Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

World War II: Second Atomic Bomb That Ended the War

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: June 12, 2006 
Print Friendly
70 comments FONT +  FONT -


The atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, has been the subject of numerous books and articles since that time, many by scientists and others who participated in the development of the world's first atomic bombs. The personal story of Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets, who flew the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay, and the individual accounts of its crew members have also been published since that eventful mission a half century ago.

Strangely, however, the story of the second mission, which bombed Nagasaki, has not been fully told, mostly because of the concurrent rush of events leading to Japan's complete surrender. Then, too, it may be because that second A-bomb strike nearly ended disastrously. It further proved the verity of Murphy's Law that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to Aviation History magazine

Tibbets, then a colonel in charge of the 509th Composite Group, had honed his unit of 15 B-29 Superfortresses into one of the finest Air Force bombardment outfits ever assembled. Operating from Tinian Island in the Marianas, then considered the largest air base in the world, he and his crew had made a picture-perfect 2,900-mile flight, and had dropped the uranium bomb called 'Little Boy' squarely on target. That single bomb, weighing 8,900 pounds, wiped out nearly five square miles of Hiroshima–60 percent of the city. More than 78,000 of the city's total population of 348,000 were killed; an estimated 51,000 were injured or missing.

It had been an exhausting 12-hour mission. After returning to Tinian, Tibbets was greeted on the tarmac by General Carl Spaatz, commander of the Strategic Air Force, who pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on his rumpled, sweat-stained flying suit. Meanwhile, U.S. President Harry S. Truman was aboard USS Augusta, returning from a conference with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin at Potsdam, Germany. Upon hearing the news, Truman exclaimed, 'This is the greatest thing in history!' He promptly announced to the world the existence of an atomic bomb that had been developed under the code name, 'Manhattan Project.'

The War Department then issued a number of press releases giving the history of the project, information about production facilities, and the biographies of key people. In an unusual example of military and press cooperation, the releases had actually been drafted by William L. Laurence, a science reporter for The New York Times, who had known about the A-bomb for several months prior to the Hiroshima mission. Apprised of the need for complete secrecy, he had visited the production facilities and had followed the group to Tinian.

Within hours, newspapers around the world were carrying stories about the bomb and the principles involved in splitting the atom. They chronicled the bomb's development, the devastation it caused, the role of Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves in directing the Manhattan Project, and the contributions of 30,000 engineers and scientists in solving the mystery of the atom's energy potential.

Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson was one of the few top leaders who had been totally informed of the bomb's top-secret development every step of the way, and he had approved the target selection. He announced that improvements would be forthcoming soon 'which will increase by several fold the effectiveness' of the Hiroshima bomb.

The populace of the target cities had been warned. Leaflets had been dropped on 11 Japanese cities on July 27, telling the citizens that America was 'in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man.' There had been other warnings given to the Japanese during the preceding weeks, while the Twentieth Air Force's Superforts firebombed the country's principal industrial cities.

But the immense havoc a single bomb could produce was unimaginable, and the warnings were not taken very seriously. Just the day before, July 26, a declaration had been issued at Potsdam that notified the world of the intentions of three of the Allied nations concerning Japan: 'The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets of the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

'…We call upon the Government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurance of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.'

The Potsdam Declaration was debated vigorously at the highest levels of the Japanese government. A delegation was sent to Moscow to request that the Soviet Union, then still at peace with Japan, act as mediator. It was hoped that if the Soviets would agree to that role, it might be possible to negotiate terms that would be the most favorable to Japan.

There was great dissension among the Japanese military leaders, for few wanted to submit to a demand for unconditional surrender. Senior diplomats and influential citizens, however, privately urged Marquis Koichi Kido and members of the Japanese cabinet to take advantage of the offer in order to bring a prompt end to the war. On the other hand, War Minister Korechika Anami and the chiefs of the army and navy staffs adamantly refused to accept the terms of the Potsdam agreement. The result was that the Japanese government appeared to ignore the Allied declaration. There was no suspicion that the declaration itself constituted a warning that the most devastating weapon ever devised would be forthcoming. The people of Hiroshima tragically learned otherwise.

Because of the complete disruption of communications in Hiroshima after the atomic attack, the initial reports of damage were meager and fragmentary. While the world waited for their reaction, shocked Japanese officials were trying to grasp the extent of the damage. Meanwhile, President Truman issued the following statement: 'It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen on this earth.'

