I was watching CBS Sunday Morning earlier today and one of the segments had to do with interviewing people who were first-hand witnesses to the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Although the bomb was more powerful than the one that descended on the inhabitants of Hiroshima, it was not nearly as destructive due to a number of coincidental factors.
Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was 33% more powerful than Fat Man, the bomb ultimately dropped on Nagasaki, and more than twice as many people where killed in Hiroshima. Some of this was the topography of the land as well as the fact that sighting of the bomb on Hiroshima was more accurate than the targeting over Nagasaki. While the event over Hiroshima was considered textbook, with the flight of the Enola Gay, there were multiple problems during the second attack – including the last minute decision to head to the back-up target city.
The plane delivering Fat Man, nicknamed Bockscar, was to be accompanied by two other planes, one to help assess the power of the explosion and one to film the aftermath – the second plane never showed up at the rendezvous. The primary target was the city of Kokura, but smoke and steam over the city made sighting for the release of the bomb impossible. A decision was made to proceed to the alternate site – the city of Nagasaki – that had only been added as a potential site the day before – having been removed from the original list of targets during the process of elimination.
The American military had given thought to what they considered ideal targets. Hiroshima and Kokura were military targets that were relatively flat – ideal conditions for a more damaging impact from an atomic blast. Kyoto had been scratched from the list of targets due to its cultural importance and Yokohama, another primary target, had been removed due to the extensive damage it had already suffered from prior aerial bombings. It seems that it was important to our military that they be able to assess the damage from the atomic explosion without the problems of determining how much damage had been done by other prior attacks on the city.
So when it was difficult to determine exactly where to drop Fat Man over Kyoto, it was decided to move on the the back-up target – Nagasaki – and Bockscar arrived at it’s target site at 11:50 a.m., finally dropping its payload that detonated at 12:02 p.m. The blast occurred about 3/4 of a mile off target, destroying a torpedo factory that was not a part of the plan, as well as the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works, which was completely wiped out. The bomb detonated 1640′ over the city – the optimal height for the greatest damage. Temperatures were as hot as 7000 degrees and people below were vaporized in the moment after the blast.
Schools in the area were completely destroyed and more than 40,000 people were killed in addition to the 40,000 more who were injured. Damage reports were a little difficult to assess as Nagasaki had already been bombed four times and our military was trying to determine actual damage caused by Fat Man.
Today the city has been rebuilt and there are monuments and reminders of the bomb. People who were children and saw the blast have been living reminders of the carnage that happened. One woman, nine at the time of the bombing, lives with constant memories of what that day was like – the day her life changed. Her father had kept her home from school – fearing a bombing – and that is what saved her. As it was, she was less than 1-1/2 miles from the epicenter of the explosion. It is a miracle that she survived and hasn’t died of the same radiation poisoning that so many others have succumbed to.
The lessons learned here, and at Hiroshima, should have taught each of us a lesson. And that is that there is hatred in the world and that is not what is on the heart of God. Even if our enemies are not Christ followers, we are called to a higher standard of loving one another well. As evidenced by the bombings in Japan and the issues surrounding the possibility of nuclear capabilities in Iran and that troubled part of the world, I sincerely hope that cooler heads will prevail and that peace may come to the world.
The verse for this evening, as we remember the massive death and destruction seventy years ago today, is from the writer of Hebrews. We are told, in Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” My encouragement this evening is that all of us can set aside our differences and honor one another well. My prayer is that through the commitment of Christ followers throughout the world, we may overcome the strife and warfare that permeates every broken place in the world. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…