Sunday, August 19, 2018

Evanston: chance

        In the early hours of August 9,1945, a B-29 named Bock’s Car, took off from the island of Tinian in the western Pacific Ocean carrying one bomb, nicknamed Fat Boy because it weighed five tons.  As I learned from the final episode of the Smithsonian Channel’s The Pacific War in Color, Bock’s Car was not headed for Nagasaki.  
        Seven hours later, Bock’s Car was over its primary target, the arsenal city of Kokura.  Radar locked in on the target, but the orders were to drop the bomb only with certain visual identification.  Clouds and smoke from fires still burning from the bombing the previous day of the nearby city of Yawata prevented the men in the bomber from seeing the arms factory over which the bomb was to be dropped, so after forty-five minutes during which they made three bombing runs without releasing the world’s first plutonium bomb, about a third more powerful than the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier, they turned away for their secondary target.  Less than an hour later about 50,000 people were vaporized in Nagasaki rather than in Kokura.
        I am aware that there are those who believe that nothing happens by chance, that everything has meaning and has been planned.  I am not one of them.
        I am also not one of those who ever thought that the bombs should not have been dropped
        At various times and places I have met four men, one Englishman, two Americans, and an Australian, who told me that they would not likely have been alive had the nuclear weapons not been used.  In August 1945 all were being redeployed for the invasion of Japan in which more than one million Allied casualties were expected, as were many more than that Japanese dead.  After Iwo Jima and Okinawa there could be no doubt that the Japanese would fight to annihilation and it was expected that the war would continue until at least 1947.
        It is also forgotten that the most destructive bombing raid ever was neither Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but the fire bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, which took more than one bomb, but resulted in over 100,000 deaths and destroyed about half the city.  Nuclear weapons have a more efficient kill ratio, but we can kill one another quite well with less efficient bombs.  For that matter we may destroy the species, and a good many more innocent others, just by continuing to burn coal and oil.