It was known that there had been other diplomatic moves, made previously by Japanese emissaries through neutral nations, which intimated that Japan might surrender under certain terms that were unacceptable to America and its allies. But when nothing definitive was heard from the Japanese, plans proceeded to drop the second atomic bomb.

The second mission was designated 'Special Mission No. 16.' A B-29 would carry 'Fat Man,' heavier than Little Boy and more complex. The primary target was Kokura. The secondary target was Nagasaki.

The 509th's Operations Order No. 39 of August 8, 1945, assigned Major Charles W. Sweeney, commanding officer of the 393rd Squadron, as the pilot in command of aircraft No. 297, nicknamed Bockscar. Major James I. Hopkins, Jr., group operations officer, was assigned to fly a second B-29 named Full House, which would carry photographic equipment and scientific personnel. On board would be Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, Winston Churchill's official representative.

Captain Fred Bock, instead of flying his own plane, would pilot The Great Artiste, named for Captain Kermit K. Beahan's ability as a bombardier and his alleged expertise with the opposite sex. That plane would be carrying the same special electronic measuring instruments used when Major Sweeney flew it on the Hiroshima flight. It would also be carrying William L. Laurence, a reporter for The New York Times who had been chosen at the inception of the Manhattan Project. His reporting would win him a Pulitzer Prize. A fourth aircraft was to proceed to Iwo Jima and stand by in case of an early abort by either of the backup aircraft.

Two weather observation planes were to proceed to the target areas one hour ahead of the strike aircraft. Since the order was to bomb visually for the greatest accuracy, it was essential that the area be visible to the bombardier.

Sweeney's crew normally had 10 men. Three others were added: Lt. Cmdr. Frederick L. Ashworth, U.S. Navy, the weaponeer in charge of the bomb; his assistant, Lieutenant Phillip M. Barnes; and the radar-countermeasures specialist, Lieutenant Jacob Beser. Captain Charles D. Albury was the copilot; Lieutenant Frederick J. Olivi, a third pilot; Captain James F. Van Pelt, Jr., navigator; Captain Kermit Beahan, bombardier; Staff Sgt. Abe M. Spitzer, radioman; Staff Sgt. Edward K. Buckley, radar operator; Staff Sgt. Albert T. DeHart, central fire control gunner; Master Sgt. John D. Kuharek, flight engineer; and Staff Sgt. Raymond G. Gallagher, mechanic/gunner. Beser was the only man who flew on both atomic bomb missions as a member of the crew of the strike aircraft. Many of the others in the formation, including Sweeney, had flown the other aircraft on the Hiroshima flight.

The crews of the 509th had trained together for almost a year under top-secret conditions. They had first gathered at Wendover Field, an isolated base in western Utah, and then had flown individual long-range, over-water navigation missions from Batista Field, Cuba. The personnel of the 509th moved to Tinian by air and sea in late May and early June 1945, where their top-secret status was the subject of much curiosity and constant ribbing. The crews designated for the atomic missions practiced by dropping giant 10,000-pound 'pumpkins' on 12 Japanese targets. Each pumpkin contained 5,500 pounds of explosives.

The B-29s of the 509th had been modified to deliver the atomic bomb and were thus unable to carry conventional bombs. Instead, they carried the pumpkins, painted orange and shaped like Fat Man. The pumpkins also had been used during their Stateside training. Proximity fuses that produced an air burst, a feature of the atomic bombs, were installed. About 45 of the pumpkin bombs had been brought from the States. According to Tibbets, his crews were so accurate with them that Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, then commanding the Twentieth Air Force, ordered 100 more.

The carefully planned elements of one of the world's most singular air units came together on schedule, backed by the highest national priority for supplies. The two atomic bombs were the result of the work of thousands of people. They had accepted the responsibility to try to split the atom, and to explore its potential as a bomb that could be controlled and released on demand.

The development of the atomic bomb can be said to have begun in the 1920s and early 1930s. It was then that several physicists, most of them in Europe, originated theories about ways to unlock the energy they believed existed within the atom. One of those physicists was Leo Szilard, a Hungarian who had fled from Nazi Germany to England in 1933. Szilard theorized that 'in certain circumstances, it might be possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction, liberate energy on an industrial scale and construct atomic bombs.' He urged British officials to conduct research to prove or disprove his theory.

