New Sun Burning 12

Land of the Rising Sun (Andruss)


At 8.15 AM on 6 August 1945 a B-29 bomber christened ‘Enola Gay’ after the pilot’s mother, dropped Little Boy- an atomic bomb containing 140lbs of uranium over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The bomb exploded 1,900 feet above the city with a yield of 12,500 tons of TNT. Or to put it another way, the equivalent of 2,000 B-29 bombers fully loaded with conventional weapons.

The temperature at the centre of the explosion reached 6 million degrees; about 4 times hotter than the heart of the sun.

A Japanese doctor tending to a patient in the hills outside the city remembered…
‘A dazzling flash penetrated my eyes. Violent heat hit my face and arms. I fell to the floor covering my face with my hands and crawled outside. I expected fire but saw only blue sky between my fingers. The trees were not moving. It was entirely quiet.
           ‘Then I saw a great fire ring floating above the city. Within moments there was a growing white cloud in the centre of the red ring. At the same time a long black cloud spread over the entire city and began to surge up the valley enveloping woods, paddy fields, farms and houses.
           ‘As the shock wave hit I was flung into the air. Around me shutters, screens and thatched roofs were whipped around as if paper. I flew thirty feet through the house ending up half buried by bits of roof and building rubble. My eyes, ears and even my mouth were filled with mud. After seeing to the injured household, I borrowed a farmer’s bicycle and headed to the city to report to the hospital.’

At this point he did not know over 90% of the city’s doctors and nurses were dead along with some 30% of the population.

His eyewitness report continues…
‘On the road a strange figure approached unsteady on its feet. I could not tell if it was male or female for the body was completely swollen. It had a curiously large head with no hair, swollen eyelids and lips covering almost half its face. It was covered in torn strips of rag that dripped water. After some moments I realised the rags were burned flesh and skin hanging like rawhide and the dripping water was blood.
          ‘It collapsed. I felt for a pulse. But there was none. When I looked up I was confronted by a nightmarish procession of burned and bloody survivors, rank upon rank of living dead staggering or crawling on their hands and knees.’

People caught within a half mile of the epicentre were vaporised. The only evidence of their existence was a permanent shadow created by the thermal blast.

After the flash came the shock wave travelling at 10,000 feet per second and with the force of 7 tons per sq. meter. It destroyed 60,000 buildings. As the doctor said, the shock wave stripped flesh from the bone leaving it dangling like ragged clothes.

The flash and the shock wave killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people. Many more died within the week of their injuries. As the remainder began to show signs of recovery, they were hit with a sudden high fever and began sweating copiously. Doctors were puzzled by the appearance of fresh lesions and patches of dead skin. Patients started bleeding from the mouth, eyes, ears and anus. These were the symptoms of previously unsuspected radiation poisoning that killed another 60,000 people before the year’s end.

The Allies decided to drop the bomb because they hoped to shorten the war by months and save countless thousands of soldiers’ lives. They warned the Japanese Government to expect utter devastating destruction, if they did not unconditionally surrender.

The Japanese Government’s response was to create a home guard of civilians armed with bamboo spears, instructed to fight to the death to resist the enemy invasion. They were not aware the Allies had developed an atomic weapon. Had they been, it would have made no difference. Their response to Hiroshima was… even of the Allies possessed a second atomic bomb, after the horror of Hiroshima public opinion would mean they dare not use it.

They did not know the morality of atomic war had already been extensively debated. There were many arguments for and against, including one that bluntly said… Why spend 2 billion dollars developing a weapon not to use it?

Yet, the clincher really was saving Allied lives through shortening the war by six months to a year.

Three days later on the 9th of August a second more effective design of a plutonium implosion bomb, christened Fat Man, was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Its yield was almost twice that of Little Boy. Fortunately the steep hills surrounding the city helped contain the impact. Still, some 70,000 people died in the blast.

After Nagasaki, President Truman declared he would use no more atomic weapons against Japan.

On the 14 August the Japanese Emperor Hirohito instructed his ministers to accept the complete and utter surrender demanded by the enemy.

12 thoughts on “New Sun Burning

  1. Reply Christy B Jun 4,2017 9:44 pm

    Horrific. And now there is the potential for a World War 3.. This post makes it all seem unreal yet, sadly, the events you speak of happened.. The numbers you quote are terrifying.

