This day in history: The Enola Gay drops the bomb on Hiroshima
First, let me say thank you to John at Sentry Journal for reminding me that today is the anniversary of the beginning of the end of WWII in the Pacific theater. Please check out his post to see Enola Gay crew member “Dutch” Van Kirk’s account of the bombing of Hiroshima, it is fascinating.
I have decided to repost an article I wrote in 2010 commemorating the occasion, here it is in full:
On the morning of August 6th 1945, a plane named the “Enola Gay” took off from an airfield on Tinian Island and headed for mainland Japan carrying a very special cargo named “Little Boy.”
Once Colonel Paul Tibbets reached the Japanese city of Hiroshima–a strategic military target located in the middle of a civilian city–he unleashed “Little Boy.” The effects were immediate and devastating, some 70,000 people died on the first day, while estimates for the total loss of life are somewhere around 150,000-200,000. Nobody knows for sure how many Japanese died as a direct result of this bombing.
But still the Japanese–who all had sworn to fight until the death–refused to surrender. Even in the face of warnings by Harry Truman that the United States had in its possession the most powerful explosive known to man, and would continue to use it if the Japanese did not tender its unconditional surrender they refused to give in.
Three days later “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki and the end result was inevitable and although Hirohito never used the word surrender: “However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable,” preferring to call surrender unendurable and insufferable– everybody knew that that meant. Nine days after the first bomb was dropped Japan had surrendered, the war was over.
In the 65 years that have followed the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it has been greatly debated whether the bombings were necessary or if the United States dropped the bombs solely as a show of force to other nations (Russia–which had entered the war against Japan after Hiroshima–in particular.)
Some have claimed that Japan was on the verge of surrendering anyway, and that all we had to do was give them more time. While it is true that Hirohito had had discussions with his generals about surrender, he rejected any notion of surrender every time it was brought up. He had no intention of surrendering after all of these years of telling every Japanese person that to die for the emperor was glorious and that Japan would never surrender.
This mentality was so engrained in the Japanese soldier that once it was learned that Hirohito had decided to “endure the unendurable” the military leaders actually started planning a coup to overthrow him and continue the war until every man was dead–swearing to jump off the cliffs to their deaths if necessary instead of surrendering.
If the bombs were not dropped and a full-scale invasion of mainland Japan was executed (as General MacArthur hoped for) instead, the invasion force would have dwarfed the allied invasion in Normandy on D-Day and it is estimated that extending the war would have cost America alone an additional one million plus casualties.
The effects of the bombings were brutal but they brought a swift end to a brutal war–in a way the war in the Pacific may have been more brutal than the European theater, just look at the atrocities performed by Japanese soldiers on American POWs–that may have lingered on for who knows how long.
The debate over the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will forever be debated, but in my opinion while many lives were taken in such a short period of time, the lives saved over the longterm because of the continued fighting is all the justification needed.