Hiroshima’s Legacy of Peace (Part 1) by ­Jose Antonio Custodio

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Targeting map used by the U.S. military on Hiroshima. Where the red vertical and horizontal lines intersect is the location of Aioi Bridge or coordinate 063096, the bomb target.

I.  The Bombing

On the early morning of August 6, 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Force coaxed his heavily laden B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay to the air, enroute to the city of Hiroshima 1,569 miles away.

Inside the Enola Gay was Little Boy which was a uranium based atomic bomb that weighed 9,700 pounds that was a little more than the recommended bombload of a B-29 for a mission of that distance.

A reconnaissance B-29 that had flown over the city an hour earlier had informed Tibbets that the weather condition at Hiroshima was conducive to bombing.

Tibbets then lined up his aircraft to the T shaped Aioi bridge that connected the Nakajima district with the rest of the city and released Little Boy at 8:15am.

Less than a minute later a bright flash occurred as the bomb detonated 1,900 feet in the air just 800 feet away from the target point. A very short while later, the Enola Gay shuddered as the blast radius caught up with the departing aircraft.

As the bomb went on its 44 second fall towards Hiroshima, the residents were beginning to start their day. In that city of 350,000 people, many children who had not been evacuated were just saying their goodbyes to their parents, workers had just arrived at their offices, soldiers and students were beginning the process of demolishing structures to create firebreaks in case of enemy bombing attack, while some wrote in their journals what they excitedly looked forward to on that fateful day. Then the bomb detonated. A bright flash was seen and followed by a boom. That has since been called the pikadon, pika (flash) and don (boom).

An estimated 70,000 people were estimated to have immediately been killed within a two to three kilometer radius from the hypocenter of the bomb blast which traveled at approximately 1,444 feet per second.

The temperature within that blast radius was at 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Centigrade that vaporized humans and animals and left a shadow of them imprinted on walls left standing.

Anything flammable caught fire and people not immediately killed had their skin and flesh melt from their body as they agonized in their death throes. Those further away experienced severe burns and in many cases the heat seared the colorful patterns of their clothes onto their skin.

However, there was a more pernicious killer that hid unseen to the residents of the city. It was radiation poisoning.

A few days after the bombing, people who had previously shown no signs of injury and appeared healthy began to get sick, develop skin lesions, had their hair fall off and eventually die.

By December of 1945, an additional 70,000 died bringing the death toll to 140,000. However, the deaths continued even into the 1950s as survivors suffered radiation poisoning related sicknesses.

Of the population of 350,000, approximately 50% of them would be killed by the atomic bombing of which the majority would die in the years following the attack.

II.  Hiroshima as a target

Hiroshima had been chosen because it was considered to be a military target having been the headquarters of major units of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Hiroshima Castle was used by the 2nd General Army tasked with defending the western part of Japan from Allied invasion as its headquarters. There were 40,000 soldiers stationed in Hiroshima of which 20,000 were immediately killed in the bombing. However other factors also contributed to its selection as a target. As it was surrounded by hills and mountains, it presented perfect geography to intensify and focus the bomb blast thus allowing for greater destruction.

A prewar photo of happy schoolchildren and their teacher at a Hiroshima elementary school. In six years many of them would be dead and the school destroyed in the atomic bombing.

That it was not previously bombed also made it an ideal target as damage done by the bomb could be accurately measured by the Americans to see the effectiveness of their 15 kiloton bomb while the Japanese would witness the destructive capabilities of this new terror weapon.

As Hiroshima was not previously bombed, many of its residents felt it was a safe to be in although steps were made to evacuate younger people out of the city.

Approximately 8,600 children from Hiroshima’s elementary schools were evacuated to evacuation centers at villages outside of the city. All of these children survived the bombing while many of their parents did not. What happened next was the struggle of the survivors to rebuild their city and their shattered lives. (To be continued)




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