Meanwhile, two German physicists, Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner, experimented with radioactive uranium in an effort to produce a chain reaction. Meitner fled from Nazi Germany to Sweden in 1938 and, together with Otto Frisch, passed the results of their experiments to physicist Niels Bohr, who left soon after for the United States. Bohr contacted Albert Einstein, also a refugee scientist, and winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize for physics, to explain the military potential of atomic energy.

Einstein, by then well-known in America, wrote a letter in August 1939 to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 'Some recent work,' his letter said, '…leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future and it is conceivable…that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed.'

Roosevelt appointed a group of scientists to an advisory committee on uranium, but at the time there was no real stimulus to proceed with any definitive action. Meanwhile, scientists in Germany and Japan were also considering the potential of atomic energy for war use. It took the attack on Pearl Harbor to stir the United States into action.

In 1942, Dr. Vannevar Bush, head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, confirmed to the president that an atomic weapon could be developed. The Manhattan Project was authorized. General Leslie R. Groves, a tough, no-nonsense Army Corps of Engineers officer, was put in charge.

Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist working with a team of fellow scientists at the University of Chicago, built the first nuclear reactor on a squash court under the stands of the university's football stadium. On December 2, 1942, the world's first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear reaction was achieved.

There were at least two methods that could be used to produce an explosion, both expensive but possible. Extensive facilities were built at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., to produce uranium and plutonium, the fissionable material needed for the bombs. A central laboratory to design both bombs was established at the so-called Site Y near Los Alamos, N.M., with Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer in charge.

Little Boy, 10 feet long and 28 inches in diameter, was similar to a gun in which a 'bullet' made of uranium 235 was fired into a target also of uranium 235. When the two collided, a supercritical mass was attained, and a chain reaction and explosion would occur. No preliminary firing tests were made.

Fat Man measured 10 feet 8 inches long and 5 feet in diameter. It contained a sphere of plutonium. Conventional explosives surrounding the plutonium were fired so that the plutonium was compressed into a supercritical mass, producing a chain reaction and an explosion. Fat Man was tested in the New Mexico desert, near Alamogordo, on July 16, 1945. A blinding explosion, the world's first nuclear blast, was equivalent to 18,600 tons of TNT. By the time the more complicated Fat Man had been tested, most of Little Boy's elements were already en route to Tinian.

After Tibbets returned from Hiroshima, Sweeney's crews watched as Fat Man was loaded on August 8. Sweeney's greatest fear, he said later, was of 'goofing up.' He said, 'I'd rather face the Japanese than Tibbets in shame if I made a stupid mistake.'

Sweeney did not make any'stupid mistakes,' but the second atomic mission seemed jinxed from the start. When queried recently, General Tibbets called the second mission a 'fiasco' through no fault of Sweeney's.

The two target cities had been carefully selected. They had purposely not been bombed heavily by LeMay's B-29s so that, as the after-action report noted, 'The assessment of the atomic bomb damage would not be confused by having to eliminate previous incendiary or high explosive damage.'

Kokura, on the northeast corner of Kyushu, was chosen as the primary target for Fat Man because it was the enemy's principal production source for automatic weapons. It was also the site of the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and was one of the largest shipbuilding and naval centers in Japan.

Nagasaki, the secondary target, was the third largest city on Kyushu. It was also one of Japan's leading shipbuilding and repair centers. It was not considered a completely 'virgin' target, however, because it had been bombed many weeks before by Twentieth Air Force bombers. Niigata was originally considered as a third target, but it was too far away from the other two cities.

The crews were given their final briefing during the early morning hours of August 9. They would cruise-climb to the bombing altitude of 31,000 feet. Meanwhile, the two weather planes would report the conditions over both targets. Radio silence between the bombers was to be absolute. If any of the planes had to ditch, rescue ships and submarines were in position; also, aircraft were on alert, to be dispatched to locate a downed plane or its crew.

With his airplane stripped of all armament except two .50-caliber tail guns, Sweeney lifted Bockscar off at 3:49 a.m., Tinian time. The flight route to Kokura was originally planned to proceed via Iwo Jima, but bad weather forced a change to Yaku-Shima in the Ryukus. En route, Commander Ashworth armed Fat Man.

