Tag Archives: Imperial Japanese Navy

Japanese war crimes – Execution of Bill Newton – Life & Death

William Ellis (Bill) Newton

8 June 1919 – 29 March 1943

William Ellis (Bill) Newton
Informal head-and-shoulders portrait of dark-haired, moustachioed man in dark military jacket with pilot's wings on left breast pocket, and peaked cap

Bill Newton, c. 1942
Nickname(s)“The Firebug”; “Blue Cap”
Born(1919-06-08)8 June 1919

St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

Died29 March 1943(1943-03-29) (aged 23)

Salamaua, Papua New Guinea

AllegianceAustralia
Service/branchCitizen Military Force (1938–40)

Royal Australian Air Force (1940–43)

Years of service1938–43
RankFlight Lieutenant
UnitNo. 22 Squadron (1942–43)
Battles/warsWorld War II

AwardsVictoria Cross

William Ellis (Bill) Newton, VC (8 June 1919 – 29 March 1943) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to a member of the British and Commonwealth armed forces.

He was honoured for his actions as a bomber pilot in Papua New Guinea during March 1943 when, despite intense anti-aircraft fire, he pressed home a series of attacks on the Salamaua Isthmus, the last of which saw him forced to ditch his aircraft in the sea. Newton was still officially posted as missing when the award was made in October 1943. It later emerged that he had been taken captive by the Japanese, and executed by beheading on 29 March.

Raised in Melbourne, Newton excelled at sport, playing cricket at youth state level. He joined the Citizen Military Forces in 1938, and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in February 1940. Described as having the dash of “an Errol Flynn or a Keith Miller“.

Newton served as a flying instructor in Australia before being posted to No. 22 Squadron, which began operating Boston light bombers in New Guinea late in 1942. Having just taken part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, he was on his fifty-second mission when he was shot down and captured. Newton was the only Australian airman to receive a Victoria Cross for action in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II, and the sole Australian to be so decorated while flying with an RAAF squadron.

Family, education and sport

Born in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda on 8 June 1919, Bill Newton was the youngest child of dentist Charles Ellis Newton and his second wife Minnie.[2][3] His three older half-siblings from Charles’ earlier marriage included two brothers, John and Lindsay, and a sister, Phyllis. Bill entered Melbourne Grammar School in 1929, but two years later switched to the nearby St Kilda Park Central School as the family income was reduced through the impact of the Great Depression.

In 1934, aged fifteen, he was able to return to Melbourne Grammar where, despite struggling with his schoolwork, he completed his Intermediate certificate He gave up further study when his father died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of fifty-one, and began working in a silk warehouse.

Considered while at school to be a future leader in the community, Newton was also a talented all-round sportsman, playing cricket, Australian rules football, golf and water polo.  A fast bowler in cricket, he was friends with Keith Miller, and collected the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA) Colts bowling trophy for 1937–38, while Miller collected the equivalent batting prize.[9] In January 1938, Newton dismissed Test batsman Bill Ponsford—still the only Australian to twice score 400 in a first-class innings —for four in a Colts game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The following year, he gained selection in the Victorian Second XIHe opened the bowling against the New South Wales Second XI—his first and only match—taking a total of 3/113 including the wickets of Ron Saggers and Arthur Morris who, like Miller, went on to become members of the Invincibles.

Early career

Newton had been a sergeant in his cadet corps at school, and joined the Citizens Military Force on 28 November 1938, serving as a private in the machine-gun section of the 6th Battalion, Royal Melbourne Regiment.[13][14] Still employed in the silk warehouse when World War II broke out in September 1939, he resigned to join the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 5 February 1940.

He had earlier attempted to enlist when he turned eighteen in 1937, but his mother refused to give her permission; with Australia now at war, she acquiesced. His brothers—dentists by profession, like their father—also enlisted in the armed forces, John as a surgeon lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy and Lindsay as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps.

Informal outdoor portrait of dark-haired moustachioed man in suit leaning on fence, flanked by two dark-haired women

Newton relaxing at Wagga in 1941

Newton undertook his initial training with No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School in Parafield, South Australia, flying De Havilland Tiger Moths, and with No. 21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron at RAAF Station Laverton, Victoria, flying CAC Wirraways. He was awarded his wings and commissioned as a pilot officer on 28 June 1940. Following advanced training on Avro Ansons with No. 1 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Point Cook in September, he was selected to become a flight instructor.

He completed the requisite course at Central Flying School in Camden, New South Wales, and was promoted to flying officer on 28 December.  He subsequently began training students under the Empire Air Training Scheme at No. 2 Service Flying Training School near Wagga Wagga, under the command of Group Captain Frederick Scherger.

In October 1941, Newton transferred to No. 5 Service Flying Training School at Uranquinty. He found instruction frustrating, as he longed for a combat assignment. His fortunes changed in February 1942, when he was selected for the navigation course on Ansons at the General Reconnaissance School based at Laverton. From there he was sent to No. 1 Operational Training Unit at Sale, Victoria, for conversion to Lockheed Hudson twin-engined light bombers during March and April. 

Promoted to flight lieutenant on 1 April 1942, Newton was posted the following month to No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron, based at RAAF Station Richmond, New South Wales.

Previously equipped with Hudsons, the unit had just begun converting to the more advanced Douglas Boston when Newton arrived. A comrade described him as a:

“big brash, likeable man who could drink most of us under the table, was a good pilot, good at sports, and had a way with girls”

No. 22 Squadron was engaged in convoy escort and anti-submarine patrols off Sydney from July to September, before moving north to Townsville, Queensland. In November, it was deployed to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, under the control of No. 9 Operational Group RAAF.

Newton undertook the first of his fifty-two operational sorties on 1 January 1943, under the leadership of his commanding officer, Squadron Leader Keith Hampshire. During February, Newton flew low-level missions through monsoon conditions and hazardous mountain terrain, attacking Japanese forces ranged against Allied troops in the Morobe province.

In early March, he took part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, one of the key engagements in the South West Pacific theatre bombing and strafing Lae airfield to prevent its force of enemy fighters taking off to intercept Allied aircraft attacking the Japanese fleet.

Newton gained a reputation for driving straight at his targets without evasive manoeuvre, and always leaving them in flames; this earned him the nickname “The Firebug”. The Japanese gunners, however, reportedly knew him as “Blue Cap”, from his habit of wearing an old blue cricket cap on operations. In spite of the hazards of the air war in New Guinea, he was quoted as saying,

“The troops on the ground should get two medals each, before any airman gets one”.

Attacks on Salamaua

Three twin-engined military aircraft flying low above a valley

Douglas Bostons of No. 22 Squadron over New Guinea, c. 1942–43

On 16 March 1943, Newton led a sortie on the Salamaua Isthmus in which his Boston was hit repeatedly by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, damaging fuselage, wings, fuel tanks and undercarriage. In spite of this he continued his attack and dropped his bombs at low level on buildings, ammunition dumps and fuel stores, returning for a second pass at the target in order to strafe it with machine-gun fire.

Newton managed to get his crippled machine back to base, where it was found to be marked with ninety-eight bullet holes. Two days later, he and his two-man crew made a further attack on Salamaua with five other Bostons. As he bombed his designated target, Newton’s plane was seen to burst into flames, raked by cannon fire from the ground.

Attempting to keep his aircraft aloft as long as possible to get his crew away from enemy lines, he was able to ditch in the sea approximately 1,000 yards (910 m) offshore.

The Boston’s navigator, Sergeant Basil Eastwood, was killed in the forced landing but Newton and his wireless operator, Flight Sergeant John Lyon, survived and managed to swim ashore. Several of the other aircraft in the flight circled the area; one returned to base straight away to inform Hampshire, and the remainder were later forced to depart through lack of fuel. Newton and Lyon originally made their way inland with the help of natives, aiming to contact an Australian Coastwatcher, but subsequently returned to the coast. There they were captured by a Japanese patrol of No. 5 Special Naval Landing Force.

The two airmen were taken to Salamaua and interrogated until 20 March, before being moved to Lae where Lyon was bayoneted to death on the orders of Rear Admiral Ruitaro Fujita, the senior Japanese commander in the area.  Newton was brought back to Salamaua where, on 29 March 1943, he was ceremonially beheaded with a Samurai sword by Sub-Lieutenant Uichi Komai, the naval officer who had captured him.

Komai was killed in the Philippines soon after, and Fujita committed suicide at the end of the war.

Revelations and reactions

It was initially believed that Newton had failed to escape from the Boston after it ditched into the sea, and he was posted as missing. Squadron Leader Hampshire had immediately dispatched a sortie to recover the pair that were last seen swimming for shore, but no sign of them was found.

Two weeks later, he wrote a letter to Newton’s mother in which he described her son’s courage and expressed the hope that he might yet be found alive. Hampshire concluded:”.

The details of his capture and execution were only revealed later that year in a diary found on a Japanese soldier. Newton was not specifically named, but circumstantial evidence clearly identified him, as the diary entry recorded the beheading of an Australian flight lieutenant who had been shot down by anti-aircraft fire on 18 March 1943 while flying a Douglas aircraft.

The Japanese observer described the prisoner as “composed” in the face of his impending execution, and:

“unshaken to the last”.

After the decapitation, a seaman slashed open the dead man’s stomach, declaring :

“Something for the other day. Take that.”

General Headquarters South West Pacific Area, while releasing details of the execution on 5 October, initially refused to name Newton. Aside from the lack of absolute certainty as to identification, Air Vice Marshal Bill Bostock, Air Officer Commanding RAAF Command, contended that naming him would change the impact of the news upon Newton’s fellow No. 22 Squadron members “from the impersonal to the closely personal” and hence “seriously affect morale”.

News of the atrocity provoked shock in Australia. In an attempt to alleviate anxiety among the families of other missing airmen, the Federal government announced on 12 October that the relatives of the slain man had been informed of his death.

Victoria Cross

Newton was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 16–18 March, becoming the only Australian airman to earn the decoration in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II, and the only one while flying with an RAAF squadron.

The citation, which incorrectly implied that he was shot down on 17 March rather than the following day, and as having failed to escape from his sinking aircraft, was promulgated in the London Gazette on 19 October 1943:

Three-quarter portrait of moustachioed man in flying suit with a belt of machine-gun ammunition slung over his shoulders, leaning against an aeroplane

Newton c. 1942–43

Air Ministry, 19th October, 1943.

The KING has been graciously pleased, on the advice of Australian Ministers, to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery: —

Flight Lieutenant William Ellis NEWTON (Aus. 748), Royal Australian Air Force, No. 22 (R.A.A.F.) Squadron (missing).

Flight Lieutenant Newton served with No. 22 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, in New Guinea from May, 1942, to March, 1943, and completed 52 operational sorties.

Throughout, he displayed great courage and an iron determination to inflict the utmost damage on the enemy. His splendid offensive flying and fighting were attended with brilliant success. Disdaining evasive tactics when under the heaviest fire, he always went straight to his objectives. He carried out many daring machine-gun attacks on enemy positions involving low-flying over long distances in the face of continuous fire at point-blank range.

On three occasions, he dived through intense anti-aircraft fire to release his bombs on important targets on the Salamaua Isthmus. On one of these occasions, his starboard engine failed over the target, but he succeeded in flying back to an airfield 160 miles away. When leading an attack on an objective on 16th March, 1943, he dived through intense and accurate shell fire and his aircraft was hit repeatedly. Nevertheless, he held to his course and bombed his target from a low level. The attack resulted in the destruction of many buildings and dumps, including two 40,000-gallon fuel installations. Although his aircraft was crippled, with fuselage and wing sections torn, petrol tanks pierced, main-planes and engines seriously damaged, and one of the main tyres flat, Flight Lieutenant Newton managed to fly it back to base and make a successful landing.

Despite this harassing experience, he returned next day to the same locality. His target, this time a single building, was even more difficult but he again attacked with his usual courage and resolution, flying a steady course through a barrage of fire. He scored a hit on the building but at the same moment his aircraft burst into flames.

Flight Lieutenant Newton maintained control and calmly turned his aircraft away and flew along the shore. He saw it as his duty to keep the aircraft in the air as long as he could so as to take his crew as far away as possible from the enemy’s positions. With great skill, he brought his blazing aircraft down on the water. Two members of the crew were able to extricate themselves and were seen swimming to the shore, but the gallant pilot is missing. According to other air crews who witnessed the occurrence, his escape-hatch was not opened and his dinghy was not inflated. Without regard to his own safety, he had done all that man could do to prevent his crew from falling into enemy hands.

Flight Lieutenant Newton’s many examples of conspicuous bravery have rarely been equalled and will serve as a shining inspiration to all who follow him.

Legacy

Row of five military medals with ribbons

Newton’s medals on display at the Australian War Memorial

Buried initially in an unmarked bomb crater in Salamaua, Newton’s body was recovered and re-interred in Lae War Cemetery after Salamaua’s capture by Allied troops in September 1943.

Image result for lae war cemetery

In early 1944, the recently constructed No. 4 Airfield in Nadzab was renamed Newton Field in his honour. For many years, the story of Newton’s death was intertwined with that of an Australian commando, Sergeant Len Siffleet, who had also been captured in New Guinea.

A famous photograph showing Siffleet about to be executed with a katana was discovered by American troops in April 1944 and was thought to have depicted Newton in Salamaua. However, no photograph of the airman’s execution is known to exist.

Newton’s mother Minnie was presented with her son’s Victoria Cross by the Governor-General, the Duke of Gloucester, on 30 November 1945. She donated it to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, where it remains on display with his other medals.

Newton is also commemorated on Canberra’s Remembrance Driveway. In the 1990s, his friend Keith Miller successfully fought to ensure that the Victoria Racing Club abandoned a plan to rename the William Ellis Newton Steeplechase—run on Anzac Day—after a commercial sponsor. Later in the decade, Miller also publicly questioned Australia Post‘s exclusion of Newton from a series of stamps featuring notable Australians such as cricketer Sir Donald Bradman.

A plaque dedicated to No. 22 Squadron was unveiled at the Australian War Memorial by the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston, on 16 March 2003, the sixtieth anniversary of Newton’s attack on Salamaua.

See: Execution of Leonard Siffleet

Japanese war crimes – Execution of Leonard Siffleet

Execution of  Leonard Siffleet

14 January 1916 – 24 October 1943

With VJ around the corner I thought I would do a  post about Leonard Siffleet , whose lonely end was immortalised in this famous picture. When I first saw this picture I was struck by how calm and dignified Leonard seemed as he waited on the brutal end to his too short life. His sacrifice and death will live long in our memory. I salute you Leonard!

