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Remember Hiroshima

fireThis Wednesday, 6th August 2014 is the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The following is a detailed account of what happened that day.

For the residents of Hiroshima, the 6th August 1945 was the day to end all days; the dawn of a new age of horror, when night came in the morning and the most depraved of all the weapons used in the war, was unleashed upon her unsuspecting people.

As her citizens both military and civilian, went about their early morning activities, busily preparing for their day, travelling to work, riding in buses, travelling on trams, children on their way to elementary school, the temperature rose quickly to twenty-eight degrees centigrade.

What began as a bright, sunny Monday morning, gave no hint to the death and destruction that was shortly to follow. At 7.00 am, fourteen-year-old Masako Yamada cheerfully said goodbye to her mother and set out to join her school friends. Her class had been ordered to help with the demolition parties clearing fire breaks across the city in anticipation of American bombing.

As she left the house, she heard the all-too-familiar sound of the air-raid sirens warning people of approaching aircraft. Masako looked up above to see a lone B-29 bomber streaking across the sky; not unusual, she thought; they were often seen running reconnaissance missions; no need to be concerned.

Half a mile away, Dr. Kano had just finished breakfast and settled back on the balcony of his private clinic, beside the Kyo Bridge to read the morning paper. He too, looked up when he heard the sirens and saw the bomber passing over. Like Masako, he was not concerned. B-29’s were passing over Hiroshima every day, on their way to some other city in Japan.

Twenty miles away on the island of Miyajima, Shigeko Suzuki sat with her parents in the kitchen of their home enjoying breakfast. In one way or another, some four hundred thousand people went about their normal routine that morning, most of them steadfast in their belief that Japan was winning the war, and that soon the soldiers would be coming home, victorious.

Above them, at 30,000 feet, Major Claude Eatherly, of the 509th Composite group, piloting Straight Flush, radioed his weather report to the command pilot of Enola Gay several miles to the south… ‘Cloud cover less than three-tenths at all altitudes. Advice: Bomb primary.’ That message sealed the city’s fate and the lives of 130,000 people. Had the weather report been unfavourable, Enola Gay would have proceeded to either Kokura or Nagasaki.

On the ground, it was 7.30 am, Straight Flush could no longer be heard or seen and the all-clear siren sounded, advising people that it was safe to resume normal duties. Few had even bothered to take shelter. Masako Yamada met up with her school friends and arrived at their prearranged location while Dr. Kano continued reading his paper on the balcony overlooking the Ota River.

To the south, and climbing to 31,000 feet, Colonel Paul Tibbets, piloting the aircraft he renamed Enola Gay after his mother, was leading a group of three B-29’s on the most important and by far the most expensive mission the United States had ever mounted. The Manhattan Project, first begun in 1942 and culminating in the production and successful testing of nuclear fission at a cost of two billion dollars, was about to change the world forever.

‘It’s Hiroshima,’ Tibbets announced to the crew through the intercom. The long night’s flight was over. Now, the months of intense training and the realization that this mission was itself historic in nature brought them all to a new level of anticipation. Each man aboard Enola Gay was there for a specific purpose; each a specialist in his field. Thirty-five minutes later and within sight of the city, Colonel Tibbets set his course for the bomb run.

As they approached from the east, Tibbets’ group bombardier, Major Tom Ferebee, took control of the aircraft, piloting from the bomb bay, and manoeuvred the M-9B Norden bombsight, the most advanced of its kind ever constructed, into position. The target was the Aioi Bridge, so chosen because it was so easily recognized from aerial photographs, forming a perfect T-shape with the Ota River. Just minutes before release, Ferebee could see the city’s suburbs appear beneath him as he made a slight adjustment to his delivery angle to compensate for the wind. At 8.15am local time, he flipped the switch that released ‘Little boy’,a 9000lb uranium bomb, the first ever constructed, from the pneumatically operated bomb bay doors of Enola Gay.

Three minutes earlier, in the hills east of Hiroshima, the lookout at the Matsunaga monitoring post reported three high flying aircraft tracking west toward the city. One minute later, the air raid warning centre at Saijo confirmed the sighting and telephoned the communication centre in the bunker underneath Hiroshima Castle. From there a frantic attempt by a schoolgirl in the bunker to relay the sighting to the local radio station, in an attempt to warn people to seek shelter, was too late.

