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Runtime: 60 minutes
Firsthand - Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Netflix
During the final stage of World War II, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. The United States dropped the bombs after obtaining the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings killed at least 129,000 people, most of whom were civilians. They remain the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of warfare. In the final year of the war, the Allies prepared for what was anticipated to be a bloody invasion of the Japanese mainland. This undertaking was preceded by a conventional and firebombing campaign that destroyed 67 Japanese cities. The war in Europe had concluded when Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945. As the Allies turned their full attention to the war in the Pacific War, the Japanese faced the same fate. The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945—the alternative being “prompt and utter destruction”. The Japanese ignored the ultimatum and the war continued. By August 1945, the Allies' Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs, and the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. Orders for atomic bombs to be used on four Japanese cities were issued on July 25. On August 6, one of its B-29s dropped a Little Boy uranium gun-type bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, a Fat Man plutonium implosion-type bomb was dropped by another B-29 on Nagasaki. The bombs immediately devastated their targets. Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition, for many months afterward. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison. Japan announced its surrender to the Allies on August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war. On September 2, the Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II. The ethical and legal justification for the bombings is still debated to this day.
Firsthand - Bombing of Nagasaki - Netflix
At 03:49 on the morning of August 9, 1945, Bockscar, flown by Sweeney's crew, carried Fat Man, with Kokura as the primary target and Nagasaki the secondary target. The mission plan for the second attack was nearly identical to that of the Hiroshima mission, with two B-29s flying an hour ahead as weather scouts and two additional B-29s in Sweeney's flight for instrumentation and photographic support of the mission. Sweeney took off with his weapon already armed but with the electrical safety plugs still engaged. During pre-flight inspection of Bockscar, the flight engineer notified Sweeney that an inoperative fuel transfer pump made it impossible to use 640 US gallons (2,400 l; 530 imp gal) of fuel carried in a reserve tank. This fuel would still have to be carried all the way to Japan and back, consuming still more fuel. Replacing the pump would take hours; moving the Fat Man to another aircraft might take just as long and was dangerous as well, as the bomb was live. Tibbets and Sweeney therefore elected to have Bockscar continue the mission. This time Penney and Cheshire were allowed to accompany the mission, flying as observers on the third plane, Big Stink, flown by the group's operations officer, Major James I. Hopkins, Jr. Observers aboard the weather planes reported both targets clear. When Sweeney's aircraft arrived at the assembly point for his flight off the coast of Japan, Big Stink failed to make the rendezvous. According to Cheshire, Hopkins was at varying heights including 9,000 feet (2,700 m) higher than he should have been, and was not flying tight circles over Yakushima as previously agreed with Sweeney and Captain Frederick C. Bock, who was piloting the support B-29 The Great Artiste. Instead, Hopkins was flying 40-mile (64 km) dogleg patterns. Though ordered not to circle longer than fifteen minutes, Sweeney continued to wait for Big Stink for forty minutes. Before leaving the rendezvous point, Sweeney consulted Ashworth, who was in charge of the bomb. As commander of the aircraft, Sweeney made the decision to proceed to the primary, the city of Kokura.
Bockscar flew on to Okinawa, arriving with only sufficient fuel for a single approach. Sweeney tried repeatedly to contact the control tower for landing clearance, but received no answer. He could see heavy air traffic landing and taking off from Yontan Airfield. Firing off every flare on board to alert the field to his emergency landing, the Bockscar came in fast, landing at 140 miles per hour (230 km/h) instead of the normal 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). The number two engine died from fuel starvation as he began the final approach. Touching down midway down the landing strip, Bockscar bounced up into the air again for about 25 feet (7.6 m) before slamming back down hard. The heavy B-29 slewed left and towards a row of parked B-24 bombers before the pilots managed to regain control. Its reversible propellers were insufficient to slow the aircraft adequately, and with both pilots standing on the brakes, Bockscar made a swerving 90-degree turn at the end of the runway to avoid running off it. A second engine died from fuel exhaustion before the plane came to a stop. The flight engineer later measured fuel in the tanks and concluded that less than five minutes total remained. Following the mission, there was confusion over the identification of the plane. The first eyewitness account by war correspondent William L. Laurence of The New York Times, who accompanied the mission aboard the aircraft piloted by Bock, reported that Sweeney was leading the mission in The Great Artiste. He also noted its “Victor” number as 77, which was that of Bockscar. Laurence had interviewed Sweeney and his crew, and was aware that they referred to their airplane as The Great Artiste. Except for Enola Gay, none of the 393d's B-29s had yet had names painted on the noses, a fact which Laurence himself noted in his account. Unaware of the switch in aircraft, Laurence assumed Victor 77 was The Great Artiste, which was in fact, Victor 89.