When Bockscar arrived at the rendezvous point, only The Great Artiste was there. Due to poor visibility, Hopkins, in Full House, had lost contact with the other planes.

It had been agreed that Sweeney would not linger more than 15 minutes over the rendezvous point, but he circled for 45 minutes looking for Hopkins. Meanwhile, Hopkins was circling at another point many miles to the south. Breaking radio silence, Hopkins called out, 'Chuck, where in the hell are you?'

Sweeney did not answer. Frustrated, he told the crew, 'We can't wait any longer,' and turned toward Kokura with the single B-29 escort. He wanted the mission to be a complete success, but it would be difficult to call it that if the explosion were not properly documented by the photography that the equipment on Hopkins' plane would produce. Meanwhile, in the bomb bay, something had gone wrong. The black box containing the electrical switches that armed the bomb had a red light. As long as the light blinked in a regular rhythm, it meant that the bomb was properly armed. If it blinked irregularly, something was malfunctioning.

Lieutenant Barnes, the electronics test officer, was the first to notice that the red light suddenly began to flash wildly. He and Ashworth frantically removed the black box's cover to search for the trouble. Quickly tracing all the wiring, Barnes found the problem: the wiring on two small rotary switches had been reversed somehow. He quickly hooked them properly. It could have been worse. If it had been the timing fuses, they would have had less than one minute to find the trouble before Fat Man might have gone off.

Although Sweeney had heard fragmentary reports that the weather over Kokura would be favorable for visual bombing, it wasn't. Instead of the three-tenths cloud cover originally reported, the city was now obscured by heavy cloud cover. In addition, smoke from a firebomb raid the previous night on nearby Yawata made conditions worse. Staff Sergeant DeHart, in the tail-gun position, reported flak 'wide, but altitude is perfect.' Fighters were detected on radar; Staff Sgt. Gallagher thought he saw fighters through the haze.

Lieutenant Olivi recalled what happened next: 'We spent about 50 minutes and made three passes from different directions, but Beahan [the bombardier] reported he couldn't bomb visually. It was at this time that the crew chief [Master Sgt. Kuharek] reported that the 600 gallons of fuel in the bomb bay auxiliary tanks could not be transferred. We needed that extra 600 gallons badly.'

They had no choice now. After conferring with Ashworth, Sweeney turned toward Nagasaki, hoping that the weather there was better. When they arrived, the city was obscured by nine-tenths cloud cover with very few holes. Ashworth and Sweeney considered bombing by radar against orders. Despite the risk of having an armed bomb aboard, they had been ordered to bring it back if they could not bomb visually. Niigata, the unofficial tertiary target, was too far away, especially considering their reduced fuel supply. No one wanted to have to ditch in the East China Sea or try to land on Okinawa, the nearest friendly base, with the armed Fat Man aboard.

'We started an approach [to Nagasaki],' Olivi said, 'but Beahan couldn't see the target area [in the city east of the harbor]. Van Pelt, the navigator, was checking by radar to make sure we had the right city, and it looked like we would be dropping the bomb automatically by radar. At the last few seconds of the bomb run, Beahan yelled into his mike, 'I've got a hole! I can see it! I can see the target!' Apparently, he had spotted an opening in the clouds only 20 seconds before releasing the bomb.'

In his debriefing later, Beahan told Tibbets, 'I saw my aiming point; there was no problem about it. I got the cross hairs on it; I'd killed my rate; I'd killed my drift. The bomb had to go.'

When Beahan shouted, 'Bombs away!' over the intercom, Sweeney wheeled the B-29 around in a sharp, 60-degree left bank and turned 150 degrees away from the area as they had all practiced many times before. Approximately 50 seconds after release, a bright flash lit up the cockpit, where everyone had donned dark goggles. 'It was more dazzling than sunlight,' according to Olivi, 'even with my Polaroid glasses on. I could see fires starting and dust and smoke spreading in all directions. An ugly-looking mushroom began to emerge from the center. It spread and began rising directly toward our B-29.

'Right after the blast, we had lunged downward and away from the radioactive cloud. We felt three separate shock waves, the first being the most severe. As the mushroom cloud kept on climbing toward us, bright flames, a sickly pink, were shooting out of its interior. I had a sickish feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were going to be enveloped by the cloud. We had been warned many times about the possibility of radiation poisoning if we flew into it.

