On August 6, 1945, an event occurred that changed the world in every way imaginable and whose effects we are still living with today. That was the day that President Truman ordered an act of aerial warfare so destructive that there was no possible retaliation. That was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan. Many thousands of books and articles have been produced discussing the decision by the President to use this terrible weapon against our enemy.
The development of the atomic bomb has itself become a story that has reached the level of legend as scientists worked in secret for years on “The Manhattan Project” to perfect a weapon that would bring an end to the long and horrible World War II. Keeping the secret of how to build a nuclear weapon and developing and testing that weapon so our enemies would not discover what we had was a huge undertaking requiring the coordination of political, scientific and military personnel at the top levels of power.
What happened that morning of August 6th when the United States decided to use an ultimate weapon of aerial warfare, the atomic bomb, is an event that is almost impossible to imagine. Colonel Paul Tibbets was the pilot the B-29 bomber named The Enola Gay which he piloted from our the military base on Tinian island to Hiroshima to drop the most destructive bomb known to man on a city of 300,000 civilians. If you have ever seen footage of a nuclear test, to think how the power of that blast destroyed property and life that day is such an overwhelming thought as to be almost impossible to grasp.
The destruction was so incredible that there is no count on how many people died that day. The rough estimate is around 700,000 people. The political and military decision making that lead the President and his civilian and military advisors to agree to drop the bomb must have been complicated and soul wrenching. We know that World War II was taking a tremendous toll on all of the countries involved. Of course, our battle with Japan had been vicious and costly. From Pearle Harbor and going forward, it was Japan that drew us into that ugly conflict. But it was the bombing of Hiroshima and then the subsequent dropping of a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki that brought it to an end.
From a military strategy and aerial warfare point of view, the bombing of Hiroshima was a brilliant strategic move. To be fair, the military had been warning Japan that they must surrender or face a terrible consequence for months. As a military tactic, the bombing accomplished its goal because it brought out enemy to their knees and brought peace. Victory in World War II for America and her allies was gained in part due to the work of the Manhattan Project scientists and engineers and the bold leadership of President Truman to strike decisively to end the war.
But a secondary outcome of this devastating bombing is it created a permanent stigma and fear of these powerful weapons that changed how we view warfare forever. The cold war stayed cold because all parties on all sides knew that if a war took place where the nuclear option was executed by both sides, life on earth would come to an end. We can only hope that the warning those nightmare images from Hiroshima continue to scare the world away from ever using these horrible weapons again.