Leonard George (Len) Siffleet

Leonard George (Len) Siffleet
P02547.001SiffleetPortrait.jpg
Studio portrait of Len Siffleet, c. 1941
Born(1916-01-14)14 January 1916

Gunnedah, New South Wales

Died24 October 1943(1943-10-24) (aged 27)

Aitape, Papua New Guinea

AllegianceAustralia
Service/branchAustralian Army
Years of service1940–43
RankSergeant
UnitSRD (1942–43)
Battles/warsWorld War II

Leonard George (Len) Siffleet (14 January 1916 – 24 October 1943) was an Australian commando of World War II. Born in Gunnedah, New South Wales, he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1941, and by 1943 had reached the rank of sergeant. Posted to M Special Unit of the Services Reconnaissance Department, Siffleet was on a mission in Papua New Guinea when he and two Ambonese companions were captured by partisan tribesmen and handed over to the Japanese.

All three men were interrogated, tortured and later beheaded. A photograph of Siffleet’s impending execution became an enduring image of the war, and his identity was often confused with that of other servicemen who suffered a similar fate, in particular Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton, VC.

Early life

Siffleet and fiancée Clarice Lane, 1941

Len Siffleet was born on 14 January 1916 in Gunnedah, New South Wales. The son of an itinerant worker of Dutch ancestry,  his siblings included a sister and two brothers. Siffleet made his way to Sydney in the late 1930s, seeking to join the police force, but was prevented from doing so because of his eyesight. He was nevertheless called up for the militia in August 1940, and attached to a searchlight unit at RAAF Station Richmond.

Discharged from the militia after three months, Siffleet returned to his family to help look after his young brothers following their mother’s death. He was working as a shop assistant when he enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in September 1941.

Allotted to a signals company based at Ingleburn, New South Wales, he was reported absent without leave on two occasions; he was by this time engaged to Clarice Lane.

New Guinea campaign

After training in radio communications at Melbourne Technical College, Siffleet volunteered for special operations in September 1942 and was posted to the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) of the Allied Intelligence Bureau in Melbourne.[1][4] He joined Z Special Unit in October and was transferred to Cairns in Far North Queensland for further operational training. Assigned to the SRD’s Dutch section as a radio operator, Siffleet was promoted sergeant in May 1943. He moved across to M Special Unit the same month to take part in a mission to set up a coastwatching station in the hills behind Hollandia in Papua New Guinea.[1][3] Described by Commander Eric Feldt, director of the Coastwatchers, as “the best type of N.C.O. of the A.I.F., young and competent”. 

Siffleet joined a party led by Sergeant H. N. Staverman of the Royal Netherlands Navy, which included two Ambonese privates, H. Pattiwal and M. Reharing. Code-named “Whiting”, this team was to work in concert with another group known as “Locust”, led by Lieutenant Jack Fryer.

Staverman’s reconnaissance group commenced its mission in north-east New Guinea in July, trekking across mountainous terrain through August and September. At some point Staverman and Pattiwal separated from the others to undertake further exploration of the countryside, and were ambushed by a group of natives. Both were captured and reported as killed, but Pattiwal later escaped and rejoined Siffleet and Reharing. Siffleet signalled Fryer to warn him of the hostile natives and of Japanese patrols, indicating that he was preparing to burn his party’s codes and bury its radio. No more was heard from them after early October.

Clarice Lane (incorrectly addressed as “Clemice” Lane) had in the meantime received two letters from the Allied Intelligence Bureau in July and September, stating that Siffleet was “safe and well”.

Death and legacy

Sergeant Siffleet’s execution at Aitape, 1943

After Pattiwal rejoined Siffleet and Reharing, they attempted to make their way to the Dutch border. They were ambushed by a hundred native villagers near Aitape and, after a brief melée during which Siffleet shot and wounded one of their attackers, the group was captured and handed over to the Japanese. Interrogated and tortured, the team was confined for approximately two weeks before being taken down to Aitape Beach on the afternoon of 24 October 1943.

Bound and blindfolded, surrounded by Japanese and native onlookers, they were forced to the ground and executed by beheading, on the orders of Vice-Admiral Michiaki Kamada of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The officer who executed Siffleet, Yasuno Chikao, detailed a private to photograph him in the act.  Chikao has been variously reported as having died before the end of the war, and as having been captured and sentenced to be hanged, with his sentence subsequently commuted to 10 years’ imprisonment. 

The photograph of Siffleet’s execution was discovered on the body of a dead Japanese major near Hollandia by American troops in April 1944. It is believed to be the only surviving depiction of a western prisoner of war being executed by a Japanese soldier.

The photo was published in Australian newspapers and in Life magazine but was thought to depict Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton VC, who had been captured in Salamaua, Papua New Guinea, and beheaded on 29 March 1943.

It later went on display at the Australian War Memorial. Elsewhere, despite positive identification in 1945 of Siffleet as the soldier pictured, the image continues on occasion to be misidentified as Newton.

Siffleet is commemorated on the Lae Memorial in Lae, Papua New Guinea, together with all other Commonwealth war dead from actions in the region who have no known grave.A memorial park commemorating Siffleet was also dedicated at Aitape in May 2015.

R.I.P

See: Execution of Bill Newton – Life & Death

Atomic Bombings – 6th & 9th of August 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki

This Thursday is the 70th Anniversary  of the Atomic Bombings

Featured image

Atomic Bombings –  6th & 9th of August 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Effects of a nuclear bomb  HD

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HOW IT WORKS: The Atomic Bomb

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On the 6th of August 1945, during the final stage of the Second World War, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the  Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

 

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Aerial view of an atomic bomb explosion

In August 1945, during the final stage of the Second World War, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb documentary

As the war entered its sixth and final year, the Allies had begun to prepare for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This was preceded by an immensely destructive firebombing campaign that obliterated many Japanese cities. The war in Europe had concluded when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945, but with the Japanese refusal to accept the Allies’ demands for unconditional surrender, the Pacific War dragged on. Together with the United Kingdom and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945; this was buttressed with the threat of “prompt and utter destruction”.

By August 1945, the Allied Manhattan Project had successfully detonated an atomic device in the New Mexico desert and subsequently produced atomic weapons based on two alternate designs. The 509th Composite Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces was equipped with a Silverplate Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands.

A uranium gun-type atomic bomb (Little Boy) was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) on the city of Nagasaki on August 9. Little Boy exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima in a blast equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT, destroying five square miles of the city. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

On August 15, just days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union‘s declaration of war, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies. On September 2, it signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II. The bombings’ role in Japan’s surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.

Pacific War

Main article: Pacific War

A map of East Asia and the Western Pacific during World War II

Situation of Pacific War by August 1, 1945. Japan still had control of all of Manchuria, Korea, Taiwan and Indochina, a large part of China, including most of the main Chinese cities, and much of the Dutch East Indies

In 1945, the Pacific War between the Empire of Japan and the Allies entered its fourth year. The Japanese fought fiercely, ensuring that U.S. victory would come at an enormous cost. Of the 1.25 million battle casualties incurred by the United States in World War II, including both military personnel killed in action and wounded in action, nearly one million occurred in the twelve-month period from June 1944 to June 1945. December 1944 saw American battle casualties hit an all-time monthly high of 88,000 as a result of the German Ardennes Offensive.[1] In the Pacific, the Allies returned to the Philippines,[2] recaptured Burma,[3] and invaded Borneo.[4] Offensives were undertaken to reduce the Japanese forces remaining in Bougainville, New Guinea and the Philippines.[5] In April 1945, American forces landed on Okinawa, where heavy fighting continued until June. Along the way, the ratio of Japanese to American casualties dropped from 5:1 in the Philippines to 2:1 on Okinawa.[1]

As the Allied advance moved inexorably towards Japan, conditions became steadily worse for the Japanese people. Japan’s merchant fleet declined from 5,250,000 gross tons in 1941 to 1,560,000 tons in March 1945, and 557,000 tons in August 1945. Lack of raw materials forced the Japanese war economy into a steep decline after the middle of 1944. The civilian economy, which had slowly deteriorated throughout the war, reached disastrous levels by the middle of 1945. The loss of shipping also affected the fishing fleet, and the 1945 catch was only 22% of that in 1941. The 1945 rice harvest was the worst since 1909, and hunger and malnutrition became widespread. U.S. industrial production was overwhelmingly superior to Japan’s. By 1943, the U.S, produced almost 100,000 aircraft a year, compared to Japan’s production of 70,000 for the entire war. By the summer of 1944, the U.S. had almost a hundred aircraft carriers in the Pacific, far more than Japan’s twenty-five for the entire war. In February 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe advised the Emperor Hirohito that defeat was inevitable, and urged him to abdicate.[6]

Preparations to invade Japan

Main article: Operation Downfall

Even before the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, plans were underway for the largest operation of the Pacific War, Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan.[7] The operation had two parts: Operations Olympic and Coronet. Set to begin in October 1945, Olympic involved a series of landings by the U.S. Sixth Army intended to capture the southern third of the southernmost main Japanese island, Kyūshū.[8] Operation Olympic was to be followed in March 1946 by Operation Coronet, the capture of the Kantō Plain, near Tokyo on the main Japanese island of Honshū by the U.S. First, Eighth and Tenth Armies. The target date was chosen to allow for Olympic to complete its objectives, for troops to be redeployed from Europe, and the Japanese winter to pass.[9]

Uncle Sam holding a spanner, rolling up his sleeves

U.S. Army poster prepares the public for the invasion of Japan after ending war on Germany and Italy

Japan’s geography made this invasion plan obvious to the Japanese; they were able to predict the Allied invasion plans accurately and thus adjust their defensive plan, Operation Ketsugō, accordingly. The Japanese planned an all-out defense of Kyūshū, with little left in reserve for any subsequent defense operations.[10] Four veteran divisions were withdrawn from the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in March 1945 to strengthen the forces in Japan,[11] and 45 new divisions were activated between February and May 1945. Most were immobile formations for coastal defense, but 16 were high quality mobile divisions.[12] In all, there were 2.3 million Japanese Army troops prepared to defend the home islands, backed by a civilian militia of 28 million men and women. Casualty predictions varied widely, but were extremely high. The Vice Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, predicted up to 20 million Japanese deaths.[13]

A study from June 15, 1945, by the Joint War Plans Committee,[14] who provided planning information to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated that Olympic would result in between 130,000 and 220,000 U.S. casualties of which U.S. dead would be the range from 25,000 to 46,000. Delivered on June 15, 1945, after insight gained from the Battle of Okinawa, the study noted Japan’s inadequate defenses due to the very effective sea blockade and the American firebombing campaign. The Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General of the Army George Marshall, and the Army Commander in Chief in the Pacific, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, signed documents agreeing with the Joint War Plans Committee estimate.[15]

The Americans were alarmed by the Japanese buildup, which was accurately tracked through Ultra intelligence.[16] Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson was sufficiently concerned about high American estimates of probable casualties to commission his own study by Quincy Wright and William Shockley. Wright and Shockley spoke with Colonels James McCormack and Dean Rusk, and examined casualty forecasts by Michael E. DeBakey and Gilbert Beebe. Wright and Shockley estimated the invading Allies would suffer between 1.7 and 4 million casualties in such a scenario, of whom between 400,000 and 800,000 would be dead, while Japanese fatalities would have been around 5 to 10 million.[17][18]

Marshall began contemplating the use of a weapon which was “readily available and which assuredly can decrease the cost in American lives”:[19] poison gas. Quantities of phosgene, mustard gas, tear gas and cyanogen chloride were moved to Luzon from stockpiles in Australia and New Guinea in preparation for Operation Olympic, and MacArthur ensured that Chemical Warfare Service units were trained in their use.[19] Consideration was also given to using biological weapons against Japan.[20]

Air raids on Japan

Main article: Air raids on Japan

Black and white photo of a four engined World War II-era aircraft being viewed from above while it is flying over a city. A large cloud of smoke is visible immediately below the aircraft.

A B-29 over Osaka on June 1, 1945

While the United States had developed plans for an air campaign against Japan prior to the Pacific War, the capture of Allied bases in the western Pacific in the first weeks of the conflict meant that this offensive did not begin until mid-1944 when the long-ranged Boeing B-29 Superfortress became ready for use in combat.[21] Operation Matterhorn involved India-based B-29s staging through bases around Chengdu in China to make a series of raids on strategic targets in Japan.[22] This effort failed to achieve the strategic objectives that its planners had intended, largely because of logistical problems, the bomber’s mechanical difficulties, the vulnerability of Chinese staging bases, and the extreme range required to reach key Japanese cities.[23]

United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Brigadier General Haywood S. Hansell determined that Guam, Tinian, and Saipan in the Mariana Islands would better serve as B-29 bases, but they were in Japanese hands.[24] Strategies were shifted to accommodate the air war,[25] and the islands were captured between June and August 1944. Air bases were developed,[26] and B-29 operations commenced from the Marianas in October 1944.[27] These bases were easily resupplied by cargo ships.[28] The XXI Bomber Command began missions against Japan on November 18, 1944.[29]

The early attempts to bomb Japan from the Marianas proved just as ineffective as the China-based B-29s had been. Hansell continued the practice of conducting so-called high-altitude precision bombing, aimed at key industries and transportation networks, even after these tactics had not produced acceptable results.[30] These efforts proved unsuccessful due to logistical difficulties with the remote location, technical problems with the new and advanced aircraft, unfavorable weather conditions, and enemy action.[31][32]

A vast devastated area with only a few burned out buildings standing

The Operation Meetinghouse firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9–10, 1945, was the single deadliest air raid of World War II;[33] with a greater area of fire damage and loss of life than the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki as single events.[34][35]

Hansell’s successor, Major General Curtis LeMay, assumed command in January 1945 and initially continued to use the same precision bombing tactics, with equally unsatisfactory results. The attacks initially targeted key industrial facilities but much of the Japanese manufacturing process was carried out in small workshops and private homes.[36] Under pressure from USAAF headquarters in Washington, LeMay changed tactics and decided that low-level incendiary raids against Japanese cities were the only way to destroy their production capabilities, shifting from precision bombing to area bombardment with incendiaries.[37]

Like most strategic bombing during World War II, the aim of the USAAF offensive against Japan was to destroy the enemy’s war industries, kill or disable civilian employees of these industries, and undermine civilian morale. Civilians who took part in the war effort through such activities as building fortifications and manufacturing munitions and other war materials in factories and workshops were considered combatants in a legal sense and therefore liable to be attacked.[38][39]

Over the next six months, the XXI Bomber Command under LeMay firebombed 67 Japanese cities. The firebombing of Tokyo, codenamed Operation Meetinghouse, on March 9–10 killed an estimated 100,000 people and destroyed 16 square miles (41 km2) of the city and 267,000 buildings in a single night. It was the deadliest bombing raid of the war, at a cost of 20 B-29s shot down by flak and fighters.[40] By May, 75% of bombs dropped were incendiaries designed to burn down Japan’s “paper cities”. By mid-June, Japan’s six largest cities had been devastated.[41] The end of the fighting on Okinawa that month provided airfields even closer to the Japanese mainland, allowing the bombing campaign to be further escalated. Aircraft flying from Allied aircraft carriers and the Ryukyu Islands also regularly struck targets in Japan during 1945 in preparation for Operation Downfall.[42] Firebombing switched to smaller cities, with populations ranging from 60,000 to 350,000. According to Yuki Tanaka, the U.S. fire-bombed over a hundred Japanese towns and cities.[43] These raids were also very devastating.[44]

The Japanese military was unable to stop the Allied attacks and the country’s civil defense preparations proved inadequate. Japanese fighters and antiaircraft guns had difficulty engaging bombers flying at high altitude.[45] From April 1945, the Japanese interceptors also had to face American fighter escorts based on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.[46] That month, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service stopped attempting to intercept the air raids in order to preserve fighter aircraft to counter the expected invasion.[47] By mid-1945 the Japanese only occasionally scrambled aircraft to intercept individual B-29s conducting reconnaissance sorties over the country, in order to conserve supplies of fuel.[48] By July 1945, the Japanese had stockpiled 1,156,000 US barrels (137,800,000 l; 36,400,000 US gal; 30,300,000 imp gal) of avgas for the invasion of Japan.[49] While the Japanese military decided to resume attacks on Allied bombers from late June, by this time there were too few operational fighters available for this change of tactics to hinder the Allied air raids.[50]

Atomic bomb development

Main article: Manhattan Project

Working in collaboration with the United Kingdom and Canada, with their respective projects Tube Alloys and Chalk River Laboratories,[51][52] the Manhattan Project, under the direction of Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, designed and built the first atomic bombs.[53]

The uranium atom was first split by German physicists Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann in 1938, making the development of an atomic bomb a theoretical possibility. Fearing that the German atomic bomb project would develop atomic weapons first, preliminary research in the U.S. began in late 1939.[54] Progress was slow until the arrival of the British MAUD Committee report in late 1941 showed that only 5-10 kilograms, and not 500 tons, of pure uranium was needed. Arthur H. Compton set up the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, where, on December 2, 1942 the first sustained nuclear chain reaction was achieved. Groves appointed J. Robert Oppenheimer to organize and head the project’s Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico.