'Actually, I think the mushroom cloud missed us by about 125 yards before we pulled away from it. The briefings and all the practice we had on evasive tactics now had special meaning.'

Reporter Laurence, flying nearby in The Great Artiste, was transfixed in awe at the scene. 'We watched a giant pillar of purple fire, 10,000 feet high, shoot upward like a meteor coming from the earth instead of from outer space,' he wrote later in his award-winning book Dawn Over Zero. 'It was no longer smoke, or dust, or even a cloud of fire. It was a living thing, a new species of being, born right before our incredulous eyes.

'Even as we watched, a giant mushroom came shooting out of the top to 45,000 feet, a mushroom top that was even more alive than the pillar, seething and boiling in a white fury of creamy foam, a thousand geysers rolled into one. It kept struggling in an elemental fury, like a creature in the act of breaking the bonds that held it down.

'When we last saw it, it had changed its shape into a flowerlike form, its giant petals curving downward, creamy white outside, rose-colored inside. The boiling pillar had become a giant mountain of jumbled rainbows. Much living substance had gone into those rainbows.'

Major Hopkins saw the column of smoke from 100 miles away and flew toward the area after the explosion. However, the area was completely covered by clouds and smoke, hence no ground damage could be observed.

Sweeney made one wide circle of the mushroom cloud, then headed toward Tinian. Now they had a new danger confronting them. The fuel was dangerously low. They changed course for Okinawa with everyone on the flight deck watching the fuel gauges on Kuharek's flight engineer console. Sweeney had pulled the props back to a range-extending low rpm and leaned out the fuel mixture controls as far back as he dared while he descended; he figured they would land about 50 miles short of the island. Even when they spotted Yontan Field, it still seemed likely they would have to ditch short of the runway.

While Sweeney flew, Albury called the tower for landing instructions. He received no reply. He broadcast a Mayday while Sweeney told Van Pelt and Olivi to fire every emergency flare on board. No one seemed to pay any attention. In desperation, Sweeney took the mike and shouted, 'I'm coming straight in!'

'Someone must have gotten the message,' Olivi recalled, 'because when we lined up on the approach, we could see emergency equipment racing out to the runway. We had only enough gas for one pass, so if we didn't make it, we were going to end up in the ocean.

'Sweeney came in high and fast–too fast. Normal landing speed for the B-29 was about 130 mph. We used up half the strip before we touched down at about 150 mph, a dangerous speed, with nearly empty gas tanks.

'As we touched down, the plane began to swerve to the left and we nearly plowed into a line of B-24s parked along the active runway. Sweeney finally brought the plane under control, and as we taxied off the runway the No. 2 engine quit. Ambulance, staff cars, jeeps, and fire engines quickly surrounded us and a bunch of very jittery people debarked, very glad to be safe on the ground.'

What Olivi did not mention was that the airplane used up all of the runway trying to come to a halt. Sweeney stood on the brakes and made a swerving 90-degree turn at the end of the runway to avoid going over the cliff into the ocean. Beser recalled that two engines had died, while 'the centrifugal force resulting from the turn was almost enough to put us through the side of the airplane.'

Kuharek, before refilling the tanks, estimated that there were exactly seven gallons left in them. The Nagasaki mission had taken 101ž2 hours from the takeoff at Tinian to the landing at Okinawa. After they landed, the crewmen were told that the Russians had just entered the war against Japan.

For Sweeney and his crew, a nagging question haunted all of them: Had they hit the target? Ashworth didn't think they had. In his anxiety about obeying the order to bomb visually, Beahan had released the weapon about 11ž2 miles northeast of the city, up the valley of the Urakami River. The bomb had exploded over the center of the industrial area, not the densely populated residential area.

While their Superfort was being gassed, Sweeney and Ashworth commandeered a jeep and went to the base communications center to send a report to Tinian. They were refused permission to send such a message without the commanding general's personal permission. Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle had been newly sent to Okinawa to oversee the arrival of Eighth Air Force units from Europe to prepare them for future combat.

