The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 - Vol. 1

By D. F. Fleming | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
AFTER HIROSHIMA AUGUST-NOVEMBER 1945

AT 8:00 A.M. on August 6, 1945, the "all clear" signal after an air-raid warning was given in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Nothing had happened, so "nearly all the school children and some industrial employees" went to work in the open, tearing down buildings to provide fire breaks and removing valuables to the country. Delayed factory workers, not the majority, also travelled to work.1

At 8:45 a single American plane bearing an atomic bomb came over. Within a few minutes 80,000 people were dead and an equal number badly injured. Exploding high over the city, the bomb itself did terrific damage. Then fire spread over 4.4 square miles of the flimsy city, creating a "fire storm," with a powerful updraft, which quickly burned out the area. Some 62,000 buildings, or 69 per cent, were destroyed, 6.6 per cent were badly damaged and the remainder slightly so.

A giant step had been taken in the discovery of the weapons of destruction, by which man increasingly destroys his civilization. Quantitatively, the damage done in Hiroshima was not larger than had already been achieved in a single fire raid on Tokyo. Indeed it was less, since on March 9, 1945, 16 square miles of Tokyo were destroyed and as many people burned to death as at Hiroshima.2 For many weeks our bombers had been burning Japanese cities, with very high casualty rates. In Europe, also, old-fashioned bombs had destroyed some 70 cities.

These achievements, however, had required the use of many thousands of planes and of a few million tons of bombs. Now a city of 300,000 people could be destroyed with one bomb. The qualitative gain was enormous, granted that the cost of production was not too great.

The killing of Hiroshima at a single blow climaxed the greatest single coordinated effort of American scientific, engineering and industrial genius ever made. Since the Germans had first split the atom in 1938 we feared they would perfect atomic bombs during the war. Actually they had given up the effort as unattainable in their time, but we did not know that.3

____________________
1
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Washington, 1946, p. 3.
2
Ibid. Dr. Karl T. Compton says that one of our fire raids on Tokyo killed 125,000 people and another nearly 100,000. -- Atlantic Monthly, December 1946, p. 54. Stimson says that this raid killed more people and did more damage than the Hiroshima bomb. -- Stimson and Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War, p. 630.
3
Dr. A. S. Goudsmit, head of the military intelligence mission to Germany to investigate German atomic progress. -- The New York Times, December 7, 1945.

-295-

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