Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Fat Man" and "Little Boy"

Tomorrow, August 6, will mark the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. To this day, this is one of the most controversial topics in American history. Richard B. Frank says in his book Downfall, “The actual total of deaths due to the atomic bombs will never be known. The best approximation is that the number is huge and falls between 100,000 and 200,000.” Beginning in the summer of 1944, American B-29’s began firebombing raids over the Japanese homeland. The most up-to-date numbers place the number of people lost in fire-bombing missions over Japan at over 300,000.

The next step after Okinawa was to invade the Japanese homeland. Expected casualty figures were very high for both the United States and Japan., especially because of a massive Japanese mobilization of civilians, including women and children, in anticipation of the invasion. During an interview, Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, said, “I knew we did the right thing because when I knew we’d be doing that I thought, yes, we’re going to kill a lot of people, but by God we’re going to save a lot of lives. We won’t have to invade [Japan].” Japan announced its surrender on August 15, six days after the dropping of the second atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” and no Japanese homeland invasion was necessary.

Below is a photo of an original bomb casing of a plutonium bomb, in a “Fat Man” type format, like the one that was dropped on Nagasaki. This casing was to be used if the war did not end when it did. Now, it is on display in the atomic bomb gallery of the new George H. W. Bush Gallery.