Doolittle, not privy to any of the A-bomb plans or operations, listened intently as Sweeney and Ashworth explained what had happened. Both men were nervous about telling a three-star general that they did not believe the bomb had hit the target directly. As they talked, Doolittle pulled out a map of Japan where they pointed out the industrial area over which they thought the bomb had exploded. Doolittle said, reassuringly, 'I'm sure General Spaatz will be much happier that the bomb went off in the river valley rather than over the city with the resulting much lower number of casualties.' He promptly authorized the communications section to send Sweeney's coded after-action report.

Sweeney and his crew, thoroughly exhausted, took off for Tinian after a three-hour layover, and arrived there about midnight. Sweeney received the Distinguished Service Cross as pilot-in-command. All of the other crew members received the Distinguished Flying Cross as 'members of a B-29 aircraft carrying the second atomic bomb employed in the history of warfare….Despite a rapidly dwindling gasoline reserve, they reached the target and released the bomb on the important industrial city of Nagasaki with devastating effect. The power of this missile was so great as to threaten the disintegration of the aircraft if it had been detonated while still in the bomb bay by a burst of flak, or a hit by enemy fighters, or if it was dropped while the B-29 was close to the ground, as might have occurred during engine failure.'

In his 1962 book, Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project, General Groves answered the question about the results of the Nagasaki mission: 'Because of the bad weather conditions at the target, we could not get good photo reconnaissance pictures until almost a week later. They showed 44 percent of the city destroyed. The difference between the results obtained there and at Hiroshima was due to the unfavorable terrain at Nagasaki, where the ridges and valleys limited the area of greatest destruction to 2.3 miles by 1.9 miles. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey later estimated the casualties at 35,000 killed and 60,000 injured.'

The force of the Fat Man explosion was estimated at 22,000 tons of TNT. The steep hills had confined the larger explosion. Although the industrial area had been flattened, it caused less loss of life than Little Boy.

The events that followed the Nagasaki mission happened quickly. Russia declared war on Japan on August 9. On that day, Emperor Hirohito spoke to the Japanese Supreme Council. 'I cannot bear to see my innocent people suffer any longer,' he said. 'Ending the war is the only way to restore world peace and to relieve the nation from the terrible distress with which it is burdened.'

The Japanese announced their acceptance of unconditional surrender on August 14. World War II officially ended at 10:30 a.m. Tokyo time, September 2, 1945, when Japanese emissaries signed the surrender document aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Although a few pumpkin bombing missions were flown by the 509th between the second A-bomb drop and the surrender announcement on August 14, for all practical purposes, the Nagasaki mission had ended the war. *


This article was written by C.V. Glines and originally published in the January 1997 issue of Aviation History.


For more great articles subscribe to Aviation History magazine today!


70 Responses to “World War II: Second Atomic Bomb That Ended the War”

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Brian Howard says:

    There appears a slight error in reporting that the plutonium bomb was armed while enroute to Nagasaki. According to Maj. Charles Sweeney, the Mission Commander, in his book, "The End of the War," the complex fusing of that bomb required that it be "live" even while being loaded into "Bock's Car." Thus, Tinian and all inhabitants were fully invested in a successful mission takeoff.

  3. 3
    mandy says:

    Why do they want to use the 2nd atomic bomb after they;ve used the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima; little boy.

    • 3.1
      zane maddock says:

      Their was a second bomb drooped because japan would have not surrendered from simply one bomb drop Truman wanted to end the war fast and that required a second bomb.

  4. 4

    [...] lives got transformed (hmm..) forever…. How it helped?? For starters, it brought the war to a rapid conclusion (has untill today prevented another one from happening), established the US as the International [...]

    • 4.1
      chris says:

      yeah and that same thing started the Cold War, terrorists are threatening to bomb America, North Korea wants to get rid of South Korea, and many other things… plus, the atomic bombs have gotten stronger and are capable of wiping out much more than half of a city. If one of those things land on the US, i have no idea what would happen

      • 4.1.1
        X says:

        if one land on usa anything in 10000 miles would be destroyed and for 5 weeks the air would be toxic

  5. 5
    julessss says:

    I have a question very similar to mandy's.
    Why would they threaten to use the second atomic bomb, instead of using the eliment of surprise?

    • 5.1
      Anonymous says:

      because the U.s did not want to seem totally inhumane and without a warning let millions of people die. They wanted to show how they were going to be civil and give the people time to save their lives by evacuating.

