It was quite probably the most important event of World War II. Its consequences were greater than those of any other event of the war. On the morning of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay flew over the Japanese industrial city of Hiroshima and dropped the first atomic bomb through its hatches. The city went up in a fireball, causing destruction unlike anything the world had ever seen. The fact that it killed one hundred thousand people instantly made the atomic bomb known as an instrument of terrible destruction, the fact that it helped bring about the Japanese surrender and thus ended the Pacific war made the bomb an effective deterrent of war. Even now, after almost fifty years since the “nightmare,” one only remembers the devastation after the A-bomb exploded, forgetting all the hard work it took to bring the remarkable weapon to life.
The story began when on August 2, 1939, a month before World War II began in Europe, Albert Einstein signed a letter addressed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Concede in careful terms, the letter stated that recent nuclear research indicated extremely powerful bombs of a new type, based on Uranium, might soon be possible. Einstein warned that the secret work with Uranium was going on in Nazi Germany. He urged that similar American research be accelerated. Roosevelt filled with fear that Nazi Germany would develop the bomb first, marked Einstein’s letter for action. Eleven days after President Roosevelt authorized the go-ahead for the Manhattan project, the Japanese, too, without American knowledge, entered the race to develop an atomic bomb.
As the research for the first atomic bomb started, the military began its own preparation to use the atomic bomb. On Tuesday, August 29, 1944, General Barney Giles, assistant Chief of Air staff, decided that a well-respected Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tibbet should be awarded the honor of flying the first atomic mission. General Ent formally assigned the 393rd Heavy Bombardment Squadron, based in Nebraska, to Colonel Tibbet. Its fifteen bomber crews would provide the world’s first atomic strike force capable of delivering nuclear bombs on Germany and Japan. Their training base was at Wendover, Utah and the code name this project was named “Silverplate.” Tibbet was warned to commit as little as possible on pape...
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...ing in its path. Hiroshima along with the crew of 509th composite group at that historic point guaranteed a page for themselves in the history books.
On August 9, another nuclear bomb was dropped, but this time on the port city of Nagasaki. Many more bombs were being readied, but President Truman gave orders to halt the attacks, saying he didn’t like the killings of “all those kids.” In the face of die-hard military opposition at home, Emperor Hirohita forced the issue of surrender and acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. “I cannot bear to see my innocent people suffer any longer,” he said, “ending the war is the only way to relieve the nation from the terrible distress with which it is burdened…The time has come when we must bear the unbearable.” (Thomas 323)
The war was over. American celebrated August 14 as Victory over Japan day (VJ-Day), church bells rang, jubilant crowds danced in the streets, fireworks filled the skies, and war weary citizens from New York to San Francisco greeted the peace with flourish of uncorked energy. As Americans celebrated, the Japanese grieved for a nation defeated in war and for two cities sacrificed for the cause of peace.
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