Two types of bombs were eventually devised. The Hiroshima bomb, known as a Little Boy, was a gun-type fission weapon that used uranium-235, a rare isotope of uranium extracted in giant factories at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.[55] The other was a more powerful and efficient but more complicated implosion-type nuclear weapon using plutonium-239, a synthetic element created in nuclear reactors at Hanford, Washington. A test implosion weapon, the gadget, was detonated at Trinity Site, on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico.[56] The Nagasaki bomb, a Fat Man, was a similar device.[57]

There was a Japanese nuclear weapon program, but it lacked the human, mineral and financial resources of the Manhattan Project, and never made much progress towards developing an atomic bomb.[58]

Preparations

Organization and training

Color photo of three silver four engined World War II-era aircraft neatly lined up alongside a runway

Aircraft of the 509th Composite Group that took part in the Hiroshima bombing. Left to right: Big Stink, The Great Artiste, Enola Gay

The 509th Composite Group was constituted on December 9, 1944, and activated on December 17, 1944, at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets.[59] Tibbets was assigned to organize and command a combat group to develop the means of delivering an atomic weapon against targets in Germany and Japan. Because the flying squadrons of the group consisted of both bomber and transport aircraft, the group was designated as a “composite” rather than a “bombardment” unit.[60]

Working with the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, Tibbets selected Wendover for his training base over Great Bend, Kansas, and Mountain Home, Idaho, because of its remoteness.[61] Each bombardier completed at least 50 practice drops of inert or conventional explosive pumpkin bombs and Tibbets declared his group combat-ready.[62]

Three men in military fatigues, without jackets or ties.

The “Tinian Joint Chiefs”: Captain William S. Parsons (left), Rear Admiral William R. Purnell (center), and Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell (right)

The 509th Composite Group had an authorized strength of 225 officers and 1,542 enlisted men, almost all of whom eventually deployed to Tinian. In addition to its authorized strength, the 509th had attached to it on Tinian 51 civilian and military personnel from Project Alberta,[63] known as the 1st Technical Detachment.[64] The 509th Composite Group’s 393d Bombardment Squadron was equipped with 15 Silverplate B-29s. These aircraft were specially adapted to carry nuclear weapons, and were equipped with fuel-injected engines, Curtiss Electric reversible-pitch propellers, pneumatic actuators for rapid opening and closing of bomb bay doors and other improvements.[65]

The ground support echelon of the 509th Composite Group moved by rail on April 26, 1945, to its port of embarkation at Seattle, Washington. On May 6 the support elements sailed on the SS Cape Victory for the Marianas, while group materiel was shipped on the SS Emile Berliner. The Cape Victory made brief port calls at Honolulu and Eniwetok but the passengers were not permitted to leave the dock area. An advance party of the air echelon, consisting of 29 officers and 61 enlisted men flew by C-54 to North Field on Tinian, between May 15 and May 22.[66]

There were also two representatives from Washington, D.C., Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, the deputy commander of the Manhattan Project, and Rear Admiral William R. Purnell of the Military Policy Committee,[67] who were on hand to decide higher policy matters on the spot. Along with Captain William S. Parsons, the commander of Project Alberta, they became known as the “Tinian Joint Chiefs”.[68]

Choice of targets

map of Japan and the Marianas Islands indicating the routes taken by the raids. One goes straight to Iwo Jima and Hiroshima and back the same way. The other goes to the southern tip of Japan, up to Kokura, down to Nagasaki, and the southwest to Okinawa befofore heading back to Tinian.

The mission runs of August 6 and 9, with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Kokura (the original target for August 9) displayed.

General Thomas Handy‘s order to General Carl Spaatz authorizing the dropping of the atomic bombs

In April 1945, Marshall asked Groves to nominate specific targets for bombing for final approval by himself and Stimson. Groves formed a Target Committee chaired by himself, that included Farrell, Major John A. Derry, Colonel William P. Fisher, Joyce C. Stearns and David M. Dennison from the USAAF; and scientists John von Neumann, Robert R. Wilson and William Penney from the Manhattan Project. The Target Committee met in Washington on April 27; at Los Alamos on May 10, where it was able to talk to the scientists and technicians there; and finally in Washington on May 28, where it was briefed by Tibbets and Commander Frederick Ashworth from Project Alberta, and the Manhattan Project’s scientific advisor, Richard C. Tolman.[69]

The Target Committee nominated five targets: Kokura, the site of one of Japan’s largest munitions plants; Hiroshima, an embarkation port and industrial center that was the site of a major military headquarters; Yokohama, an urban center for aircraft manufacture, machine tools, docks, electrical equipment and oil refineries; Niigata, a port with industrial facilities including steel and aluminum plants and an oil refinery; and Kyoto, a major industrial center. The target selection was subject to the following criteria:

  • The target was larger than 3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter and was an important target in a large urban area.
  • The blast would create effective damage.
  • The target was unlikely to be attacked by August 1945.[70]

These cities were largely untouched during the nightly bombing raids and the Army Air Forces agreed to leave them off the target list so accurate assessment of the weapon could be made. Hiroshima was described as “an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area. It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage. Due to rivers it is not a good incendiary target.”[70]

The Target Committee stated that “It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released. Kyoto had the advantage of being an important center for military industry, as well an intellectual center and hence a population better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon. The Emperor’s palace in Tokyo has a greater fame than any other target but is of least strategic value.”[70]

Edwin O. Reischauer, a Japan expert for the U.S. Army Intelligence Service, was incorrectly said to have prevented the bombing of Kyoto.[70] In his autobiography, Reischauer specifically refuted this claim:

… the only person deserving credit for saving Kyoto from destruction is Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, who had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier.[71] [72]

On May 30, Stimson asked Groves to remove Kyoto from the target list, but Groves pointed to its military and industrial significance.[73] Stimson then approached President Harry S. Truman about the matter. Truman agreed with Stimson, and Kyoto was temporarily removed from the target list.[74] Groves attempted to restore Kyoto to the target list in July, but Stimson remained adamant.[75][76] On July 25, Nagasaki was put on the target list in place of Kyoto.[76] Orders for the attack were issued to General Carl Spaatz on July 25 under the signature of General Thomas T. Handy, the acting Chief of Staff, since Marshall was at the Potsdam Conference with Truman.[77] That day, Truman noted in his diary that:

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto] or the new [Tokyo]. He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one.[78]

Proposed demonstration

In early May 1945, the Interim Committee was created by Stimson at the urging of leaders of the Manhattan Project and with the approval of Truman to advise on matters pertaining to nuclear energy.[79] During the meetings on May 31 and June 1, scientist Ernest Lawrence had suggested giving the Japanese a non-combat demonstration.[80] Arthur Compton later recalled that:

It was evident that everyone would suspect trickery. If a bomb were exploded in Japan with previous notice, the Japanese air power was still adequate to give serious interference. An atomic bomb was an intricate device, still in the developmental stage. Its operation would be far from routine. If during the final adjustments of the bomb the Japanese defenders should attack, a faulty move might easily result in some kind of failure. Such an end to an advertised demonstration of power would be much worse than if the attempt had not been made. It was now evident that when the time came for the bombs to be used we should have only one of them available, followed afterwards by others at all-too-long intervals. We could not afford the chance that one of them might be a dud. If the test were made on some neutral territory, it was hard to believe that Japan’s determined and fanatical military men would be impressed. If such an open test were made first and failed to bring surrender, the chance would be gone to give the shock of surprise that proved so effective. On the contrary, it would make the Japanese ready to interfere with an atomic attack if they could. Though the possibility of a demonstration that would not destroy human lives was attractive, no one could suggest a way in which it could be made so convincing that it would be likely to stop the war.[81]

The possibility of a demonstration was raised again in the Franck Report issued by physicist James Franck on June 11 and the Scientific Advisory Panel rejected his report on June 16, saying that “we can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.” Franck then took the report to Washington, D.C., where the Interim Committee met on June 21 to re-examine its earlier conclusions; but it reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the use of the bomb on a military target.[82]

Like Compton, many U.S. officials and scientists argued that a demonstration would sacrifice the shock value of the atomic attack, and the Japanese could deny the atomic bomb was lethal, making the mission less likely to produce surrender. Allied prisoners of war might be moved to the demonstration site and be killed by the bomb. They also worried that the bomb might be a dud since the Trinity test was of a stationary device, not an air-dropped bomb. In addition, only two bombs would be available at the start of August, although more were in production, and they cost billions of dollars, so using one for a demonstration would be expensive.[83][84]

Leaflets

B-29s dropping bombs. There are twelve circles with Japanese writing in them.

This type of leaflet was dropped on Japan, showing the names of 12 Japanese cities targeted for destruction by firebombing. The other side contained text saying “we cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked …”

For several months, the U.S. had dropped more than 63 million leaflets across Japan warning civilians of air raids. Many Japanese cities suffered terrible damage from aerial bombings; some were as much as 97% destroyed. LeMay thought that leaflets would increase the psychological impact of bombing, and reduce the international stigma of area-bombing cities. Even with the warnings, Japanese opposition to the war remained ineffective. In general, the Japanese regarded the leaflet messages as truthful, but anyone who was caught in possession of one was arrested.[85][86] Leaflet texts were prepared by recent Japanese prisoners of war because they were thought to be the best choice “to appeal to their compatriots”.[87]

In preparation for dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, U.S. military leaders decided against a demonstration bomb, and against a special leaflet warning, in both cases because of the uncertainty of a successful detonation, and the wish to maximize psychological shock.[88] No warning was given to Hiroshima that a new and much more destructive bomb was going to be dropped.[89] Various sources give conflicting information about when the last leaflets were dropped on Hiroshima prior to the atomic bomb. Robert Jay Lifton writes that it was July 27,[89] and Theodore H. McNelly that it was July 3.[88] The USAAF history notes eleven cities were targeted with leaflets on July 27, but Hiroshima was not one of them, and there were no leaflet sorties on July 30.[86] Leaflet sorties were undertaken on August 1 and August 4. It is very likely that Hiroshima was leafleted in late July or early August, as survivor accounts talk about a delivery of leaflets a few days before the atomic bomb was dropped.[89] One such leaflet lists twelve cities targeted for firebombing: Otaru, Akita, Hachinohe, Fukushima, Urawa, Takayama, Iwakuni, Tottori, Imabari, Yawata, Miyakonojo, and Saga. Hiroshima was not listed.[90][91][92][93]

Potsdam Declaration

Truman delayed the start of the summit by two weeks in the hope that the bomb could be tested before the start of negotiations with Stalin. The Trinity Test of July 16 exceeded expectations. On July 26, Allied leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration outlining terms of surrender for Japan. It was presented as an ultimatum and stated that without a surrender, the Allies would attack Japan, resulting in “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland”. The atomic bomb was not mentioned in the communiqué. On July 28, Japanese papers reported that the declaration had been rejected by the Japanese government. That afternoon, Prime Minister Suzuki Kantarō declared at a press conference that the Potsdam Declaration was no more than a rehash (yakinaoshi) of the Cairo Declaration and that the government intended to ignore it (mokusatsu, “kill by silence”).[94] The statement was taken by both Japanese and foreign papers as a clear rejection of the declaration. Emperor Hirohito, who was waiting for a Soviet reply to non-committal Japanese peace feelers, made no move to change the government position.[95] Japan’s willingness to surrender remained conditional on the preservation of the imperial institution; that Japan not be occupied; that the Japanese armed forces be disbanded voluntarily; and that war criminals be prosecuted by Japanese courts.[96]

Under the 1943 Quebec Agreement with the United Kingdom, the United States had agreed that nuclear weapons would not be used against another country without mutual consent. In June 1945 the head of the British Joint Staff Mission, Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, agreed that the use of nuclear weapons against Japan would be officially recorded as a decision of the Combined Policy Committee.[97] At Potsdam, Truman agreed to a request from Winston Churchill that Britain be represented when the atomic bomb was dropped. William Penney and Group Captain Leonard Cheshire were sent to Tinian, but found that LeMay would not let them accompany the mission. All they could do was send a strongly worded signal back to Wilson.[98]

Bombs

The Little Boy bomb, except for the uranium payload, was ready at the beginning of May 1945.[99] The uranium-235 projectile was completed on June 15, and the target on July 24.[100] The target and bomb pre-assemblies (partly assembled bombs without the fissile components) left Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, California, on July 16 aboard the cruiser USS Indianapolis, arriving July 26.[101] The target inserts followed by air on July 30.[100]

The first plutonium core, along with its poloniumberyllium urchin initiator, was transported in the custody of Project Alberta courier Raemer Schreiber in a magnesium field carrying case designed for the purpose by Philip Morrison. Magnesium was chosen because it does not act as a tamper.[102] The core departed from Kirtland Army Air Field on a C-54 transport aircraft of the 509th Composite Group’s 320th Troop Carrier Squadron on July 26, and arrived at North Field July 28. Three Fat Man high-explosive pre-assemblies, designated F31, F32, and F33, were picked up at Kirtland on July 28 by three B-29s, from the 393d Bombardment Squadron, plus one from the 216th Army Air Force Base Unit, and transported to North Field, arriving on August 2.[103]

Hiroshima

Hiroshima during World War II

A Silver aircraft with

The Enola Gay dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In this photograph are five of the aircraft’s ground crew with mission commander Paul Tibbets in the center.