Responsibility for the timing of the second bombing was delegated to Tibbets. Scheduled for August 11 against Kokura, the raid was moved earlier by two days to avoid a five-day period of bad weather forecast to begin on August 10. Three bomb pre-assemblies had been transported to Tinian, labeled F-31, F-32, and F-33 on their exteriors. On August 8, a dress rehearsal was conducted off Tinian by Sweeney using Bockscar as the drop airplane. Assembly F-33 was expended testing the components and F-31 was designated for the August 9 mission.
After exceeding the original departure time limit by nearly a half-hour, Bockscar, accompanied by The Great Artiste, proceeded to Kokura, thirty minutes away. The delay at the rendezvous had resulted in clouds and drifting smoke over Kokura from fires started by a major firebombing raid by 224 B-29s on nearby Yahata the previous day. Additionally, the Yawata Steel Works intentionally burned coal tar, to produce black smoke. The clouds and smoke resulted in 70% of the area over Kokura being covered, obscuring the aiming point. Three bomb runs were made over the next 50 minutes, burning fuel and exposing the aircraft repeatedly to the heavy defenses around Kokura, but the bombardier was unable to drop visually. By the time of the third bomb run, Japanese antiaircraft fire was getting close, and Second Lieutenant Jacob Beser, who was monitoring Japanese communications, reported activity on the Japanese fighter direction radio bands. After three runs over the city, and with fuel running low because of the failed fuel pump, Bockscar and The Great Artiste headed for their secondary target, Nagasaki. Fuel consumption calculations made en route indicated that Bockscar had insufficient fuel to reach Iwo Jima and would be forced to divert to Okinawa, which had become entirely Allied-occupied territory only six weeks earlier. After initially deciding that if Nagasaki were obscured on their arrival the crew would carry the bomb to Okinawa and dispose of it in the ocean if necessary, Ashworth agreed with Sweeney's suggestion that a radar approach would be used if the target was obscured. At about 07:50 Japanese time, an air raid alert was sounded in Nagasaki, but the “all clear” signal was given at 08:30. When only two B-29 Superfortresses were sighted at 10:53, the Japanese apparently assumed that the planes were only on reconnaissance and no further alarm was given. A few minutes later at 11:00, The Great Artiste dropped instruments attached to three parachutes. These instruments also contained an unsigned letter to Professor Ryokichi Sagane, a physicist at the University of Tokyo who studied with three of the scientists responsible for the atomic bomb at the University of California, Berkeley, urging him to tell the public about the danger involved with these weapons of mass destruction. The messages were found by military authorities but not turned over to Sagane until a month later. In 1949, one of the authors of the letter, Luis Alvarez, met with Sagane and signed the letter. At 11:01, a last-minute break in the clouds over Nagasaki allowed Bockscar's bombardier, Captain Kermit Beahan, to visually sight the target as ordered. The Fat Man weapon, containing a core of about 5 kg (11 lb) of plutonium, was dropped over the city's industrial valley. It exploded 47 seconds later at 1,650 ± 33 ft (503 ± 10 m), above a tennis court, halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Nagasaki Arsenal in the north. This was nearly 3 km (1.9 mi) northwest of the planned hypocenter; the blast was confined to the Urakami Valley and a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills. The resulting explosion released the equivalent energy of 21 ± 2 kt (87.9 ± 8.4 TJ). Big Stink spotted the explosion from a hundred miles away, and flew over to observe.
Firsthand - References - Netflix