Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Important, Very Important History

Let me start with an excerpt from Wikipedia about the flight of B-29 Bockscar, loaded with the second A-Bomb called "Fat Man" on August 9, 1945. On my way back from Washington D.C. in August 2006, I stopped at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Pattterson Air Force base and saw the Bockscar on display. I saw Enola Gay at the Smithonian Institute.


"Kokura was the primary target, but when Bockscar arrived at its rendezvous point off the coast of Japan the third aircraft of its flight was not present. After fruitlessly waiting 40 minutes, Sweeney and Bock proceeded to Kokura but found it obscured by clouds. Sweeney had orders to drop the atomic bomb visually if possible, and after three unsuccessful passes over Kokura, conferred with weaponeer Commander Frederick Ashworth (USN). They agreed to strike the secondary target, Nagasaki.

A combination of factors including confusion about a malfunctioning transfer pump made fuel consumption a critical factor. Ashworth did not want to be forced to dump the bomb into the sea and decided to make a radar bombing run if necessary. However, enough of an opening appeared in the cloud cover to allow Bombardier Kermit Beahan to confirm Nagasaki and the bomb was dropped, with ground zero being about 3/4 mile from the planned aiming point. This combined with Nagasaki's position on the foothills (as opposed to Hiroshima's mostly flat terrain) resulted in lower overall casualties than in Hiroshima, with much of the blast confined in the Urakami Valley.

Because of the delays in the mission, the B-29 did not have sufficient fuel to reach the emergency landing field at Iwo Jima, so Major Sweeney flew the aircraft to Okinawa, where, despite being unable to make contact with the control tower, he made a safe landing with virtually empty fuel tanks."


Yes, the primary target of the Bockscar mission was Kokura and not Nagasaki! VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW THIS! Bockscar had given up bombing on Kokura because of cloud cover. How fortunate Kokura was and how unfortunate for the Nagasakians.

Recently I read a book written by one of the Kokuranites who was 12 years old then. This person remembered the clear morning sky on August 9, seeing a lone B-29 high above gradually shadowed by the dusky clouds. It then turned and flew away from Kokura. She thought the B-29 she saw must have been Bockscar that dropped the Fat Man in Nagasaki and had been puzzled since that day about the sudden change of weather at the time. She thinks she had her long time riddle solved from reliable sources that the dusky cloud cover was a man-made smoke screen. Per Wikipedia, Enola Gay deployed and flew over Kokura as the weather observation plane. The writer might have seen Enola Gay and not Bockscar. Another explanation is as follows. Yahata Iron & Steel in Kokura was air-raided the night before. The Tinian Bockscar and the air-raid bombers of August 8 had not talked to each other. Kokura was covered with smoke from the raid the night before. The Bockscar was given orders directly from President Harry S. Truman and even General Douglas MacArthur was not notified of his decision until the last minute.

My city, Imabari, was air-raided on the night of August 5. I thought it had no relation to the bombing of Hiroshima which took place on August 6; but there was! To isolate the A-Bomb target city from surrounding cities for food supplies and rescue efforts, Himeji, Tokuyama, Ube, Shimonoseki and Moji were raided in July. Imabari, along with Uwajima, Fukuyama were raided just before Hiroshima.

The Tinian based A-Bomb B-29s, meanwhile, were on their decoy flights for meteorological observation for 15 days prior to the day of attack. Every morning one B-29 flew at exactly the same time without escort fighters as if it was there only to monitor the weather. This was done not to alert and provoke defense from the ground forces and it tricked both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Residents of Hiroshima saw the bomb parachute coming down after the air-raid warning cleared.

All the air-raided cities were said to have read the warning bills. I hadn't seen any. Cities warned were raided as warned, except Hiroshima, Kokura and Nagasaki. Reportedly, a few wise men sensed something was wrong and felt uneasy.

Hiroshima, the target city of the first A-Bomb, "Little Boy" three days earlier, was the home base of the Japanese Imperial War Headquarters, and the 5th Army Squadron. Kokura had the Imperial Army Arsenal and Ordinances. The main Kyushu Army Squadron once stationed in Kokura was relocated to Kurume years ago. Kokura made most of the army weaponry and also balloon bombs.

After my return from the U.S. and having settled down in Kitakyushu in the mid l990s, I spent many days at the Central Library to learn about Kitakyushu, my new adopted city after Imabari, Osaka, Tokyo, New York, San Diego. I was able to find the air raid records of Yahata Iron & Works but not of any Kokura Arsenal and Ordinance. I befriended someone my age who graduated from Kokura high school and was able to read his school alumni bulletin. This friend had worked at the Kokura Arsenal in his school days. His information was helpful. It is shocking to discover Kokura was the first target and its epicenter could have been the library where I was currently sitting. Kokura had extensive underground passages and shelters but nobody knew how effective they were.


As of August 9, 2007, 143,124 Nagasakians were on the death toll; Hiroshima close to 200,000. We have about 250,000 victims alive who hold certified entitlements to receive medical aid under the Government's A-Bomb Survivors Law. One feature of the A-bomb is that the statistic is open ended. The A-Bomb changed the war. An atomic bomb eliminates the city, history and blood lineage. What happens when humans know they have no future. It becomes meaningless to live, to work, to learn, or to try anything.

Enola Gay carried the gun assembly Little Boy that used highly enriched uranium. Bockscar carried the implosion assembly Fat Man that used plutonium. There was no 3rd bomb in existence but the Allied Forces hinted "more to come and soon" as further threat against Japan if necessary.

Another August 6 is approaching. Just behind the Central Library of Kokura is a miniature Nagasaki bell and a small memorial built for Nagasaki victims of the A-Bomb attack. Leis of a "thousand origami cranes" were wet when I visited on a rainy day a week ago. Agapanthus were in bloom in white and purple. Kokuranites are to gather here to pray at 11am on August 9 and I will also be there.

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