At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of both industrial and military significance. A number of military units were located nearby, the most important of which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata‘s Second General Army, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan,[104] and was located in Hiroshima Castle. Hata’s command consisted of some 400,000 men, most of whom were on Kyushu where an Allied invasion was correctly anticipated.[105] Also present in Hiroshima were the headquarters of the 59th Army, the 5th Division and the 224th Division, a recently formed mobile unit.[106] The city was defended by five batteries of 7-and-8-centimeter (2.8 and 3.1 in) anti-aircraft guns of the 3rd Anti-Aircraft Division, including units from the 121st and 122nd Anti-Aircraft Regiments and the 22nd and 45th Separate Anti-Aircraft Battalions. In total, over 40,000 military personnel were stationed in the city.[107]

Hiroshima was a minor supply and logistics base for the Japanese military, but it also had large stockpiles of military supplies.[108] The city was a communications center, a key port for shipping and an assembly area for troops.[73] It was also the second largest city in Japan after Kyoto that was still undamaged by air raids,[109] due to the fact that it lacked the aircraft manufacturing industry that was the XXI Bomber Command’s priority target. On July 3, the Joint Chiefs of Staff placed it off limits to bombers, along with Kokura, Niigata and Kyoto.[110]

The center of the city contained several reinforced concrete buildings and lighter structures. Outside the center, the area was congested by a dense collection of small wooden workshops set among Japanese houses. A few larger industrial plants lay near the outskirts of the city. The houses were constructed of wood with tile roofs, and many of the industrial buildings were also built around wood frames. The city as a whole was highly susceptible to fire damage.[111]

The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 381,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic bombing, the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack, the population was approximately 340,000–350,000.[112] Residents wondered why Hiroshima had been spared destruction by firebombing.[113] Some speculated that the city was to be saved for U.S. occupation headquarters, others thought perhaps their relatives in Hawaii and California had petitioned the U.S. government to avoid bombing Hiroshima.[114] More realistic city officials had ordered buildings torn down to create long, straight firebreaks, beginning in 1944.[115] Firebreaks continued to be expanded and extended up to the morning of August 6, 1945.[116]

The bombing

Hiroshima was the primary target of the first nuclear bombing mission on August 6, with Kokura and Nagasaki as alternative targets. Having been fully briefed under the terms of Operations Order No. 35, the 393d Bombardment Squadron B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Tibbets, took off from North Field, Tinian, about six hours’ flight time from Japan. The Enola Gay (named after Tibbets’ mother) was accompanied by two other B-29s. The Great Artiste, commanded by Major Charles Sweeney, carried instrumentation, and a then-nameless aircraft later called Necessary Evil, commanded by Captain George Marquardt, served as the photography aircraft.[117]

A mushroom cloud forming.

Seizo Yamada’s ground level photo taken approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) northeast of Hiroshima

Another view of the mushroom cloud forming, from further away.

Picture found in Honkawa Elementary School in 2013 of the Hiroshima atom bomb cloud, believed to have been taken about 30 minutes after detonation from about 10 km (6.2 mi) east of the hypocenter

Special Mission 13, Primary target Hiroshima, August 6, 1945[117][118]
Aircraft Pilot Call Sign Mission role
Straight Flush Major Claude R. Eatherly Dimples 85 Weather reconnaissance (Hiroshima)
Jabit III Major John A. Wilson Dimples 71 Weather reconnaissance (Kokura)
Full House Major Ralph R. Taylor Dimples 83 Weather reconnaissance (Nagasaki)
Enola Gay Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Dimples 82 Weapon delivery
The Great Artiste Major Charles W. Sweeney Dimples 89 Blast measurement instrumentation
Necessary Evil Captain. George W. Marquardt Dimples 91 Strike observation and photography
Top Secret Captain Charles F. McKnight Dimples 72 Strike spare—did not complete mission

After leaving Tinian the aircraft made their way separately to Iwo Jima to rendezvous with Sweeney and Marquardt at 05:55 at 9,200 feet (2,800 m),[119] and set course for Japan. The aircraft arrived over the target in clear visibility at 31,060 feet (9,470 m).[120] Parsons, who was in command of the mission, armed the bomb during the flight to minimize the risks during takeoff. He had witnessed four B-29s crash and burn at takeoff, and feared that a nuclear explosion would occur if a B-29 crashed with an armed Little Boy on board.[121] His assistant, Second Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson, removed the safety devices 30 minutes before reaching the target area.[122]

During the night of August 5–6, Japanese early warning radar detected the approach of numerous American aircraft headed for the southern part of Japan. Radar detected 65 bombers headed for Saga, 102 bound for Maebashi, 261 en route to Nishinomiya, 111 headed for Ube and 66 bound for Imabari. An alert was given and radio broadcasting stopped in many cities, among them Hiroshima. The all-clear was sounded in Hiroshima at 00:05.[123] About an hour before the bombing, the air raid alert was sounded again, as Straight Flush flew over the city. It broadcast a short message which was picked up by Enola Gay. It read: “Cloud cover less than 3/10th at all altitudes. Advice: bomb primary.”[124] The all-clear was sounded over Hiroshima again at 07:09.[125]

At 08:09 Tibbets started his bomb run and handed control over to his bombardier, Major Thomas Ferebee.[126] The release at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) went as planned, and the Little Boy containing about 64 kg (141 lb) of uranium-235 took 44.4 seconds to fall from the aircraft flying at about 31,000 feet (9,400 m) to a detonation height of about 1,900 feet (580 m) above the city.[127][128][129] Enola Gay traveled 11.5 mi (18.5 km) before it felt the shock waves from the blast.[130]

Due to crosswind, the bomb missed the aiming point, the Aioi Bridge, by approximately 800 ft (240 m) and detonated directly over Shima Surgical Clinic[131] at

 WikiMiniAtlas

34°23′41″N 132°27′17″E / 34.39468°N 132.45462°E / 34.39468; 132.45462. It created a blast equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT (67 TJ), ± 2 kt.[128] The weapon was considered very inefficient, with only 1.7% of its material fissioning.[132] The radius of total destruction was about 1 mile (1.6 km), with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles (11 km2).[133]

People on the ground reported seeing a pika or brilliant flash of light followed by a don, a loud booming sound.[134] Some 70,000–80,000 people, of whom 20,000 were soldiers, or around 30% of the population of Hiroshima, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm,[135][136] and another 70,000 injured.[137]

Events on the ground

Some of the reinforced concrete buildings in Hiroshima had been very strongly constructed because of the earthquake danger in Japan, and their framework did not collapse even though they were fairly close to the blast center. Since the bomb detonated in the air, the blast was directed more downward than sideways, which was largely responsible for the survival of the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, now commonly known as the Genbaku (A-bomb) dome. This building was designed and built by the Czech architect Jan Letzel, and was only 150 m (490 ft) from ground zero. The ruin was named Hiroshima Peace Memorial and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 over the objections of the United States and China, which expressed reservations on the grounds that other Asian nations were the ones who suffered the greatest loss of life and property, and a focus on Japan lacked historical perspective.[138]

The Americans estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 km2) of the city were destroyed. Japanese officials determined that 69% of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and another 6–7% damaged.[139] The bombing started fires that spread rapidly through wood and paper homes. As in other Japanese cities, the firebreaks proved ineffective.[140]

Hiroshima bombing
A devastated area very similar to the one of Tokyo above
Hiroshima aftermath
A typed page of instructions
Strike order for the Hiroshima bombing as posted on August 5, 1945
People sitting and lying on the ground
Injured civilian casualties
A burned out domed building surrounded by rubble
The Hiroshima Genbaku Dome after the bombing
A woman's back, with chequered-shaped burns
The dark portions of the garments this victim wore during the flash caused burns on the skin

Eizō Nomura was the closest known survivor, who was in the basement of a reinforced concrete building (it remained as the Rest House after the war) only 170 metres (560 ft) from ground zero (the hypocenter) at the time of the attack.[141][142] He lived into his 80s.[143][144] Akiko Takakura was among the closest survivors to the hypocenter of the blast. She had been in the solidly built Bank of Hiroshima only 300 meters (980 ft) from ground-zero at the time of the attack.[145]

Over 90% of the doctors and 93% of the nurses in Hiroshima were killed or injured—most had been in the downtown area which received the greatest damage.[146] The hospitals were destroyed or heavily damaged. Only one doctor, Terufumi Sasaki, remained on duty at the Red Cross Hospital.[140] Nonetheless, by early afternoon, the police and volunteers had established evacuation centres at hospitals, schools and tram stations, and a morgue was established in the Asano library.[147]

Most elements of the Japanese Second General Army headquarters were at physical training on the grounds of Hiroshima Castle, barely 900 yards (820 m) from the hypocenter. The attack killed 3,243 troops on the parade ground.[148] The communications room of Chugoku Military District Headquarters that was responsible for issuing and lifting air raid warnings was in a semi-basement in the castle. Yoshie Oka, a Hijiyama Girls High School student who had been mobilized to serve as a communications officer had just sent a message that the alarm had been issued for Hiroshima and Yamaguchi when the bomb exploded. She used a special phone to inform Fukuyama Headquarters that “Hiroshima has been attacked by a new type of bomb. The city is in a state of near-total destruction.”[149]

Since Mayor Senkichi Awaya had been killed while eating breakfast with his son and granddaughter at the mayoral residence, Field Marshal Hata, who was only slightly wounded, took over the administration of the city, and coordinated relief efforts. Many of his staff had been killed or fatally wounded, including a Korean prince of the Joseon Dynasty, Yi Wu, who was serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Japanese Army.[150][151] Hata’s senior surviving staff officer was the wounded Colonel Kumao Imoto, who acted as his chief of staff. Hiroshima Ujina Harbor was undamaged, and soldiers from there used suicide boats intended to repel the American invasion to collect the wounded, and take them down the rivers to the military hospital at Ujina.[150] Trucks and trains brought in relief supplies and evacuated survivors from the city.[152]

Twelve American airmen were imprisoned at the Chugoku Military Police Headquarters located about 1,300 feet (400 m) from the hypocenter of the blast.[153] Most died instantly, although two were reported to have been executed by their captors, and two prisoners badly injured by the bombing were left next to the Aioi Bridge by the Kempei Tai, where they were stoned to death.[154] Later reports indicated that 8 US prisoners of war held in Hiroshima Castle and executed as part of medical experiments program prior to the bombing were reported by Japanese authorities as having been killed in the atomic blast.[155]

Japanese realization of the bombing

Hiroshima before the bombing.
Hiroshima after the bombing.

The Tokyo control operator of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to re-establish his program by using another telephone line, but it too had failed.[156] About 20 minutes later the Tokyo railroad telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some small railway stops within 16 km (9.9 mi) of the city came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff.[157]

Military bases repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the General Staff; they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was felt that nothing serious had taken place and that the explosion was just a rumor.[157]

The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly 160 km (99 mi) from Hiroshima, he and his pilot saw a great cloud of smoke from the bomb. In the bright afternoon, the remains of Hiroshima were burning. Their plane soon reached the city, around which they circled in disbelief. A great scar on the land still burning and covered by a heavy cloud of smoke was all that was left. They landed south of the city, and the staff officer, after reporting to Tokyo, began to organize relief measures.[157]

Events of August 7–9

Brownish leaflet covered in Japanese writing

Leaflet AB11,[158] with information on the Hiroshima bomb and a warning to civilians to petition the Emperor to surrender was dropped over Japan beginning on August 9,[158] by the 509th Composite Group on the bombing mission. Although it is not identified by them, an AB11 is in the possession of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.[159]

President Truman announces the bombing of Hiroshima.

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After the Hiroshima bombing, Truman issued a statement announcing the use of the new weapon. He stated, “We may be grateful to Providence” that the German atomic bomb project had failed, and that the United States and its allies had “spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history—and won.” Truman then warned Japan: “If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.”[160]

The Japanese government did not react. Emperor Hirohito, the government, and the war council considered four conditions for surrender: the preservation of the kokutai (Imperial institution and national polity), assumption by the Imperial Headquarters of responsibility for disarmament and demobilization, no occupation of the Japanese Home Islands, Korea, or Formosa, and delegation of the punishment of war criminals to the Japanese government.[161]

The Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov informed Tokyo of the Soviet Union’s unilateral abrogation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact on August 5. At two minutes past midnight on August 9, Tokyo time, Soviet infantry, armor, and air forces had launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.[162] Four hours later, word reached Tokyo of the Soviet Union’s official declaration of war. The senior leadership of the Japanese Army began preparations to impose martial law on the nation, with the support of Minister of War Korechika Anami, in order to stop anyone attempting to make peace.[163]

On August 7, a day after Hiroshima was destroyed, Dr. Yoshio Nishina and other atomic physicists arrived at the city, and carefully examined the damage. They then went back to Tokyo and told the cabinet that Hiroshima was indeed destroyed by an atomic bomb. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, estimated that no more than one or two additional bombs could be readied, so they decided to endure the remaining attacks, acknowledging “there would be more destruction but the war would go on.”[164] American Magic codebreakers intercepted the cabinet’s messages.[165]

Purnell, Parsons, Tibbets, Spaatz, and LeMay met on Guam that same day to discuss what should be done next.[166] Since there was no indication of Japan surrendering,[165] they decided to proceed with dropping another bomb. Parsons said that Project Alberta would have it ready by August 11, but Tibbets pointed to weather reports indicating poor flying conditions on that day due to a storm, and asked if the bomb could be readied by August 9. Parsons agreed to try to do so.[167][166]

Nagasaki

I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb … It is an awful responsibility which has come to us … We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.

—President Harry S. Truman, August 9, 1945[168]

Nagasaki during World War II

Formal picture of ten men in uniform. Five are standing and five are kneeling. In contrast to the Enola Gay picture, all are in correct uniform. The five standing are wearing ties, and all but one of the ten wears a peaked cap or garrison cap.

