Harry Truman said in regard to the atomic bomb, "it seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful..." The atomic bomb could very well be the most terrible thing ever invented. It is a weapon of destruction. When first tested with only thirteen pounds of the explosive, the bomb left a crater six feet deep and twelve hundred feet in diameter as well as causing a sixty foot steel tower to literally disappear. This test which occurred in New Mexico was visible from two hundred miles away and could be heard up to forty miles away.
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With the destructive capabilities of this weapon in mind, using the bomb certainly would have been one of the most difficult decisions for Truman to make. He decided to use the bomb in order to shorten the war. His reasoning was that innumerable allied lives would be saved while delivering all people who were currently under Japanese rule. He gave Japan a chance to surrender, but they declined so he proceeded with the plan to drop the bomb called "Little Boy." This "Little Boy" happened to weigh 8,000 pounds and contained destructive power equal to 12.5 kilotons of TNT.
Once the decision was made, the decision of when and where the bomb was to be dropped shifted to General Carl Spaatz. A committee chose to drop the bomb on Hiroshima based on three main factors: Hiroshima was a very industrial city, had a military base, and had not yet been bombed, making it a good target to display the destructive power of the US's new super bomb. The bomb was dropped at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945 from a B-29 bomber. The bomb fell from the Enola Gay (the name of the bomber) with a parachute and the bomb exploded several hundred feet above the ground. "A bright light filled the plane," wrote Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay. "We turned back to look at Hiroshima. The city was hidden by that awful cloud...boiling up, mushrooming." For a moment, no one spoke. Then everyone was talking. "Look at that! Look at that! Look at that!" exclaimed the co-pilot, Robert Lewis while pounding on Tibbets' shoulder. Lewis said he could taste atomic fission; it tasted like lead. Then he turned away to write in his journal. "My God," he asked himself, "what have we done?" The bomb destroyed houses and buildings within a 1.5 mile radius. It was actually the winds created by the bomb which caused the most damage. The true damage however would not be realized for years to come. The long term effects of the bomb were discovered to be: genetic problems, malformed babies, retardations, radiation sickness, and mental trauma. The total death toll of "Little Boy" was about 200,000. After the bomb was dropped Truman once again warned Japan of the devastation which was to come if they did not surrender.
"Little Boy" and "Fat Man"
Japan failed to comply, however, and the plan was put in motion to drop a second bomb. The second bomb was called "Fat Man" and was to be dropped on the city of Kokura. Because Kokura had heavy cloud cover, the second choice city was Nagasaki. The "Fat Man," as its name would attest to, was much larger and had the destructive capabilities of 22 kilotons of TNT. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 am on August 9, 1945. It killed 150,000 people as well as causing the same long term effects as "Little Boy." By four o'clock on August fourteenth Japan had accepted unconditional surrender thus ending the war.
Baudot, Marcel ed., The Historical Encyclopedia of World War II. Facts on File, Inc, New York: 1980.
Dear, I.C.B. ed. The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press, New York: 1995.
A-Bomb WWW Museum
Atomic Bomb: Decision