Monday, August 10, 2015

More atomic musings

The BBC has some pretty good material on the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  I thought this piece on "the man who saved Kyoto from the atomic bomb" (apparently, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who had visited the city several times in the 1920's and may have honeymooned there) was interesting; as was this time line of the countdown to Hiroshima.   There was a popular book about the Enola Gay's mission some years ago which I think is still on my bookshelf somewhere - I may yet get around to reading it.

One thing that I thought about today was how long it may have taken for photographic evidence of the extent of the devastation in Hiroshima to reach the fractured government in Tokyo.  I mean, it's easy for us to look at the photos now and think it's amazing it took any more than a day or so to end the war after that scene of instant devastation, but visual communication then was not what it is now.

I guess someone has written about when the first photos of it were to be seen in Tokyo, but I haven't found the definitive answer. Certainly, Wikipedia indicates that at least eyewitness reports were being received pretty quickly:
On August 7, a day after Hiroshima was destroyed, Dr. Yoshio Nishina and other atomic physicists arrived at the city, and carefully examined the damage. They then went back to Tokyo and told the cabinet that Hiroshima was indeed destroyed by an atomic bomb. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, estimated that no more than one or two additional bombs could be readied, so they decided to endure the remaining attacks, acknowledging "there would be more destruction but the war would go on."[164] American Magic codebreakers intercepted the cabinet's messages.[165]
On that point about the limited number of bombs that the Japanese thought America might have, another Wikipedia entry notes this:
Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, argued that even if the United States had made one, they could not have many more.[78] American strategists, having anticipated a reaction like Toyoda's, planned to drop a second bomb shortly after the first, to convince the Japanese that the U.S. had a large supply.[62][79]

 I hadn't heard before about this possibly influential lie told by a captured US pilot:
The full cabinet met on 14:30 on August 9, and spent most of the day debating surrender. As the Big Six had done, the cabinet split, with neither Tōgō's position nor Anami's attracting a majority.[88] Anami told the other cabinet ministers that, under torture, a captured American P-51 fighter pilot had told his interrogators that the United States possessed 100 atom bombs and that Tokyo and Kyoto would be bombed "in the next few days". The pilot, Marcus McDilda, was lying. He knew nothing of the Manhattan Project and simply told his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear to end the torture. The lie, which caused him to be classified as a high-priority prisoner, probably saved him from beheading.[89] In reality, the United States would have had the third bomb ready for use around August 19, and a fourth in September 1945.[90] The third bomb probably would have been used against Tokyo.[91]
 The Atlantic had this story which gives some details of the attempted coup and efforts to protect the Emperor's recorded surrender broadcast.   Many military leaders were killing themselves, and unfortunately taking others with them:
In the days that followed the emperor’s radio address, at least eight generals killed themselves. On one afternoon, Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, commander of the Fifth Air Fleet on the island of Kyushu, drank a farewell cup of sake with his staff and drove to an airfield where 11 D4Y Suisei dive-bombers were lined up, engines roaring. Before him stood 22 young men, each wearing a white headband emblazoned with a red rising sun.

Ugaki climbed onto a platform and, gazing down on them, asked, “Will all of you go with me?”
“Yes, sir!” they all shouted, raising their right hands in the air.

“Many thanks to all of you,” he said. He climbed down from the stand, got into his plane, and took off. The other planes followed him into the sky.

Aloft, he sent back a message: “I am going to proceed to Okinawa, where our men lost their lives like cherry blossoms, and ram into the arrogant American ships, displaying the real spirit of a Japanese warrior.”

Ugaki’s kamikazes flew off toward the expected location of the American fleet. They were never heard from again.
Well, for the airmen following him, I wonder if crashing pointlessly into an empty ocean might have felt a particularly embittering way to end their war.

Anyhow, back to the atomic bombings.  The Wikipedia entry spends a bit of time on the debate had at the time about whether a demonstration bomb should be attempted, which is good to see.  (Jon Stewart should have read about this.)   

While the great uncertainty around whether the airborne bombs would even work, and the very small number available, makes for a convincing argument as to why it would have been extremely risky to make the  first one an advertised demonstration,  I wonder if a decent case can be made for the second bomb being a demonstration: one (say) within obvious sight of Tokyo.   I suppose you would never be sure how many people would see it unless you warned them, and the mountain is not within easy sight of all parts of the city, but I speculate that seeing the spiritually important Mount Fuji under an atomic cloud (but at the relatively "safe" distance of 130 km) might have been psychologically very damaging.  (Whether the subsequent number of people sickened by radiation around Tokyo would have been worse than the number sickened at Nagasaki remains guesswork,  I suppose; but I presume there would have been comparatively few immediate casualties.)

Oh, and here's another thing I read about today - the extensive underground space known as the Matsushiro Underground Imperial Headquarters that was intended to be the last refuge of the Japanese government.  Now in the suburbs of Nagano, it was no small undertaking:
Construction began on November 11, 1944[2] and continued until Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945. Construction was 75% completed at the end of the war, with 5,856.6 square meters (63,040 sq ft) of floor-space (59,635 cubic meters (2,106,000 cu ft) of volume) excavated. Between 7,000 and 10,000 Korean slave laborers were used to build the complex, and it is estimated that 1,500 of them died.[3] Forty-six Koreans disappeared on August 15, 1945, when Japan surrendered. 
 It was supposed to house an underground Imperial Palace: 
The original purpose of the complex was to serve as an alternative headquarters for the Imperial General headquarters. However, in March 1945, secret orders were issued to add a palace to the complex.[5] Yoshijirō Umezu informed Emperor Hirohito about construction of the complex in May, but did not tell him that it contained a palace. The plan was to relocate the Emperor to the complex in an armored train. When informed about the existence of the palace in July, Hirohito twice refused to relocate.[5] It has been suggested that he refused because going to Matsushiro would have isolated the Emperor and allowed the army to rule in his name, effectively guaranteeing they would pursue the war to "suicidal extremes".[6]
And finally, just as I linked the other day to photos taken of the resilient Hiroshima only two years after the bombing, here is a great series of photos from last year's The Atlantic of Japan in the 1950's, complete with its rapid industrialisation, Americanisation, and transistor TVs.   What an incredible transformation the country made in such a small time...

Update:   here's a lengthy article at Politico about the US's less than fully helpful research into the health effect of the victims of the bombings.    Makes it all the more remarkable that US popular culture took off in the country within a short space of time.   Here's some particularly sad information:
By the 1960s, long after Dr. Yamazaki had left Nagasaki, a study examining the effects of radiation exposure in utero in Nagasaki and Hiroshima grew to 3,600 children, including their control groups. As these children grew older, the ABCC’s outcomes confirmed radiation exposure as the cause of most of the children’s health conditions, including high incidences of microcephaly and neurological impairments. The studies revealed the particular vulnerabilities of timing as it related to in utero radiation exposure. Children who had been exposed at eight to 15 weeks after conception demonstrated significantly greater risk of developmental disabilities because fetal brain cells are more susceptible to radiation damage in this stage of pregnancy. In a Nagasaki substudy published in 1972, eight of nine children (89 percent) exposed before the 18th week of pregnancy were diagnosed with microcephaly—compared to two of nine children (22 percent) exposed to the same levels of radiation later in their gestational development.
Update 2:   see here for a post about the important symbolism of Fuji, including information about the way Allied propaganda "targetted" the mountain in leaflets, and considered bombing it. 

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