now known as Manchuria, it realized that the USSR would be unstoppable. It must have assessed that surrendering to the Americans was preferable than to a communist dictatorship, which would have abolished its monarchy.

Western history has never been quite honest with the role of the USSR in WWII, but its contributions in both theatres, on the Eastern Front and the advance into Manchuria were the pivotal factors. In the former it tied down some 45 to 50 crack German divisions, which in turn saved many American and British lives when they stormed the Normandy beaches.

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