      • 5.1.1
        X says:

        that seems dum just tell the there army in 5 hours if they dont surrender they drop it it would be better plus about 70 percent of people where etheir joining the war or was in the war so just do it or wait five hours done

  6. 6
    Stewart Peterson says:

    mandy & julessss:

    To prove we had a second one. Japan had tried to build an A-bomb during the war and failed, and the people in charge of that program had pointed out after Hiroshima something to the effect that building these bombs was so difficult that the Americans probably didn't have another one. Indeed, we didn't have another one of the type that was dropped on Hiroshima–if we hadn't built Fat Man, the subsequent Allied demand that Japan surrender would have been pointless. Why would they surrender if we had no means to inflict further damage?

  7. 7
    Sophie says:

    The Atomic Bomb. Difficult to tell whether it was a good or bad creation. Yes, it did end World War II, but it killed hundreds of thousands of people in the proccess. Not only that, but since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there have been mass amounts of death, destruction, and national controversey over these bombs. But, who knows how long it would have taken for World War II to have ended without the Atomic Bomb. Some questions just can't really be answered.

  8. 8
    Eddie Bean says:

    hi my name is eddie Im 15 years old and I have a question
    when did world war 2 started and why please reply back at thank you

  9. 9
    Jacob says:

    How much longer the war would have lasted??

    Holy F***

    The war was already over and most of the war generals and advisors were begging for peace through neutral countries, but Truman decided to blow the Sh** off the Japanese, just because the first one was awesome.

    If he just waited after the first bombing and told them of the bigger, second bomb, they would have surrendered already.

    • 9.1
      Timmy says:

      He gave them a chance to surrender, and got no response

    • 9.2
      B Hammer says:

      The U.S.A told them to surrender but the Japanese won't do so.
      so that is why Truman decided to drop the next bomb.

      Sometimes i ask my self should we really have drop the bomb?
      then i think again and say it stopped world war 2.
      then i think again we should have not drop the little boy on hiroshima cause there were American solders and Britons solders died.
      So many ways you can see the war.
      War is Hell!!!!!!!!!!

      • 9.2.1
        chris says:

        plus the Soviet Union had entered the war so it was gonna end pretty soon without the bombs

  10. 10
    justine says:

    why did they choose to bomb inside the city rather than outside or at least on the outskirts…cause the damage and threaten Japan…then when they didnt surrender, bomb inside the city?

  11. 11
    Rey Faker says:

    The world wars wear deadly.
    It will never happen again.

    • 11.1
      Rocky says:

      We had 2 world wars because history repeats itself cause humans cant stand being wrong so they start a war to proof they are better. There is no telling if there will be another world war but never say never

      • 11.1.1
        daynee says:

        Ur SOOOOOOOO right… stupid people do stupid things to prove they r better than others… thankfully im not stupid…

  12. 12
    Tyler Paul says:

    whos the author?

  13. 13
    joe says:

    That iz bad

  14. 14
    Nigem says:

    By Jacob on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    why did they choose to bomb inside the city rather than outside or at least on the outskirts…cause the damage and threaten Japan…then when they didnt surrender, bomb inside the city?

    well because wasting millions of dollars wouldent be worth using outside a city right?

  15. 15

    3 MAH BN :




  16. 16
    Mack says:

    No MLA citation? Well that's okay, it's a good article.

  17. 17
    Raven E says:


  18. 18
    Raven E :) says:


  19. 19
    daynee says:

    what the hell… this is so stupid… i have a report on this and soooo much more and i hate research…

  20. 20
    ray says:

    The dropping of the bomb was not necessary it was cruel .

    • 20.1
      zane maddock says:

      it was not a nessesity but it was NOT pointless an estimated 1,000,000 American troops would have died that is not including Japanese soldiers that also would die in battle and an estimated 170,000 civilians would die. I've been researching this subject for a very long time and to say thier was a better way than the use of the atomic bomb is pure stupidity. My proof if the hundreds of thousands American that died fighting for Iwo Jima and Okinawa

      • 20.1.1
        chris says:

        ok maybe more american troops would have died, but that's what they were there for (not to die) but to defend America. the war definitely did come to an end quicker than it would have without using the bomb, BUT at what expense? the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent civilian deaths? It makes sense, but it was a very cruel thing to do

  21. 21
    Charles Sprinkles says:

    It ended the war!!! Read about Battan Death March, also about POWs treatment in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps!! Also if Japan had developed the Atomic Bomb first they woud have used ut on us!! Make no mistake about it!!!