    • Reply Paul Jun 4,2017 11:43 pm

      Christie you are so right…. we lurch blindly ever forward – it’s frightening. What is more frightening is that neither of these weapons were particularly efficient. Hiroshima’s Little Boy exploded at only 1.4% of it’s destructive potential. Fat Man at Nagasaki 14%. A couple of years later the bombs being tested in the US realised around 35%. Presumably things have got a lot ‘better’ since then. The good news is we have survived a nuclear conflict now for 50 years despite the Cold War and some frightening states having acquired nuclear weapons (and being at loggerheads with other frightening powers). We can only hope.

  2. Reply Shehanne Moore May 31,2017 10:20 am

    An excellent piece Paul. You kept it totally business-like which added to the horror of that day. The thing is they tested before they dropped. I had an uncle who was in the navy and like that was one of the sailors hauled in to observe. He never forgot what he saw and his health was ruined ever after too. So they had to know something of what was going to happen re the affects.

    • Reply Paul Jun 1,2017 12:12 am

      Hi Shey, I think you are right they did have a good idea… apparently a good number of Japanese cities were already destroyed with conventional firebombing… but I suppose they thought it was their allied soldier’s lives over Japanese civilians…. Still doesn’t make it right though. Thank god we have avoided world war 3… so far!

  3. Reply Tina Frisco May 28,2017 11:27 pm

    I have never been more ashamed of or appalled by my country’s actions ~ although the Trump administration is threatening to become a runner up. There is no excuse for war, much less the use of atomic warfare. To massively kill in order to preserve life is incomprehensible to me. I’m reminded of Dorothy Bryant’s book, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. There’s a scene where the people resist nonviolently by standing by and witnessing as a man rapes a woman. Needless to say, he couldn’t follow through on the act. Heinous deeds want no witnesses…
    You reported this like a professional journalist, Paul. Well done ♥

    • Reply Paul May 29,2017 1:44 am

      Firstly thank you for the compliment Tina it is deeply appreciated.
      I originally struggled with the idea of using the bomb to save lives. To play devil’s advocate (even though I don’t agree with the decision) I can see their point of saving allied lives and possible Japanese lives as men women and children were being trained to sacrifice themselves resisting- like the Hitler youth in the fall of Berlin. Like we whould have if The Nazis had invaded the UK. The Allies had already reduced many Japanese cities to rubble to no avail, so perhaps their motives were to save many more than they sacrificed. Plus they were not aware of radiation poisoning at that point… But equally the idea of why spend 2 billion on a weapon you won’t use must have played a part. With the recent tragedy at a concert in Manchester with a suicide bomber, you must wonder if humans are genetically incapable of peace.

  4. Reply Sally Cronin May 28,2017 11:05 pm

    The facts make it all the starker Paul. When we talk about figures of that magnitude they lose their meaning. I was reading recently that 17 million civilians died in World War I and 50 million civilians in World War II.. advanced military prowess including the atomic bombs making it that much easier. The description you have included is clinical but emotionally compelling too. Another excellent piece..

    • Reply Paul May 28,2017 11:18 pm

      Dear Sally thank you so much – that is exactly the reaction I was after. I agree, reading about such numbers is numbing – almost beyond comprehension. Thank God we never hit World War 3, but I cannot help wondering what will be the next thing to cull us?

  5. Reply Sue Vincent May 28,2017 9:10 am

    As a child, my grandfather had cine-film of the Hiroshima bomb. I learned early what horror man could unleash. I can still remember the feeling of utter helplessness just watching from a distance of years and miles induced in that child. The true face of war should be taught, not sanitised.

    • Reply Paul May 28,2017 6:15 pm

      Well said Sue! If we are being watched by superior beings I wonder what they will judge us on… the Sistine chapel ceiling, the acropolis, the moon landings or our inhumanity to other creatures including our own species… pick a genocide… any genocide.

  6. Reply Robbie Cheadle May 28,2017 8:41 am

    Oh my goodness, Paul. I have the shivers. I have never read an account like this about Hiroshima as we studied it at school in a very peripheral way. I feel quite ill.

    • Reply Paul May 28,2017 6:11 pm

      I am glad you said that Robbie because I really struggled with how I should write it. I decided unemotional narrative would be best to let the reader experience the true horror without telling them what to feel. I must admit there were times I was filling up writing this… (A bit like JK Rowling when Dobbie died! (Appalling joke I know but I couldn’t resist!))

Leave a Reply




%d bloggers like this: