Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 10 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   For more, see my book Atomic Cover-Up (click on right rail of this blog).

July 27, 1945

Truman continued to meet with Allied leaders in Germany, as the Soviets got ready to declare war on Japan in early August ("fini Japs" when that happened, even without the bomb, Truman had written in his diary this week).

Preparations at Tinian in the Pacific to get the first A-bomb ready for use, possibly within a week (weather permitting) were finalized, with the city of Hiroshima remaining as #1 target. It has been barely touched by Allied bombing so it would serve as the best site to judge the bomb's experimental effects.  Also it is nearly surrounded by hills, promising a "focusing effect" that will likely guarantee killing tens of thousands.

The Japanese government today released an edited version of the "unconditional surrender" Potsdam declaration (which did not mention the atomic bomb) to their press and citizens, but had not yet rejected it. The Domei news agency had already predicted that the surrender demand "would be ignored." The U.S, after use of bomb, would later accept conditional surrender -- with Japan allowed to keep its emperor -- yet call it unconditional.

Eleven days after the first, and quite secret, atomic test at Trinity, which spread wide clouds of radioactive fallout over residents downwind -- livestock had been sickened or killed -- radiation experts had become concerned about the exposure for one family, the shape of things to come.

"A Petition to the President of the United States" organized by famed nuclear scientist Leo Szilard, and signed by sixty-eight of his Los Alamos colleagues -- the only real pre-Hiroshima protests -- urgently urging delay or extreme caution on the use of the new weapon against Japan, continued to be held in limbo and kept from the President's eyes while Truman remained abroad.

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