The Bockscar and its crew, who dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki

The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest seaports in southern Japan, and was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The four largest companies in the city were Mitsubishi Shipyards, Electrical Shipyards, Arms Plant, and Steel and Arms Works, which employed about 90% of the city’s labor force, and accounted for 90% of the city’s industry.[169] Although an important industrial city, Nagasaki had been spared from firebombing because its geography made it difficult to locate at night with AN/APQ-13 radar.[110]

Unlike the other target cities, Nagasaki had not been placed off limits to bombers by the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s July 3 directive,[110][170] and was bombed on a small scale five times. During one of these raids on August 1, a number of conventional high-explosive bombs were dropped on the city. A few hit the shipyards and dock areas in the southwest portion of the city, and several hit the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works.[169] By early August, the city was defended by the IJA 134th Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the 4th Anti-Aircraft Division with four batteries of 7 cm (2.8 in) anti-aircraft guns and two searchlight batteries.[107]

In contrast to Hiroshima, almost all of the buildings were of old-fashioned Japanese construction, consisting of wood or wood-frame buildings with wood walls (with or without plaster) and tile roofs. Many of the smaller industries and business establishments were also situated in buildings of wood or other materials not designed to withstand explosions. Nagasaki had been permitted to grow for many years without conforming to any definite city zoning plan; residences were erected adjacent to factory buildings and to each other almost as closely as possible throughout the entire industrial valley. On the day of the bombing, an estimated 263,000 people were in Nagasaki, including 240,000 Japanese residents, 10,000 Korean residents, 2,500 conscripted Korean workers, 9,000 Japanese soldiers, 600 conscripted Chinese workers, and 400 Allied prisoners of war in a camp to the north of Nagasaki.[171][172]

The bombing

Responsibility for the timing of the second bombing was delegated to Tibbets. Scheduled for August 11 against Kokura, the raid was moved earlier by two days to avoid a five-day period of bad weather forecast to begin on August 10.[173] Three bomb pre-assemblies had been transported to Tinian, labeled F-31, F-32, and F-33 on their exteriors. On August 8, a dress rehearsal was conducted off Tinian by Sweeney using Bockscar as the drop airplane. Assembly F-33 was expended testing the components and F-31 was designated for the August 9 mission.[174]

Special Mission 16, Secondary target Nagasaki, August 9, 1945[175]
Aircraft Pilot Call Sign Mission role
Enola Gay Captain George W. Marquardt Dimples 82 Weather reconnaissance (Kokura)
Laggin’ Dragon Captain Charles F. McKnight Dimples 95 Weather reconnaissance (Nagasaki)
Bockscar Major Charles W. Sweeney Dimples 77 Weapon Delivery
The Great Artiste Captain Frederick C. Bock Dimples 89 Blast measurement instrumentation
Big Stink Major James I. Hopkins, Jr. Dimples 90 Strike observation and photography
Full House Major Ralph R. Taylor Dimples 83 Strike spare—did not complete mission

At 03:49 on the morning of August 9, 1945, Bockscar, flown by Sweeney’s crew, carried Fat Man, with Kokura as the primary target and Nagasaki the secondary target. The mission plan for the second attack was nearly identical to that of the Hiroshima mission, with two B-29s flying an hour ahead as weather scouts and two additional B-29s in Sweeney’s flight for instrumentation and photographic support of the mission. Sweeney took off with his weapon already armed but with the electrical safety plugs still engaged.[176]

A page of typed instructions

Strike order for the Nagasaki bombing as posted August 8, 1945

During pre-flight inspection of Bockscar, the flight engineer notified Sweeney that an inoperative fuel transfer pump made it impossible to use 640 US gallons (2,400 l; 530 imp gal) of fuel carried in a reserve tank. This fuel would still have to be carried all the way to Japan and back, consuming still more fuel. Replacing the pump would take hours; moving the Fat Man to another aircraft might take just as long and was dangerous as well, as the bomb was live. Tibbets and Sweeney therefore elected to have Bockscar continue the mission.[177][178]

This time Penney and Cheshire were allowed to accompany the mission, flying as observers on the third plane, Big Stink, flown by the group’s operations officer, Major James I. Hopkins, Jr. Observers aboard the weather planes reported both targets clear. When Sweeney’s aircraft arrived at the assembly point for his flight off the coast of Japan, Big Stink failed to make the rendezvous.[176] According to Cheshire, Hopkins was at varying heights including 9,000 feet (2,700 m) higher than he should have been, and was not flying tight circles over Yakushima as previously agreed with Sweeney and Captain Frederick C. Bock, who was piloting the support B-29 The Great Artiste. Instead, Hopkins was flying 40-mile (64 km) dogleg patterns.[179] Though ordered not to circle longer than fifteen minutes, Sweeney continued to wait for Big Stink, at the urging of Ashworth, the plane’s weaponeer, who was in command of the mission.[180]

Atomic cloud over Nagasaki

After exceeding the original departure time limit by a half hour, Bockscar, accompanied by The Great Artiste, proceeded to Kokura, thirty minutes away. The delay at the rendezvous had resulted in clouds and drifting smoke from fires started by a major firebombing raid by 224 B-29s on nearby Yahata the previous day over Kokura. Additionally, the Yawata Steel Works intentionally burned coal tar, to produce black smoke.[181] The clouds and smoke resulted in 70% of the area over Kokura being covered, obscuring the aiming point. Three bomb runs were made over the next 50 minutes, burning fuel and exposing the aircraft repeatedly to the heavy defenses of Yawata, but the bombardier was unable to drop visually. By the time of the third bomb run, Japanese antiaircraft fire was getting close, and Second Lieutenant Jacob Beser, who was monitoring Japanese communications, reported activity on the Japanese fighter direction radio bands.[182]

After three runs over the city, and with fuel running low because of the failed fuel pump, they headed for their secondary target, Nagasaki.[176] Fuel consumption calculations made en route indicated that Bockscar had insufficient fuel to reach Iwo Jima and would be forced to divert to Okinawa. After initially deciding that if Nagasaki were obscured on their arrival the crew would carry the bomb to Okinawa and dispose of it in the ocean if necessary, Ashworth ruled that a radar approach would be used if the target was obscured.[183]

At about 07:50 Japanese time, an air raid alert was sounded in Nagasaki, but the “all clear” signal was given at 08:30. When only two B-29 Superfortresses were sighted at 10:53, the Japanese apparently assumed that the planes were only on reconnaissance and no further alarm was given.[184]

The before image looks like a city. In the after image, everything has been obliterated and it is recognisable as the same area only by the rivers running through it, which form an island in the centre of the photographs.

Nagasaki before and after bombing

A few minutes later at 11:00, The Great Artiste dropped instruments attached to three parachutes. These instruments also contained an unsigned letter to Professor Ryokichi Sagane, a physicist at the University of Tokyo who studied with three of the scientists responsible for the atomic bomb at the University of California, Berkeley, urging him to tell the public about the danger involved with these weapons of mass destruction. The messages were found by military authorities but not turned over to Sagane until a month later.[185] In 1949, one of the authors of the letter, Luis Alvarez, met with Sagane and signed the document.[186]

At 11:01, a last-minute break in the clouds over Nagasaki allowed Bockscar’s bombardier, Captain Kermit Beahan, to visually sight the target as ordered. The Fat Man weapon, containing a core of about 6.4 kg (14 lb) of plutonium, was dropped over the city’s industrial valley at

 WikiMiniAtlas

32°46′25″N 129°51′48″E / 32.77372°N 129.86325°E / 32.77372; 129.86325. It exploded 47 seconds later at 1,650 ± 33 ft (503 ± 10 m), above a tennis court[187] halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works (Torpedo Works) in the north. This was nearly 3 km (1.9 mi) northwest of the planned hypocenter; the blast was confined to the Urakami Valley and a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills.[188] The resulting explosion had a blast yield equivalent to 21 ± 2 kt (87.9 ± 8.4 TJ).[128] The explosion generated heat estimated at 3,900 °C (7,050 °F) and winds that were estimated at 1,005 km/h (624 mph).[189]

Big Stink spotted the explosion from a hundred miles away, and flew over to observe.[190] Because of the delays in the mission and the inoperative fuel transfer pump, Bockscar did not have sufficient fuel to reach the emergency landing field at Iwo Jima, so Sweeney and Bock flew to Okinawa. Arriving there, Sweeney circled for 20 minutes trying to contact the control tower for landing clearance, finally concluding that his radio was faulty. Critically low on fuel, Bockscar barely made it to the runway on Okinawa’s Yontan Airfield. With enough fuel for only one landing attempt, Sweeney and Albury brought Bockscar in at 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) instead of the normal 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), firing distress flares to alert the field of the uncleared landing. The number two engine died from fuel starvation as Bockscar began its final approach. Touching the runway hard, the heavy B-29 slewed left and towards a row of parked B-24 bombers before the pilots managed to regain control. The B-29’s reversible propellers were insufficient to slow the aircraft adequately, and with both pilots standing on the brakes, Bockscar made a swerving 90-degree turn at the end of the runway to avoid running off the runway. A second engine died from fuel exhaustion by the time the plane came to a stop. The flight engineer later measured fuel in the tanks and concluded that less than five minutes total remained.[191]

Following the mission, there was confusion over the identification of the plane. The first eyewitness account by war correspondent William L. Laurence of the New York Times, who accompanied the mission aboard the aircraft piloted by Bock, reported that Sweeney was leading the mission in The Great Artiste. He also noted its “Victor” number as 77, which was that of Bockscar, writing that several personnel commented that 77 was also the jersey number of the football player Red Grange.[192] Laurence had interviewed Sweeney and his crew, and was aware that they referred to their airplane as The Great Artiste. Except for Enola Gay, none of the 393d’s B-29s had yet had names painted on the noses, a fact which Laurence himself noted in his account. Unaware of the switch in aircraft, Laurence assumed Victor 77 was The Great Artiste,[193] which was in fact, Victor 89.[194]

Events on the ground

A boy lying down. His back is bloody.

A photograph of Sumiteru Taniguchi‘s back injuries taken in January 1946 by a U.S. Marine photographer

Although the bomb was more powerful than the one used on Hiroshima, the effect was confined by hillsides to the narrow Urakami Valley.[195] Of 7,500 Japanese employees who worked inside the Mitsubishi Munitions plant, including mobilized students and regular workers, 6,200 were killed. Some 17,000–22,000 others who worked in other war plants and factories in the city died as well.[196] Casualty estimates for immediate deaths vary widely, ranging from 22,000 to 75,000.[197][198][199][200] In the days and months following the explosion, more people died from bomb effects. Because of the presence of undocumented foreign workers, and a number of military personnel in transit, there are great discrepancies in the estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945; a range of 39,000 to 80,000 can be found in various studies.[112][200]

Unlike Hiroshima’s military death toll, only 150 soldiers were killed instantly, including thirty-six from the IJA 134th AAA Regiment of the 4th AAA Division.[107][201] At least eight known POWs died from the bombing and as many as 13 may have died, including a British citizen, Royal Air Force Corporal Ronald Shaw,[202] and seven Dutch POWs.[203] One American POW, Joe Kieyoomia, was in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing but survived, reportedly having been shielded from the effects of the bomb by the concrete walls of his cell.[204] There were 24 Australian POWs in Nagasaki, all of whom survived.[205]

The radius of total destruction was about 1 mi (1.6 km), followed by fires across the northern portion of the city to 2 mi (3.2 km) south of the bomb.[133][206] About 58% of the Mitsubishi Arms Plant was damaged, and about 78% of the Mitsubishi Steel Works. The Mitsubishi Electric Works suffered only 10% structural damage as it was on the border of the main destruction zone. The Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works, the factory that manufactured the type 91 torpedoes released in the attack on Pearl Harbor, was destroyed in the blast.[207]

Plans for more atomic attacks on Japan

A pile of rubble surmounted by a statue of Buddha

A Japanese report on the bombing characterized Nagasaki as “like a graveyard with not a tombstone standing”

Groves expected to have another atomic bomb ready for use on August 19, with three more in September and a further three in October.[84] On August 10, he sent a memorandum to Marshall in which he wrote that “the next bomb … should be ready for delivery on the first suitable weather after 17 or 18 August.” On the same day, Marshall endorsed the memo with the comment, “It is not to be released over Japan without express authority from the President.”[84] Truman had secretly requested this on August 10. This modified the previous order that the target cities were to be attacked with atomic bombs “as made ready”.[208]

There was already discussion in the War Department about conserving the bombs then in production for Operation Downfall. “The problem now [August 13] is whether or not, assuming the Japanese do not capitulate, to continue dropping them every time one is made and shipped out there or whether to hold them … and then pour them all on in a reasonably short time. Not all in one day, but over a short period. And that also takes into consideration the target that we are after. In other words, should we not concentrate on targets that will be of the greatest assistance to an invasion rather than industry, morale, psychology, and the like? Nearer the tactical use rather than other use.”[84]

Two more Fat Man assemblies were readied, and scheduled to leave Kirtland Field for Tinian on August 11 and August 14,[209] and Tibbets was ordered by LeMay to return to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to collect them.[210] At Los Alamos, technicians worked 24 hours straight to cast another plutonium core.[211] Although cast, it still needed to be pressed and coated, which would take until August 16.[212] Therefore, it could have been ready for use on August 19. However, unable to reach Marshall, Groves ordered on his own authority on August 13 that the core should not be shipped.[208]

Surrender of Japan and subsequent occupation

Until August 9, Japan’s war council still insisted on its four conditions for surrender. On that day Hirohito ordered Kōichi Kido to “quickly control the situation … because the Soviet Union has declared war against us.” He then held an Imperial conference during which he authorized minister Shigenori Tōgō to notify the Allies that Japan would accept their terms on one condition, that the declaration “does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign ruler.”[213]

On August 12, the Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, then asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai could not be preserved. Hirohito simply replied “Of course.”[214] As the Allied terms seemed to leave intact the principle of the preservation of the Throne, Hirohito recorded on August 14 his capitulation announcement which was broadcast to the Japanese nation the next day despite a short rebellion by militarists opposed to the surrender.[215]

In his declaration, Hirohito referred to the atomic bombings:

Moreover, the enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.[216]

In his “Rescript to the Soldiers and Sailors” delivered on August 17, he stressed the impact of the Soviet invasion and his decision to surrender, omitting any mention of the bombs.[217] Hirohito met with General MacArthur on September 27, saying to him that “[t]he peace party did not prevail until the bombing of Hiroshima created a situation which could be dramatized.” Furthermore, the “Rescript to the Soldiers and Sailors” speech he told MacArthur about was just personal, not political, and never stated that the Soviet intervention in Manchuria was the main reason for surrender. In fact, a day after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Hirohito ordered his advisers, primarily Chief Cabinet Secretary Hisatsune Sakomizu, Kawada Mizuho, and Masahiro Yasuoka, to write up a surrender speech. In Hirohito’s speech, days before announcing it on radio on August 15, he gave three major reasons for surrender: Tokyo’s defenses would not be complete before the American invasion of Japan, Ise Shrine would be lost to the Americans, and atomic weapons deployed by the Americans would lead to the death of the entire Japanese race. Despite the Soviet intervention, Hirohito did not mention the Soviets as the main factor for surrender.[218]

Depiction, public response and censorship

Life among the rubble in Hiroshima in March and April 1946. Film footage taken by Lieutenant Daniel A. McGovern (director) and Harry Mimura (cameraman) for a United States Strategic Bombing Survey project.

