"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." (J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoting from the Bhagavad "Now we're all sons of bitches." (Ken Bainbridge - Trinity test site director) Hey kids! Looking for some light-hearted fun to take your minds off the hoards of diseased asylum seekers storming the borders of our country? Well you've come to the wrong place. This is the third instalment of Clint Panzerdivision's highly educational and only occasionally factually incorrect series on nuclear weaponry, and this time, as promised, we're going to fire up some A-bombs. Oh, and kill a whole bunch of Japanese folk. Twice.
On July 16, 1945, at the Trinity test site in the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert, New
Mexico, some of America's most brilliant scientific minds gathered to witness the greatest practical
advancement in modern physics that had ever been known; the culmination of six years and two billion
dollars of research; the world's first, brand spanking new, all singing, all dancing atomic bomb. Brilliant.
They called it the Gadget, a weapon that used precisely timed detonations to fuse a plutonium core, creating an atomic chain reaction which produced heat, blast and radiation. In abundance. The explosion, with a force of around nineteen thousand tons of TNT, shattered windows a hundred and twenty miles away. It vaporised the steel holding tower, turned the desert sand into glass, and sent a radioactive cloud of vapour thirty thousand feet into the air. U.S. Army sergeant Ben Benjamin described it as "brighter than twenty suns and the most spectacular sunrise ever seen".
One of the finer, though often sidelined results of the Trinity test explosion was that it didn't actually kill anyone. Oh, those halcyon days of innocent atomic fun.
On August 6, the B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a uranium bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy" over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb exploded about five hundred and eighty metres in the air over the Shima Hospital in Saiku-machi. At detonation, the temperature of the air at the point of explosion exceeded a million degrees Celsius, and a fireball appeared millionths of a second afterwards. In a second it had expanded to a diameter of two hundred and eighty meters. For the following three seconds, it emitted powerful heat rays, and continued to shine visibly for approximately 10 seconds. Of the energy released, about 35% was in the form of heat, 50% was blast, and about 15% was radiation.
At the moment of explosion, heat rays and radiation were released in all directions, and a blast of force was created by the pressure on the surrounding air. The cloud produced by the explosion rose, and as the column of radioactive soot and smoke reached the stratosphere, it spread horizontally to a diameter of several kilometres.
Ninety percent of the city's buildings collapsed or burned. Approximately eighty thousand people died, with a further sixty thousand dying of radiation poisoning that year.
Three days later, the B-29 Bockscar arrived over Kokura, but abandoned its primary target due to smoke cover and changed course for Nagasaki, where it dropped the plutonium "Fat Man" bomb over a tennis court in Matsuyama-machi. More than seventy thousand people died. Some say that dropping the bomb was necessary; that a protracted war with Japan would have cost far more lives in the long term. They point out that the Japanese were maintaining a policy of total war, i.e. ordering all civilians, including women and children, to work in munitions factories and fight invading forces, and that under these conditions there could be no distinction between
The counter-argument claims that Japan was essentially already defeated, and that their surrender terms had been rejected by the U.S. Government, who had insisted on an unconditional surrender unacceptable to the country's ruling body, and that the bombing was an unnecessary and barbaric display of military force from a country already preparing for a showdown with the USSR.
Mix both sides up a bit and you'll probably shake out some truth. That's usually the way these things work. Explaining the need for the second bomb probably takes a bit of doing though.
No nuclear weapons have been used in warfare since this time.
"Let all souls here rest in peace,
for we shall not repeat the evil."
(Memorial Cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Park)