When Ferebee reported that the bomb was on its way, Colonel Tibbets turned off the automatic pilot and immediately banked Enola Gay sharply sixty degrees to the right. At the same time, the second B-29, The Great Artiste dropped three aluminium canisters attached to parachutes, and its pilot Chuck Sweeney hard-banked to the left, both planes attempting to outrun the expected shockwave.

The blast-gauge canisters dropped from The Great Artiste would record vital information and relay details of the impact by radio signal back to the aircraft. The third B-29, Dimples 91, later renamed Necessary Evil, hung back some 18 miles to the south ready to view and photograph the results using a slow-motion camera.

The bomb dropped into the freezing air and began its deadly descent, set to detonate at 1850 feet, the height calculated by the scientists who built it, to inflict the maximum damage on the city of Hiroshima.

At ground level, just seconds after detonation, the impact was appalling. The temperature at the core reached greater than one million degrees centigrade, intensifying outward in a brilliant flash of light followed by a roiling display of electrically charged colours; reds, greens, yellows, purple. On the ground directly below, the temperature peaked at 3000 degrees centigrade, twice the heat required to melt iron. Those immediately exposed to the heat at the burst point were vaporized where they stood or turned into blackened, overcooked lumps of scorched char on the street.

Within a one mile radius of the hypocentre, all manner of life and matter melted in the thermal heat, clothes disappeared from human bodies and skin fell away from flesh like wrapping paper from a parcel. Human organs liquefied, boiled and vanished. Later estimates suggested 50,000 people died in the first few seconds. Cats, dogs, birds, pets and insects of all description, all plant life simply ceased to be.

The shockwave followed; a force of high pressure, initially greater than six tons per square metre travelling in excess of 7000 miles per hour propelled its way across the city, destroying everything in its wake. It demolished Hiroshima’s predominantly wooden structures in seconds, blowing out windows and sending splinters of glass into the seething fiery air, flying indiscriminately, piercing anything and anyone in its path.

deathThe shockwave thundered in all directions, setting fire to everything it struck, but even worse, carrying with it, the deadly neutrons and gamma rays, that would poison the air and ground for years. As the entire city was set alight, the radioactive particles spread their silent, invisible legacy.

Aboard Enola Gay, Tail gunner, Sergeant Bob Caron watched in shock as the mushroom cloud climbed six miles high. As the cloud raced upward, Caron could see the shockwave materialize in the thermal heat and race toward the retreating planes now eleven miles away from the blast. Even at that distance and height, Enola Gay experienced strong turbulence, as the plane shook violently and the approaching shockwave battered against the fuselage now caught up in the expanding force of energy.

The mushroom cloud reached a height of 60,000 feet, a furious, boiling mass of fire radiating all the colours under the sun. On the ground eight miles from the hypocentre, tiles blew from roofs, windows smashed, homes were destroyed, and trees were incinerated. Everywhere fires started, catching residents in the foothills unawares as they came out of their homes to see what had caused the brilliant flash of light and the terrifying, thundering roar.

skinThen came the firestorm! As the air temperature soared, it rushed upward, sucking the oxygen along with it, leaving behind a vacuum. Cold air rushed in to fill the vacuum, creating a tornado that tore through the city at frightening speed dragging the fire, and the debris, as it hurled itself along, relentlessly and indiscriminately.

Masako Yamada was two miles from the hypocentre, inside a lunch-room shelter at the time of the blast. She was thrown to the ground and lost consciousness for several minutes. When she awoke, she was underneath a pile of rubble, the city was in darkness, covered by a thick pale of black cloud above, and fires were raging all around her. Dr. Kano’s clinic collapsed into the Ota River. He tumbled downward and found himself pinned between two wooden beams that threatened to either crush him or hold him steadfast such that when the tide rose, he would drown. Miraculously, both of them survived.

Across the Inland Sea on the island of Miyajima, Shigeko Suzuki and her parents were suddenly startled by the flash of light and a tremendous roar that rattled windows and shook the front door. She dived for cover underneath the table first thinking an unexpected typhoon had struck the Island. She waited until it passed, then ventured outside only to witness a huge mushroom cloud rise up above Hiroshima, some twenty miles away.

Above the inferno, Enola Gay flew out of the after-shock and made a left turn, Tibbets rewarding the crew with a panoramic view of the results of their months of long, hard training and the isolation experienced in the most top-secret of missions of the entire war. The crew crammed across to the starboard side of the aircraft, momentarily stunned into silence by what they saw.