During the war “annihilationist and exterminationalist rhetoric” was tolerated at all levels of U.S. society; according to the British embassy in Washington the Americans regarded the Japanese as “a nameless mass of vermin”.[219] Caricatures depicting Japanese as less than human, e.g. monkeys, were common.[219] A 1944 opinion poll that asked what should be done with Japan found that 13% of the U.S. public were in favor of “killing off” all Japanese men, women, and children.[220][221]

After the Hiroshima bomb detonated successfully, Robert Oppenheimer addressed an assembly at Los Alamos “clasping his hands together like a prize-winning boxer”.[222] The Vatican was less enthusiastic; its newspaper L’Osservatore Romano expressed regret that the bomb’s inventors did not destroy the weapon for the benefit of humanity.[223] Nonetheless, news of the atomic bombing was greeted enthusiastically in the U.S.; a poll in Fortune magazine in late 1945 showed a significant minority of Americans (22.7%) wishing that more atomic bombs could have been dropped on Japan.[224][225] The initial positive response was supported by the imagery presented to the public (mainly the powerful images of the mushroom cloud) and the censorship of photographs that showed corpses and maimed survivors.[224]

Wilfred Burchett was the first journalist to visit Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped, arriving alone by train from Tokyo on September 2, the day of the formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri. His Morse code dispatch was printed by the Daily Express newspaper in London on September 5, 1945, entitled “The Atomic Plague”, the first public report to mention the effects of radiation and nuclear fallout.[226] Burchett’s reporting was unpopular with the U.S. military. The U.S. censors suppressed a supporting story submitted by George Weller of the Chicago Daily News, and accused Burchett of being under the sway of Japanese propaganda. Laurence dismissed the reports on radiation sickness as Japanese efforts to undermine American morale, ignoring his own account of Hiroshima’s radiation sickness published one week earlier.[227]

The Hiroshima ruins in March and April 1946, by Daniel A. McGovern and Harry Mimura

A member of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Lieutenant Daniel McGovern, used a film crew to document the results in early 1946.[228] The film crew’s work resulted in a three-hour documentary entitled The Effects of the Atomic Bombs Against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The documentary included images from hospitals showing the human effects of the bomb; it showed burned out buildings and cars, and rows of skulls and bones on the ground. It was classified “secret” for the next 22 years.[229] During this time in America, it was a common practice for editors to keep graphic images of death out of films, magazines, and newspapers.[230] The total of 90,000 ft (27,000 m) of film shot by McGovern’s cameramen had not been fully aired as of 2009. According to Greg Mitchell, with the 2004 documentary film Original Child Bomb, a small part of that footage managed to reach part of the American public “in the unflinching and powerful form its creators intended”.[228]

Motion picture company Nippon Eigasha started sending cameramen to Nagasaki and Hiroshima in September 1945. On October 24, 1945, a U.S. military policeman stopped a Nippon Eigasha cameraman from continuing to film in Nagasaki. All Nippon Eigasha’s reels were then confiscated by the American authorities. These reels were in turn requested by the Japanese government, declassified, and saved from oblivion. Some black-and-white motion pictures were released and shown for the first time to Japanese and American audiences in the years from 1968 to 1970.[228] The public release of film footage of the city post attack, and some research about the human effects of the attack, was restricted during the occupation of Japan, and much of this information was censored until the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, restoring control to the Japanese.[231]

Only the most sensitive and detailed weapons effects information was censored during this period. There was no censorship of the factually written accounts. For example, the book Hiroshima written by Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey, which was originally published in article form in the popular magazine The New Yorker,[232] on August 31, 1946, is reported to have reached Tokyo in English by January 1947, and the translated version was released in Japan in 1949.[233][234][235] The book narrates the stories of the lives of six bomb survivors from immediately prior, to months after, the dropping of the Little Boy bomb.[232]

Post-attack casualties

Film footage taken in Hiroshima in March 1946 showing victims with severe burns

In the spring of 1948, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established in accordance with a presidential directive from Truman to the National Academy of SciencesNational Research Council to conduct investigations of the late effects of radiation among the survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[236] One of the early studies conducted by the ABCC was on the outcome of pregnancies occurring in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in a control city, Kure, located 18 mi (29 km) south of Hiroshima, in order to discern the conditions and outcomes related to radiation exposure.[237] Dr. James V. Neel led the study which found that the number of birth defects was not significantly higher among the children of survivors who were pregnant at the time of the bombings.[238] The National Academy of Sciences questioned Neel’s procedure which did not filter the Kure population for possible radiation exposure.[239] Among the observed birth defects there was a higher incidence of brain malformation in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, including microencephaly and anencephaly, about 2.75 times the rate seen in Kure.[240][241]

In 1985, Johns Hopkins University human geneticist James F. Crow examined Neel’s research and confirmed that the number of birth defects was not significantly higher in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[242] Many members of the ABCC and its successor Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) were still looking for possible birth defects or other causes among the survivors decades later, but found no evidence that they were common among the survivors.[243][244] Despite the insignificance of birth defects found in Neel’s study, historian Ronald E. Powaski wrote that Hiroshima experienced “an increase in stillbirths, birth defects, and infant mortality” following the atomic bomb.[245] Neel also studied the longevity of the children who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reporting that between 90 and 95 percent were still living 50 years later.[243]

Around 1,900 cancer deaths can be attributed to the after-effects of the bombs. An epidemiology study by the RERF states that from 1950 to 2000, 46% of leukemia deaths and 11% of solid cancer deaths among the bomb survivors were due to radiation from the bombs, the statistical excess being estimated at 200 leukemia and 1,700 solid cancers.[246]

Hibakusha

Main article: Hibakusha
See also: Hibakujumoku
A rectangular column rises above a dark stone base with Japanese writing on it. It sits atop a grass mound with is surrounded by alternating circles of stone path and grass. The is a wall around the whole monument, and bushes beyond.

Panoramic view of the monument marking the hypocenter, or ground zero, of the atomic bomb explosion over Nagasaki

The survivors of the bombings are called hibakusha (被爆者?, Japanese pronunciation: [çiβa̠kɯ̥ᵝɕʲa̠]), a Japanese word that literally translates to “explosion-affected people.” As of March 31, 2014[update], 192,719 hibakusha were recognized by the Japanese government, most living in Japan.[247] The government of Japan recognizes about 1% of these as having illnesses caused by radiation.[248] The memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki contain lists of the names of the hibakusha who are known to have died since the bombings. Updated annually on the anniversaries of the bombings, as of August 2014[update] the memorials record the names of more than 450,000 hibakusha; 292,325 in Hiroshima[249] and 165,409 in Nagasaki.[250]

Hibakusha and their children were (and still are) victims of severe discrimination in Japan due to public ignorance about the consequences of radiation sickness, with much of the public believing it to be hereditary or even contagious.[251] This is despite the fact that no statistically demonstrable increase of birth defects or congenital malformations was found among the later conceived children born to survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[252] A study of the long-term psychological effects of the bombings on the survivors found that even 17–20 years after the bombings had occurred survivors showed a higher prevalence of anxiety and somatization symptoms.[253]

Double survivors

On March 24, 2009, the Japanese government officially recognized Tsutomu Yamaguchi as a double hibakusha. He was confirmed to be 3 km (1.9 mi) from ground zero in Hiroshima on a business trip when Little Boy was detonated. He was seriously burnt on his left side and spent the night in Hiroshima. He arrived at his home city of Nagasaki on August 8, the day before Fat Man was dropped, and he was exposed to residual radiation while searching for his relatives. He was the first officially recognized survivor of both bombings.[254] He died on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93, after a battle with stomach cancer.[255] The 2006 documentary Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki documented 165 nijū hibakusha (lit. double explosion-affected people), and was screened at the United Nations.[256]

Korean survivors

During the war, Japan brought as many as 670,000 Korean conscripts to Japan to work as forced labor.[257] About 20,000 Koreans were killed in Hiroshima and another 2,000 died in Nagasaki. Perhaps one in seven of the Hiroshima victims were of Korean ancestry. For many years, Koreans had a difficult time fighting for recognition as atomic bomb victims and were denied health benefits. Most issues have been addressed in recent years through lawsuits.[258]

Debate over bombings

The atomic bomb was more than a weapon of terrible destruction; it was a psychological weapon.

—Henry L. Stimson, 1947[259]

A shot along a river. There is a bridge in the distance, and a ruined domed building in the middle distance. People walk along the footpath that runs parallel to the river

Citizens of Hiroshima walk by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the closest building to have survived the city’s atomic bombing

The role of the bombings in Japan’s surrender and the U.S.’s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. J. Samuel Walker wrote in an April 2005 overview of recent historiography on the issue, “the controversy over the use of the bomb seems certain to continue.” He wrote that “The fundamental issue that has divided scholars over a period of nearly four decades is whether the use of the bomb was necessary to achieve victory in the war in the Pacific on terms satisfactory to the United States.”[260]

Supporters of the bombings generally assert that they caused the Japanese surrender, preventing casualties on both sides during Operation Downfall. One figure of speech, “One hundred million [subjects of the Japanese Empire] will die for the Emperor and Nation,”[261] served as a unifying slogan, although that phrase was intended as a figure of speech along the lines of the “ten thousand years” phrase.[262] In Truman’s 1955 Memoirs, “he states that the atomic bomb probably saved half a million U.S. lives— anticipated casualties in an Allied invasion of Japan planned for November. Stimson subsequently talked of saving one million U.S. casualties, and Churchill of saving one million American and half that number of British lives.”[263] Scholars have pointed out various alternatives that could have ended the war without an invasion, but these alternatives could have resulted in the deaths of many more Japanese.[264] Supporters also point to an order given by the Japanese War Ministry on August 1, 1944, ordering the execution of Allied prisoners of war when the POW camp was in the combat zone.[265]

Those who oppose the bombings cite a number of reasons for their view, among them: a belief that atomic bombing is fundamentally immoral, that the bombings counted as war crimes, that they were militarily unnecessary, that they constituted state terrorism,[266] and that they involved racism against and the dehumanization of the Japanese people. Another popular view among critics of the bombings, originating with Gar Alperovitz in 1965 and becoming the default position in Japanese school history textbooks, is the idea of atomic diplomacy: that the United States used nuclear weapons in order to intimidate the Soviet Union in the early stages of the Cold War.[267] The bombings were part of an already fierce conventional bombing campaign. This, together with the sea blockade and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment), could also have led to a Japanese surrender. At the time the United States dropped its atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union launched a surprise attack with 1.6 million troops against the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. “The Soviet entry into the war”, argued Japanese historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, “played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation”.[268]

 

Pearl Harbour – Attack on Pearl Harbor

– Pear Harbour –

The attack on Pearl Harbor  was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Attack on Pearl Harbor (World War II)

Full Documentary in Color

fdr_column_by_Ross_Baker

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan on Dec. 8, 1941.

 (Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

“No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb. We know now that a nation can have peace with the Nazis only at the price of total surrender.”

Winston Churchill

The attack on Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were nearly simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Reduced to a common time rather than the local times spread across about 6,000 miles and the International Date Line the attacks, from troop landings at Kota Bharu, Malaya to the air attacks ranging geographically from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor took place within the span of seven hours.

From the standpoint of the defenders, the attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time.[14] The base was attacked by 353  Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.  All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. All but one (Arizona) were later raised, and six of the eight battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship,  and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.

Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been strong, disappeared. Clandestine support of the United Kingdom (e.g., the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the U.S. prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.

Years later several writers alleged that parties high in the U.S. and British governments knew of the attack in advance and may have let it happen (or even encouraged it) with the aim of bringing America into war.  However, this advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is rejected by mainstream historians.

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy“. Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was judged by the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.[24][25]

Background to conflict

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest

Diplomatic background

The attack on Pearl Harbor was intended to neutralize the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and hence protect Japan’s advance into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, where it sought access to natural resources such as oil and rubber. War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility of which each nation had been aware (and developed contingency plans for) since the 1920s, though tensions did not begin to grow seriously until Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria. Over the next decade, Japan continued to expand into China, leading to all-out war between those countries in 1937. Japan spent considerable effort trying to isolate China and achieve sufficient resource independence to attain victory on the mainland; the “Southern Operation” was designed to assist these efforts.

From December 1937, events such as the Japanese attack on the USS Panay, the Allison incident, and the Nanking Massacre (the International Military Tribunal of the Far East concluded that more than 200,000 Chinese non-combatants were killed in indiscriminate massacres, though other estimates have ranged from 40,000 to more than 300,000) swung public opinion in the West sharply against Japan. Fearing Japanese expansion,[27] the United States, the United Kingdom, and France provided loan assistance for war supply contracts to the Republic of China.

In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina in an effort to control supplies reaching China. The United States halted shipments of airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline to Japan, which was perceived by Japan as an unfriendly act. The U.S. did not stop oil exports to Japan at that time in part because prevailing sentiment in Washington was that such an action would be an extreme step, given Japanese dependence on U.S. oil, and likely to be considered a provocation by Japan.

Early in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii from its previous base in San Diego and ordered a military buildup in the Philippines in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East. Because the Japanese high command was (mistakenly) certain that any attack on the UK’s Southeast Asian colonies would bring the U.S. into war, a devastating preventive strike appeared to be the only way to avoid U.S. naval interference.

An invasion of the Philippines was also considered necessary by Japanese war planners. The U.S. War Plan Orange had envisioned defending the Philippines with a 40,000-man elite force. This was opposed by Douglas MacArthur, who felt that he would need a force ten times that size, and was never implemented. By 1941, U.S. planners anticipated abandonment of the Philippines at the outbreak of war and orders to that effect were given in late 1941 to Admiral Thomas Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet.

The U.S. ceased oil exports to Japan in July 1941, following Japanese expansion into French Indochina after the fall of France, in part because of new American restrictions on domestic oil consumption. This in turn caused the Japanese to proceed with plans to take the Dutch East Indies, an oil-rich territory.[nb 8] On 17 August, Roosevelt warned Japan that the U.S. was prepared to take steps against Japan if it attacked “neighboring countries”.[36] The Japanese were faced with the option of either withdrawing from China and losing face or seizing and securing new sources of raw materials in the resource-rich, European-controlled colonies of Southeast Asia.

Japan and the U.S. engaged in negotiations during the course of 1941 in an effort to improve relations. During these negotiations, Japan offered to withdraw from most of China and Indochina when peace was made with the Nationalist government, adopt an independent interpretation of the Tripartite Pact, and not to discriminate in trade provided all other countries reciprocated. Washington rejected these proposals. Japanese Prime Minister Konoye then offered to personally meet with Roosevelt, but Roosevelt insisted on coming to an agreement before any meeting.

