Details are important

I encourage you to read the autobiography or a biography of Paul Tibets.  He was the Air Corp pilot that flew the Enola Gay and dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan.  Don’t be lazy when it comes to understanding the important events in the history of the world.  If you merely rely upon news accounts of events on anniversary dates or glib magazine articles you will always get a distortion of the true events.   Get the facts as straight as you can then reach your on conclusions rather than being spoon fed interpretations by others.  Be your own interpreter.

The Manhattan Project that developed the Atom bomb was actually started well before the war began.  It got is birth with a letter written by Albert Einstein to Roosevelt in which he advised that the creation of such a device was possible and that the US must proceed with plans for its own device.   Immediately upon our entry into the War in Dec. of 1941 Roosevelt gave the development of the bomb the highest priority.  The Office of War Production was responsible for transforming all our industrial capability to war production and the allocation of all our natural resources.   If you were an electrician and needed copper wiring you had to get it from an allocation.  War production came first for everything, from oil to cotton, steel and chemicals.  The Manhattan Project had the highest priority of all.  What they needed they got.  It is quite amazing that more of the secret of the creation of the bomb did not get leaked.  There were thousands of people involved.   The Oak Ridge facility was built from scratch as was the experimental lab in Los Alamos.   Both were giant projects that had thousands on the payroll and thousands of military personnel guarding and providing support.  The scientists involved were not known for being closed mouthed about anything.   Yet the essential secret was maintained all those years.  Even Truman was unaware of the project until after the death of Roosevelt in April of 1945.   Even the one test of the bomb in July of ’45 was kept secret and explained away as a munition explosion on a military base.   Truman was informed of the success while he was attending the Potsdam conference outside of Berlin.

The planning for the bombing began in the spring of ’45.  Paul Tibbets was one of our best pilots and had already flown many missions in Europe when he was assigned to the special unit that would carry out the bombing run.  They trained in the new B-29’s for months.   The main base was on Tinian island in the Pacific.  It was east of Iwo Jima.  The round trip distance from Tinian to Japan was about 2800 miles.  Look on a map for  those islands.  We often forget how big the Pacific Ocean is.  We fought the battle for Iwo Jima primarily to have a half way base for emergencies for the B-29’s that were damaged by enemy fire or mechanical malfunction so they would have someplace to land.   On the real mission there was a complete backup crew and the bomb was loaded behind tarps.  No one could see what was being done.   The plane and the bombs were guarded 24 hours a day even though there were no known Japs within a thousand miles of Tinian.  There was a backup flight of planes.  There were three planes on the bombing mission.   Tibbet’s plane and two others for support and to record the event and take readings.  There was no fighter support for the mission.    On Iwo Jima they had dug a special hole at the end of one of the runways in case the Enola Gay had problems and had to land and unload the bomb.  It was secret and no doubt those Seabees wondered what the hell they were doing digging that hole and then hiding it behind tarps.   In the event of a problem the bomb would have been off loaded and buried until a backup plane arrived to complete the mission.  One such plane was on standby with another support group.   The bomb was not armed until in flight and near the target.  They had practiced that one aspect of the mission several times.   Everything had been rehearsed many, many times.   The Tibbets crew was the best of the best.   The navigator was critical as you can imagine.  We only had two devices at that time and it would be several months before any more would be ready for use.  That was a closely guarded secret as well.    After the mission all went well and the crews returned safely home.   Truman never hesitated about using the bomb because of it chances to reduce American casulties and Japanese as well.  After the horrors Iwo Jim and Okinawa the prospect of Operation Olympic to invade Japan proper and the estimated casualties was overwhelming.   You are encouraged to read the comments of those serving in uniform at the time about how they felt about using the bomb.   Many cried with joy.  Knowing they would not die or be maimed.   Tibbets was praised for ending the war by almost everyone.   The killing would finally end.    The aggression and barbarity of the Japanese was stopped and Asia was free from that yoke to make its own way.  It did with starts and fits but at least they mostly have determined their own destiny rather than having that destiny controlled from Tokyo.

As a note, we had firebombed Tokyo many months before and the firestorm resulting  produced more casualties in a single day than the bomb on Hiroshima.  War is a brutal and cruel entreprise.   There is nothing delicate about war.  

“All I can say for the United States senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation”  Will Rogers, 1956.   Hmmm.   Some things never change.

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Filed under geography, history, military history

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