Ahead of them lay a further six hours flying time before returning to Tinian Island in the Mariana’s. As the radio operator sent a brief message to Tinian, reporting a successful mission, the B-29 and its two companions, tracked south-east away from the devastation they had inflicted.

Ninety minutes later aboard Enola Gay, now nearly 400 miles away, Tail gunner Bob Caron could still see the mushroom cloud. Amid the mixed cries of astonishment and wonder among the crew, Tibbet’s co-pilot Captain Bob Lewis, scribbled in his log, ‘My God! What have we done?’

This is an extract from John Kelly’s book, ‘Hiroshima Sunset.’


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  1. Jeanette

    So why do we keep these terrible bombs? Whilst I realise Japan posed a great problem to Australia etc. there is no excuse for this crime. What happened long term to the crews…going mad would be expected, a memory of this action would stay with you forever.

  2. Kaye Lee

    The navigator from the Enola Gay died only 5 days ago.

    Van Kirk recalled “a sense of relief,” because he said he sensed the devastating bombing would be a turning point to finally bring the war to a close. (this is something my mother said to me too when I asked her about it)

    In a 2005 column for Time Magazine, Van Kirk stood behind the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
    “It wasn’t a matter of going up there and dropping it on the city and killing people,” he wrote.
    “It was destroying military targets in the city of Hiroshima – the most important of which was the army headquarters charged with the defence of Japan in event of invasion. That had to be destroyed.”

    Sounds very similar to the Israeli defence to me.

  3. kevincadams2014

    I visited Peace Park in Nagasaki stood at the chimney at the epi centre of that most insidious device. I left a dove a peace there. I saw the photos of other humans the mass destruction, I felt the Eire silence. I saw the looks that the Japanese gave me, then they saw the tears in my eyes, they to then, understood.

  4. John Fraser


    Received an email that shows Hiroshima in 1945 and Hiroshima now.

    Link :

    And with the email were images of Detroit now.

    Link :

    After the visual descriptions the email went on to tell me this :

    "What has caused more long term destruction? The A-bomb, or
    Government welfare programs (created to buy the votes of those who want someone to take care of them)?

    Japan does not have a welfare system.

    Work for it, or do without."

    And :

    "These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

    1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

    2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

    3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

    5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

    Can you think of a reason for not sharing this? Neither could I."


    A full on rant about the perils of "Socialism".

  5. John Fraser


    This was my reply :

    "America has roundly rejected “Socialism” for 80 years.

    America is the “richest” country on earth.

    Why aren’t all Americans billionaires like Warren Buffet ($61.9 billion) or Bill Gates ($61.9) ?

    How is it that a Mexican is the richest man in the world ( Carlos Slim $78.7 billion) ?

    Looks to me like the “American dream” works better for Mexicans …. or just a few Americans.

    Fortunately Australia has never had “Socialism” instigated to the full extent ……….. but we do have Gina Rinehart ($17 billion) and James Packer ($6.6 billion).

    In 1945 America had a population of 140 million it has now doubled … America is the “richest” country on Earth by GDP.

    In 1945 Australia had a population of 7 million it has now trebled …. Australia is ranked seventeenth (17). Link :

    In 1945 Japan had a population of 126 million it has now doubled …. Japan is ranked fourth (4) “richest” country in the world by GDP.

    Which of these 3 countries would you prefer to live in.

    America, which has a Tea Party …. Japan that has no welfare …. or Australia where Abbott wants to follow America’s Tea Party."

  6. mars08

    It’s troubling that so many still think that the atomic bombs were the ONLY way to end the war, without the loss of numerous allied lives. There WERE alternatives…

  7. John Kelly

    It is a common misconception that the bomb had to be dropped to end the war. For some months prior to August 1945, the Japanese government were seeking to negotiate with the Americans through the Russians to end the war knowing that their position was hopeless. President Truman knew this but ignored it. That was bad enough. Hiroshima sealed the fate of the Japanese which made the bombing of Nagasaki an act of retribution.

  8. mars08

    John Kelly… that’s the history in a nutshell. There’s more to it (of course) but we hardly ever hear about it.

  9. Keitha Granville

    An act of unspeakable horror – but for those imprisoned by the Japanese at the time, the ned to their unspeakable horror. Neither was right. The only possible hope is that because of it and the continuing remembrance of it, none will ever be detonated again.