The U.S. ambassador to Japan repeatedly urged Roosevelt to accept the meeting, warning that it was the only way to preserve the conciliatory Konoye government and peace in the Pacific. His recommendation was not acted upon. The Konoye government collapsed the following month when the Japanese military refused to agree to the withdrawal of all troops from China.

Japan’s final proposal, on 20 November, offered to withdraw their forces from southern Indochina and not to launch any attacks in Southeast Asia provided that the U.S., the UK, and the Netherlands ceased aiding China and lifted their sanctions against Japan. The American counter-proposal of 26 November (November 27 in Japan) (the Hull note) required Japan to evacuate all of China without conditions and conclude non-aggression pacts with Pacific powers. However the day before the Hull Note was delivered, on November 26 in Japan, the main Japanese attack fleet left port for Pearl Harbor.

Military planning

Preliminary planning for an attack on Pearl Harbor to protect the move into the “Southern Resource Area” (the Japanese term for the Dutch East Indies and Southeast Asia generally) had begun very early in 1941 under the auspices of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, then commanding Japan’s Combined Fleet. He won assent to formal planning and training for an attack from the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff only after much contention with Naval Headquarters, including a threat to resign his command.  Full-scale planning was underway by early spring 1941, primarily by Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, with assistance from Captain Minoru Genda and Yamamoto’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Captain Kameto Kuroshima. The planners studied the 1940 British air attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto intensively.

Hirohito, Emperor of Japan

Over the next several months, pilots trained, equipment was adapted, and intelligence collected. Despite these preparations, Emperor Hirohito did not approve the attack plan until November 5, after the third of four Imperial Conferences called to consider the matter. Final authorization was not given by the emperor until December 1, after a majority of Japanese leaders advised him the “Hull Note” would :

“destroy the fruits of the China incident, endanger Manchukuo and undermine Japanese control of Korea.”

By late 1941, many observers believed that hostilities between the U.S. and Japan were imminent. A Gallup poll just before the attack on Pearl Harbor found that 52% of Americans expected war with Japan, 27% did not, and 21% had no opinion.

While U.S. Pacific bases and facilities had been placed on alert on many occasions, U.S. officials doubted Pearl Harbor would be the first target; instead, they expected the Philippines would be attacked first. This presumption was due to the threat that the air bases throughout the country and the naval base at Manila posed to sea lanes, as well as to the shipment of supplies to Japan from territory to the south.They also incorrectly believed that Japan was not capable of mounting more than one major naval operation at a time.

Ever since the Japanese attack, there has been debate as to how and why the United States had been caught unaware, and how much and when American officials knew of Japanese plans and related topics. Several writers, including journalist Robert Stinnett and former United States rear admiral Robert Alfred Theobald, have argued that various parties high in the U.S. and British governments knew of the attack in advance and may even have let it happen or encouraged it in order to force the U.S. into war via the so-called “back door”. However, this Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is rejected by mainstream historians.

Objectives

The attack had several major aims. First, it intended to destroy important American fleet units, thereby preventing the Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. Second, it was hoped to buy time for Japan to consolidate its position and increase its naval strength before shipbuilding authorized by the 1940 Vinson-Walsh Act erased any chance of victory.

Finally, it was meant to deliver a severe blow to American morale, one which would discourage Americans from committing to a war extending into the western Pacific Ocean and Dutch East Indies. To maximize the effect on morale, battleships were chosen as the main targets, since they were the prestige ships of any navy at the time. The overall intention was to enable Japan to conquer Southeast Asia without interference.

Striking the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor carried two distinct disadvantages: the targeted ships would be in very shallow water, so it would be relatively easy to salvage and possibly repair them; and most of the crews would survive the attack, since many would be on shore leave or would be rescued from the harbor. A further important disadvantage—this of timing, and known to the Japanese—was the absence from Pearl Harbor of all three of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga). IJN top command was so imbued with Admiral Mahan‘s “decisive battle” doctrine—especially that of destroying the maximum number of battleships—that, despite these concerns, Yamamoto decided to press ahead.

Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war also meant other targets in the harbor, especially the navy yard, oil tank farms, and submarine base, were ignored, since—by their thinking—the war would be over before the influence of these facilities would be felt.

Approach and attack

Route followed by the Japanese fleet to Pearl Harbor and back.

 

An Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter on the aircraft carrier Akagi.

 

On November 26, 1941, a Japanese task force (the Striking Force) of six aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku—departed northern Japan en route to a position northwest of Hawaii, intending to launch its 408 aircraft to attack Pearl Harbor: 360 for the two attack waves and 48 on defensive combat air patrol (CAP), including nine fighters from the first wave.

The first wave was to be the primary attack, while the second wave was to attack carriers as its first objective and cruisers as its second, with battleships as the third target. The first wave carried most of the weapons to attack capital ships, mainly specially adapted Type 91 aerial torpedoes which were designed with an anti-roll mechanism and a rudder extension that let them operate in shallow water.

The aircrews were ordered to select the highest value targets (battleships and aircraft carriers) or, if these were not present, any other high value ships (cruisers and destroyers). First wave dive bombers were to attack ground targets. Fighters were ordered to strafe and destroy as many parked aircraft as possible to ensure they did not get into the air to intercept the bombers, especially in the first wave. When the fighters’ fuel got low they were to refuel at the aircraft carriers and return to combat. Fighters were to serve CAP duties where needed, especially over U.S. airfields.

Before the attack commenced, two reconnaissance aircraft launched from cruisers Chikuma and Tone were sent to scout over Oahu and Maui and report on U.S. fleet composition and location. Reconnaissance aircraft flights risked alerting the U.S., and were not necessary. U.S. fleet composition and preparedness information in Pearl Harbor was already known due to the reports of the Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa. A report of the absence of the U.S. fleet in Lahaina anchorage off Maui was received from the fleet submarine I-72.

Another four scout planes patrolled the area between the Japanese carrier force (the Kido Butai) and Niihau, to detect any counterattack.

Submarines

Ko-hyoteki class submarine.jpg

Fleet submarines I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24 each embarked a Type A midget submarine for transport to the waters off Oahu. The five I-boats left Kure Naval District on November 25, 1941.  On December 6, they came to within 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi) of the mouth of Pearl Harbor  and launched their midget subs at about 01:00  on December 7.

At 03:42  Hawaiian Time, the minesweeper Condor spotted a midget submarine periscope southwest of the Pearl Harbor entrance buoy and alerted the destroyer Ward. The midget may have entered Pearl Harbor. However, Ward sank another midget submarine at 06:37 in the first American shots in the Pacific Theater. A midget submarine on the north side of Ford Island missed the seaplane tender Curtiss with her first torpedo and missed the attacking destroyer Monaghan with her other one before being sunk by Monaghan at 08:43.[66]

A third midget submarine, the Ha-19, grounded twice, once outside the harbor entrance and again on the east side of Oahu, where it was captured on December 8. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki swam ashore and was captured by Hawaii National Guard Corporal David Akui, becoming the first Japanese prisoner of war. A fourth had been damaged by a depth charge attack and was abandoned by its crew before it could fire its torpedoes. Japanese forces received a radio message from a midget submarine at 00:41 on December 8 claiming damage to one or more large war vessels inside Pearl Harbor.

The fifth midget submarine was found in three parts in 1992, 2000 and 2001 by Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory‘s submarines outside Pearl Harbor within U.S. amphibious warfare debris field. Both torpedoes were missing and their fate correlates to the reports of firing two torpedoes at light cruiser St. Louis at 10:04 at Pearl Harbor entrance and possible torpedo firing at destroyer Helm at 08:21.

Japanese declaration of war

The attack took place before any formal declaration of war was made by Japan, but this was not Admiral Yamamoto’s intention. He originally stipulated that the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States that peace negotiations were at an end. The Japanese tried to uphold the conventions of war while still achieving surprise, but the attack began before the notice could be delivered. Tokyo transmitted the 5,000-word notification (commonly called the “14-Part Message”) in two blocks to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, but transcribing the message took too long for the Japanese ambassador to deliver it in time. (In fact, U.S. code breakers had already deciphered and translated most of the message hours before he was scheduled to deliver it.).

The final part of the “14 Part Message” is sometimes described as a declaration of war. While it neither declared war nor severed diplomatic relations, it was viewed by a number of senior U.S government and military officials as a very strong indicator that negotiations were likely to be terminated and that war might break out at any moment.

A declaration of war was printed on the front page of Japan’s newspapers in the evening edition of December 8, but not delivered to the U.S. government until the day after the attack.

For decades, conventional wisdom held that Japan attacked without any official warning of a break in relations only because of accidents and bumbling that delayed the delivery of a document hinting at war to Washington. In 1999, however, Takeo Iguchi, a professor of law and international relations at International Christian University in Tokyo, discovered documents that pointed to a vigorous debate inside the government over how, and indeed whether, to notify Washington of Japan’s intention to break off negotiations and start a war, including a December 7 entry in the war diary saying,

“our deceptive diplomacy is steadily proceeding toward success.”

Of this, Iguchi said,

“The diary shows that the army and navy did not want to give any proper declaration of war, or indeed prior notice even of the termination of negotiations … and they clearly prevailed.”

First wave composition

The Japanese attacked in two waves. The first wave was detected by U.S. Armyradar at 136 nautical miles (252 km), but was misidentified as USAAFbombers arriving from the American mainland
Top:
A. Ford Island NAS B. Hickam Field C. Bellows Field D. Wheeler Field
E. Kaneohe NAS F. Ewa MCAS R-1. Opana Radar Station R-2. Kawailoa RS R-3. Kaaawa RS
G. Haleiwa H. Kahuku I. Wahiawa J. Kaneohe K. Honolulu
0. B-17s from mainland 1. First strike group 1-1. Level bombers 1-2. Torpedo bombers 1-3. Dive bombers 2. Second strike group 2-1. Level bombers 2-1F. Fighters 2-2. Dive bombers
Bottom:
A. Wake Island B. Midway Islands C. Johnston Island D. Hawaii
D-1. Oahu 1. USS Lexington 2. USS Enterprise 3. First Air Fleet

 

  <21 feet (6.4 m)
  22–23 feet (6.7–7.0 m)
  29 feet (8.8 m)
  30–32 feet (9.1–9.8 m)
  33–34 feet (10.1–10.4 m)
  34–35 feet (10.4–10.7 m)
  36–37 feet (11.0–11.3 m)
  38–39 feet (11.6–11.9 m)
  40–41 feet (12.2–12.5 m)
  42–48 feet (12.8–14.6 m)
  >49 feet (14.9 m)
  City
  Army base
  Navy base

Attacked targets:
1: USS California
2: USS Maryland
3: USS Oklahoma
4: USS Tennessee
5: USS West Virginia
6: USS Arizona
7: USS Nevada
8: USS Pennsylvania
9: Ford Island NAS
10: Hickam field
Ignored infrastructure targets:
A: Oil storage tanks
B: CINCPAC headquarters building
C: Submarine base
D: Navy Yard

The first attack wave of 183 planes was launched north of Oahu, led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida.[78] Six planes failed to launch due to technical difficulties. It included:

As the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near the island’s northern tip. This post had been in training mode for months, but was not yet operational. Although the operators, Privates George Elliot Jr. and Joseph Lockard, reported a target, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept Center, Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers. The direction from which the aircraft were coming was close (only a few degrees separated the two inbound courses), while the operators had never seen a formation as large on radar; they neglected to tell Tyler of its size,  while Tyler, for security reasons, could not tell them the B-17s were due (even though it was widely known).

As the first wave planes approached Oahu, they encountered and shot down several U.S. aircraft. At least one of these radioed a somewhat incoherent warning. Other warnings from ships off the harbor entrance were still being processed or awaiting confirmation when the attacking planes began bombing and strafing. Nevertheless, it is not clear any warnings would have had much effect even if they had been interpreted correctly and much more promptly. The results the Japanese achieved in the Philippines were essentially the same as at Pearl Harbor, though MacArthur had almost nine hours warning that the Japanese had already attacked Pearl Harbor.

The air portion of the attack began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time  (3:18 a.m. December 8 Japanese Standard Time, as kept by ships of the Kido Butai),  with the attack on Kaneohe. A total of 353 Japanese planes in two waves reached Oahu. Slow, vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave, exploiting the first moments of surprise to attack the most important ships present (the battleships), while dive bombers attacked U.S. air bases across Oahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Field, the main U.S. Army Air Forces fighter base. The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Army Air Forces’ Bellows Field near Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island. The only aerial opposition came from a handful of P-36 Hawks, P-40 Warhawks, and some SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the carrier USS Enterprise.

 

A destroyed Vindicator at Ewa field, the victim of one of the smaller attacks on the approach to Pearl Harbor.

 

Men aboard U.S. ships awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire, prompting bleary-eyed men to dress as they ran to General Quarters stations. (The famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.”, was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.) The defenders were very unprepared. Ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to deter sabotage, guns unmanned (none of the Navy’s 5″/38s, only a quarter of its machine guns, and only four of 31 Army batteries got in action).

Despite this low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the attack. Ensign Joe Taussig Jr., aboard USS Nevada, commanded the ship’s antiaircraft guns and was severely wounded, but continued to be on post. Lt. Commander F.J. Thomas commanded USS Nevada in the captain’s absence and got her under way until the ship was grounded at 9:10 a.m.

One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for 36 hours before her commanding officer managed to get back aboard.

Mervyn Sharp Bennion

 

Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding USS West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb which hit USS Tennessee, moored alongside.

Second wave composition

The second planned wave consisted of 171 planes: 54 B5Ns, 81 D3As, and 36 A6Ms, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki. Four planes failed to launch because of technical difficulties.[60] This wave and its targets comprised:

  • 1st Group – 54 B5Ns armed with 550 lb (249 kg) and 132 lb (60 kg) general purpose bombs
    • 27 B5Ns – aircraft and hangars on Kaneohe, Ford Island, and Barbers Point
    • 27 B5Ns – hangars and aircraft on Hickam Field
  • 2nd Group (targets: aircraft carriers and cruisers)
    • 78 D3As armed with 550 lb (249 kg) general purpose bombs, in four sections (3 aborted)
  • 3rd Group – (targets: aircraft at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, Kaneohe)
    • 35 A6Ms for defense and strafing (1 aborted)

The second wave was divided into three groups. One was tasked to attack Kāneʻohe, the rest Pearl Harbor proper. The separate sections arrived at the attack point almost simultaneously from several directions.

American casualties and damages

Ninety minutes after it began, the attack was over. 2,008 sailors were killed and 710 others wounded; 218 soldiers and airmen (who were part of the Army until the independent U.S. Air Force was formed in 1947) were killed and 364 wounded; 109 marines were killed and 69 wounded; and 68 civilians were killed and 35 wounded. In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded.

Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All of the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were non-combatants, given the fact there was no state of war when the attack occurred.