  10. J Marsh

    As I understand it, when Hiroshima was bombed there was not the knowledge about nuclear that we have now.
    I look around the world and see the nations who have nuclear arms potential, It makes no sense, why would any one want to unleash more of this destruction on the world?
    Why the push for nuclear power stations when it is known how long nuclear waste needs to be stored, to say nothing about the risk of malfunctions.
    Are we hell bent on destroying the world?

  11. Jason

    @John Kelly – great article!

    I have heard it said the use of two atomic bombs on Japan was as much a warning to Russia. The second world war was coming to an end and the contest with the USSR – who quickly went from ally to opponent – loomed.

    I’ve often been puzzled by Nagasaki.

    Even if the first strike on Hiroshima is accepted as a legitimate way of rapidly stopping the war, the use of a second bomb doesn’t seem warranted.

  12. Geoff Andrews

    On 3rd August 1945, Australian newspapers reported that 800 bombers dropped 6000 tons on five Japanese cities. They were met with little or no resistance in the air or from ground defences. Japan was defenceless. Good time to test run the ultimate weapon.


    Also on the front page of the link is a report that the Labour government has shelved a plan for a universal health scheme and the Minister for Immigration, Arthur Caldwell, has set the migrant intake level for 1946 at 80,000 i.e. more than 1% of the population. I think our current figure is less than 0.1%.

  13. mars08

    Jason… here’s part of an interesting article…

    Contrary to conventional opinion today, many military leaders of the time — including six out of seven wartime five-star officers — criticized the use of the atomic bomb.

    Take, for example, Adm. William Leahy, White House chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war. Leahy wrote in his 1950 memoirs that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” Moreover, Leahy continued, “[I]n being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

    President Eisenhower, the Allied commander in Europe during World War II, recalled in 1963, as he did on several other occasions, that he had opposed using the atomic bomb on Japan during a July 1945 meeting with Secretary of War Henry Stimson: “I told him I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.”

    Adm. William “Bull” Halsey, the tough and outspoken commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, which participated in the American offensive against the Japanese home islands in the final months of the war, publicly stated in 1946 that “the first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment.” The Japanese, he noted, had “put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before” the bomb was used.

  14. Möbius Ecko

    “I have heard it said the use of two atomic bombs on Japan was as much a warning to Russia.”

    Jason that is correct, but further, it was ALL about a warning to Russia. Peter Kuznic, a renowned Professor of History, put this forth in Oliver Stone’s “The Untold History of the United States” with credible sources and historical data backing it up.

    Japan had all but surrendered and was making moves to formerly do so, something the US knew, yet they still dropped an atomic bomb. As the Russians continues their expansion the US dropped a second atomic bomb that was completely unnecessary to their war effort against Japan but was a clear warning to the Russians.

  15. Eleana Winter-Irving

    Thank you for John Kelly for submitting this article. Although difficult reading, I did learn a few new things.

  16. Kaye Lee

    Let’s also remember the continuing struggle for the innocent victims of Maralinga.

    May 2001 – The British government has finally admitted that military personnel were used in radiation experiments during the nuclear weapons tests at Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950s. (This article is worth reading if you don’t know the story)

    January 2014 – When cabinet considered the report of the royal commission into the British nuclear tests, Aboriginal affairs minister Clyde Holding declared that the impact on Aboriginal people shepherded off their land was catastrophic.

    Holding said the plan to move Aboriginal people from the danger areas was appallingly executed.

    In a confidential report to cabinet in January 1986, then resources and energy minister Gareth Evans said British officials involved in talks on how the sites would be cleaned up and compensation paid to radiation victims argued that the UK should not be liable.

    The British delegation at the talks argued that Australia had moved the goalposts with the granting of land rights to Aboriginal people and questioned the Australian objective of cleaning up Maralinga and Emu so that they’d be fit for unrestricted habitation by the Aboriginal owners.

    ”It is certain that no thought was given to the problem of establishing the safety of land over many thousands of years,” the report said.

    Independent senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon plans to step up pressure THIS YEAR, 2014, to ensure those affected by the nuclear tests can be compensated properly.

    ”These Australian veterans were treated as human guinea pigs by the British government,” Senator Xenophon said.

    ”Successive Australian governments have ignored their plight and treated them with contempt.”

  17. John Kelly

    Kaye, successive Australian governments have also refused to acknowledge that members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, made up mostly of Australians who were sent to Hiroshima just 6 months after the bomb was dropped, suffered radiation poisoning. This, despite the huge number who have since died of leukaemia.

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