USS Arizona (BB-39) during the attack.

 

Of the American fatalities, nearly half were due to the explosion of Arizonas forward magazine after it was hit by a modified 40 cm (16 in.) shell.

Already damaged by a torpedo and on fire amidships, Nevada attempted to exit the harbor. She was targeted by many Japanese bombers as she got under way and sustained more hits from 250 lb (113 kg) bombs, which started further fires. She was deliberately beached to avoid blocking the harbor entrance.

California was hit by two bombs and two torpedoes. The crew might have kept her afloat, but were ordered to abandon ship just as they were raising power for the pumps. Burning oil from Arizona and West Virginia drifted down on her, and probably made the situation look worse than it was. The disarmed target ship Utah was holed twice by torpedoes. West Virginia was hit by seven torpedoes, the seventh tearing away her rudder. Oklahoma was hit by four torpedoes, the last two above her belt armor, which caused her to capsize. Maryland was hit by two of the converted 40 cm shells, but neither caused serious damage.

Although the Japanese concentrated on battleships (the largest vessels present), they did not ignore other targets. The light cruiser Helena was torpedoed, and the concussion from the blast capsized the neighboring minelayer Oglala. Two destroyers in dry dock, Cassin and Downes were destroyed when bombs penetrated their fuel bunkers. The leaking fuel caught fire; flooding the dry dock in an effort to fight fire made the burning oil rise, and both were burned out. Cassin slipped from her keel blocks and rolled against Downes. The light cruiser Raleigh was holed by a torpedo. The light cruiser Honolulu was damaged, but remained in service. The repair vessel Vestal, moored alongside Arizona, was heavily damaged and beached. The seaplane tender Curtiss was also damaged. The destroyer Shaw was badly damaged when two bombs penetrated her forward magazine.

This message denotes the first U.S. ship, USS St. Louis (CL49) to clear Pearl Harbor.

(National Archives and Records Administration) (Note that this is in answer to question “Is channel clear?” and faint writing at bottom concerning the answer being held until St. Louis had successfully cleared.)

Of the 402 American aircraft in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged, 155 of them on the ground. Almost none was actually ready to take off to defend the base. Eight Army Air Forces pilots managed to get airborne during the attack  and six were credited with downing at least one Japanese aircraft during the attack: 1st Lt. Lewis M. Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen, 2nd Lt. Kenneth M. Taylor, 2nd Lt. George S. Welch, 2nd Lt. Harry W. Brown, and 2nd Lt. Gordon H. Sterling Jr. Sterling was shot down by Lt. Fujita over Kaneohe Bay and is listed as Body Not Recovered (not Missing In Action). Lt. John L. Dains was killed by friendly fire returning from a victory over Kaawa.

Of 33 PBYs in Hawaii, 24 were destroyed, and six others damaged beyond repair. (The three on patrol returned undamaged.) Friendly fire brought down some U.S. planes on top of that, including five from an inbound flight from Enterprise. Japanese attacks on barracks killed additional personnel.

At the time of the attack, nine civilian aircraft were flying in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor. Of these, three were shot down.

Japanese losses

Fifty-five Japanese airmen and nine submariners were killed in the attack, and one was captured. Of Japan’s 414 available planes, 29 were lost during the battle (nine in the first attack wave, 20 in the second), with another 74 damaged by antiaircraft fire from the ground.

Possible third wave

Several Japanese junior officers including Fuchida and Genda urged Nagumo to carry out a third strike in order to destroy as much of Pearl Harbor’s fuel and torpedo storage, maintenance, and dry dock facilities as possible. Genda, who had unsuccessfully advocated for invading Hawaii after the air attack, believed that without an invasion multiple strikes were necessary to disable the base as much as possible.

The captains of the other five carriers in the formation reported they were willing and ready to carry out a third strike Military historians have suggested the destruction of these would have hampered the U.S. Pacific Fleet far more seriously than the loss of its battleships. If they had been wiped out, “serious [American] operations in the Pacific would have been postponed for more than a year”;  according to American Admiral Chester Nimitz, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, “it would have prolonged the war another two years.”

Nagumo, however, decided to withdraw for several reasons:

  • American anti-aircraft performance had improved considerably during the second strike, and two thirds of Japan’s losses were incurred during the second wave.Nagumo felt if he launched a third strike, he would be risking three quarters of the Combined Fleet’s strength to wipe out the remaining targets (which included the facilities) while suffering higher aircraft losses.
  • The location of the American carriers remained unknown. In addition, the admiral was concerned his force was now within range of American land-based bombers. Nagumo was uncertain whether the U.S. had enough surviving planes remaining on Hawaii to launch an attack against his carriers.
  • A third wave would have required substantial preparation and turnaround time, and would have meant returning planes would have had to land at night. At the time, only the (British) Royal Navy had developed night carrier techniques, so this was a substantial risk.
  • Weather had deteriorated notably since the first and second wave launching, and rough seas complicated takeoff and landing for a third wave attack.
  • The task force’s fuel situation did not permit him to remain in waters north of Pearl Harbor much longer, since he was at the very limit of logistical support. To do so risked running unacceptably low on fuel, perhaps even having to abandon destroyers en route home.
  • He believed the second strike had essentially satisfied the main objective of his mission—the neutralization of the Pacific Fleet—and did not wish to risk further losses. Moreover, it was Japanese Navy practice to prefer the conservation of strength over the total destruction of the enemy.

At a conference aboard Yamato the following morning, Yamamoto initially supported Nagumo. In retrospect, sparing the vital dockyards, maintenance shops, and oil depots meant the U.S. could respond relatively quickly to Japanese activities in the Pacific. Yamamoto later regretted Nagumo’s decision to withdraw and categorically stated it had been a great mistake not to order a third strike.

Photographs

The first aerial photographs of the attack on Pearl Harbor were taken by Lee Embree, who was aboard a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress en route from Hamilton Field, California, to the Philippines.[110] Lee’s 38th Reconnaissance Squadron had scheduled a refueling stop at Hickam Field at the time of the attack.

Ships lost or damaged

Battleships

  • Arizona (Kidd’s flagship): hit by four armor-piercing bombs, exploded; total loss. 1,177 dead.
  • Oklahoma: hit by five torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 429 dead. Refloated November 1943; capsized and lost while under tow to the mainland May 1947.
  • West Virginia: hit by two bombs, seven torpedoes, sunk; returned to service July 1944. 106 dead.
  • California: hit by two bombs, two torpedoes, sunk; returned to service January 1944. 100 dead.
  • Nevada: hit by six bombs, one torpedo, beached; returned to service October 1942. 60 dead.
  • Tennessee: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 5 dead.
  • Maryland: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 4 dead (including floatplane pilot shot down).
  • Pennsylvania (Kimmel’s flagship) in drydock with Cassin and Downes, hit by one bomb, debris from USS Cassin; remained in service. 9 dead.

Ex-battleship (target/AA training ship)

  • Utah: hit by two torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 64 dead.

Cruisers

  • Helena: hit by one torpedo; returned to service January 1942. 20 dead.
  • Raleigh: hit by one torpedo; returned to service February 1942.
  • Honolulu: Near miss, light damage; remained in service.

Destroyers

  • Cassin: in drydock with Downes and Pennsylvania, hit by one bomb, burned; returned to service February 1944.
  • Downes: in drydock with Cassin and Pennsylvania, caught fire from Cassin, burned; returned to service November 1943.
  • Shaw: hit by three bombs; returned to service June 1942.

Auxiliaries

  • Oglala (minelayer): Damaged by torpedo hit on Helena, capsized; returned to service (as engine-repair ship) February 1944.
  • Vestal (repair ship): hit by two bombs, blast and fire from Arizona, beached; returned to service by August 1942.
  • Curtiss (seaplane tender): hit by one bomb, one crashed Japanese aircraft; returned to service January 1942. 19 dead.

Salvage

Captain Homer N. Wallin (center) supervises salvage operations aboard USS California, early 1942

After a systematic search for survivors, formal salvage operations began. Captain Homer N. Wallin, Material Officer for Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was immediately ordered to lead salvage operations.

“Within a short time I was relieved of all other duties and ordered to full time work as Fleet Salvage Officer”.

Around Pearl Harbor, divers from the Navy (shore and tenders), the Naval Shipyard, and civilian contractors (Pacific Bridge and others) began work on the ships that could be refloated. They patched holes, cleared debris, and pumped water out of ships. Navy divers worked inside the damaged ships. Within six months, five battleships and two cruisers were patched or refloated so they could be sent to shipyards in Pearl Harbor and on the mainland for extensive repair.

Intensive salvage operations continued for another year, a total of some 20,000 man-hours under water.  Oklahoma, while successfully raised, was never repaired, and capsized while under tow to the mainland in 1947. Arizona and the target ship Utah were too heavily damaged for salvage, though much of their armament and equipment was removed and put to use aboard other vessels. Today, the two hulks remain where they were sunk, with Arizona becoming a war memorial.

Aftermath

USS Pennsylvania, behind the wreckage of the USS Downes and USS Cassin.

 

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor. Additionally, a special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.

The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress obliged his request less than an hour later. On December 11, Germany and Italy, honoring their commitments under the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the United States. The pact was an earlier agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan which had the principal objective of limiting U.S. intervention in any conflicts involving the three nations.Congress issued a declaration of war against Germany and Italy later that same day. The UK actually declared war on Japan nine hours before the U.S. did, partially due to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and partially due to Winston Churchill’s promise to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the United States.

The attack was an initial shock to all the Allies in the Pacific Theater. Further losses compounded the alarming setback. Japan attacked the Philippines hours later (because of the time difference, it was December 8 in the Philippines). Only three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk off the coast of Malaya, causing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later to recollect

“In all the war I never received a more direct shock. As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked”.

Throughout the war, Pearl Harbor was frequently used in American propaganda.

One further consequence of the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath (notably the Niihau Incident) was that Japanese American residents and citizens were relocated to nearby Japanese-American internment camps. Within hours of the attack, hundreds of Japanese American leaders were rounded up and brought to high-security camps such as Sand Island at the mouth of Honolulu harbor and Kilauea Military Camp on the island of Hawai

Later, over 110,000 Japanese Americans, including United States citizens, were removed from their homes and transferred to internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas.

The attack also had international consequences. The Canadian province of British Columbia, bordering the Pacific Ocean, had long had a large population of Japanese immigrants. Pre-war tensions were exacerbated by the Pearl Harbor attack, leading to a reaction from the Government of Canada. On February 24, 1942, Order-in-Council P.C. no. 1486 was passed under the War Measures Act allowing for the forced removal of any and all Canadians of Japanese descent from British Columbia, as well as the prohibiting from them returning to the province. The Japanese-Canadians were given a choice: either be moved into internment camps or be deported back to Japan.

Niihau Incident

Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi’s aircraft shown ten days after it crashed

 

The Japanese planners had determined that some means was required for rescuing fliers whose aircraft were too badly damaged to return to the carriers. The island of Niihau, only 30 minutes flying time from Pearl Harbor, was designated as the rescue point.

The Zero flown by Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi of Hiryu was damaged in the attack on Wheeler, so he flew to the rescue point on Niihau. The aircraft was further damaged on landing. Nishikaichi was helped from the wreckage by one of the native Hawaiians, who, aware of the tension between the United States and Japan, took the pilot’s maps and other documents. The island’s residents had no telephones or radio and were completely unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nishikaichi enlisted the support of three Japanese-American residents in an attempt to recover the documents. During the ensuing struggles, Nishikaichi was killed and a Hawaiian civilian was wounded; one collaborator committed suicide, and his wife and the third collaborator were sent to prison.

The ease with which the local ethnic Japanese residents had apparently gone to the assistance of Nishikaichi was a source of concern for many, and tended to support those who believed that local Japanese could not be trusted.

Strategic implications

Admiral Hara Tadaichi summed up the Japanese result by saying,

“We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war.”

While the attack accomplished its intended objective, it turned out to be largely unnecessary. Unbeknownst to Yamamoto, who conceived the original plan, the U.S. Navy had decided as far back as 1935 to abandon ‘charging’ across the Pacific towards the Philippines in response to an outbreak of war (in keeping with the evolution of Plan Orange).

The U.S. instead adopted “Plan Dog” in 1940, which emphasized keeping the IJN out of the eastern Pacific and away from the shipping lanes to Australia, while the U.S. concentrated on defeating Nazi Germany.

Fortunately for the United States, the American aircraft carriers were untouched by the Japanese attack; otherwise the Pacific Fleet’s ability to conduct offensive operations would have been crippled for a year or more (given no diversions from the Atlantic Fleet). As it was, the elimination of the battleships left the U.S. Navy with no choice but to rely on its aircraft carriers and submarines—the very weapons with which the U.S. Navy halted and eventually reversed the Japanese advance. While six of the eight battleships were repaired and returned to service, their relatively low speed and high fuel consumption limited their deployment, and they served mainly in shore bombardment roles (their only major action being the Battle of Surigao Strait).

A major flaw of Japanese strategic thinking was a belief that the ultimate Pacific battle would be fought by battleships, in keeping with the doctrine of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. As a result, Yamamoto (and his successors) hoarded battleships for a “decisive battle” that never happened.

The Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war meant that they neglected Pearl Harbor’s navy repair yards, oil tank farms, submarine base, and old headquarters building. All of these targets were omitted from Genda’s list, yet they proved more important than any battleship to the American war efforts in the Pacific. The survival of the repair shops and fuel depots allowed Pearl Harbor to maintain logistical support to the US Navy’s operations,  such as the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway.

It was submarines that immobilized the Imperial Japanese Navy’s heavy ships and brought Japan’s economy to a virtual standstill by crippling the transportation of oil and raw materials: import of raw materials was down by half what it had been at the end of 1942, “to a disastrous ten million tons”, while oil import “was almost completely stopped”.  Lastly, the basement of the Old Administration Building was the home of the cryptanalytic unit which contributed significantly to the Midway ambush and the Submarine Force’s success.

Present day

Photo from USS Missouri, looking towards the USS Arizona memorial

 

Today, the USS Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu honors the lives lost on the day of the attack. Visitors to the memorial reach it via boats from the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Alfred Preis is the architect responsible for the memorial’s design. The structure has a sagging center and its ends strong and vigorous. It commemorates “initial defeat and ultimate victory” of all lives lost on December 7, 1941.

Although December 7 is known as Pearl Harbor Day, it is not considered a federal holiday in the United States. The nation does however, continue to pay homage remembering the thousands injured and killed when attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Schools and other establishments in some places around the country lower the American flag to half-staff out of respect.

Fittingly, the very naval vessel where the war ended on September 2, 1945 — the US Navy’s last battleship ever built, the USS Missouri — exists as a museum ship moored in Pearl Harbor, with its bow barely 1,000 feet (300 meters) southwest of the Arizona memorial.