    • 21.1
      Jack Rance says:

      I agree with Mr. Sprinkles. To those who fret about the damage inflicted on the Japanese by the A-bomb, I urge them to remember the rape of Nanking, the 150,000 Chinese killed in retaliation for the Doolittle Raid, "scientific experiments" inflicted on Chinese and U.S. POWs, the summary executions of American POWs. Well, I could go on. For sure, the Japs would never have indulged in much soul-searching about American losses if they had had the bomb first. Am I correct? Yes, of course I am. My entire family fought these guys in the last, greatest generation, and my uncle came back from the Pacific shell shocked and later died a drunk because of the trauma. Yes, I have sympathy for the individuals who died. But they died because of the decisions of their rulers, and their own blind support for those rulers. And they died at the hands of the Americans to end Jap aggression and unspeakable atrocities. It was deplorable but absolutely necessary. And finally, and the strongest argument: More of THEM died than US. In war — in the war the Japs started — that's what matters. So, get over it and get real.

  22. 22
    my name says:

    I understand why we wanted to end the war, but we only needed to drop one bomb, not two! that was just cruel!

  23. 23
    thea says:

    world war ll …..whattt …????? why did they drop the second bomb and should they have dropped it

  24. 24
    thea says:

    I dont think the second bomb should have been dropped!

  25. 25
    pablo gaxiola j.r says:

    i agree people that shouldn't have died 4 nothing

  26. 26
    pablo gaxiola j.r says:

    i'm sad cuz millions of people died cuz of Hitler ….. if he was still alive i would of killd him myself

  27. 27
    lucas cetra says:

    i aggre that the adam bomb should have not been droped on japan it was very wrong of the united states to do that

    • 27.1
      chuck cash says:

      like hell it was it saved millions of american lives and they were warned by leaflets the u.s. warned them in advance of the bombings and gave them a chance sarender?

  28. 28
    I will remain anonymous says:

    I do understand why the Americans would send the bombs, it was for the whole WORLD'S sake. Who knows, what if that didn't happen and the war was still going on today?? I betcha none of us would actually be alive and speaking right now! I know it was cruel and all of the people in America were probably disgraced, though. I read a book that the bombing of Pearl Harbor disgraced a lot of Japanese Americans.

  29. 29
    Clyde Hussey says:

    Opinions on a subject like this should be a result of detailed research.
    Many of the above are not. I suggest reading "The Last Mission of WWII" by Jim Smith and Malcomb McConnell and then see what you think about dropping the bombs.

    I returned from the last bombing mission over Japan on the morning of Aug 15th 1945, 6 days AFTER the 2nd atomic bomb was dropped.


    • 29.1
      chuck cash says:

      i dont thank any of us were alive then the people of japan were warned.about the bomb japan was warned of the bomb and it ended the war i thank its great that we dont
      japanes sorry about the spelling

  30. 30
    Grandson_of_bob says:

    I have original pictures of "Suicide Cliff" from Tinian island, where the major US airbase was. My grandfather loaded the first A-Bomb onto the Enola Gay, on Tinian Island. Suicide Cliff was named as such because when the island was being taken by US forces, the unarmed Japs, with no threat, began to throw their own children off the edge…right before they jumped themselves. It's estimated that over 300 japanese children alone were tossed over the cliff by their own parents and friends. They were brainwashed to think we were devils. We had to end that war with Japan.

    Second guessing the action of a country who was attacked on her own soil, who gave proper notification before the first and the second A-bomb, is silly, isn't it? Even my 4 year old could "Monday morning quarterback" impactful decisions like this after the fact instead of putting himself in the shoes of the citizens at the time, who barried loved-ones here in the US. Although he wouldn't; he's too smart for that.

  31. 31
    Grandson_of_bob says:

    The japanese would not surrender themsleves (or their children), as evidenced above. We had food and water for them, which is more then their own government gave them on those remote islands. However, the japanese government gave them orders to kill themselves rather then be prisoners of a democratic government. Think about that. Really think about that.

  32. 32
    Laurence says:

    whew…. why did the U.S did not drop the bomb in Tokyo… where the Emperor lives?…. to tell Japan that their intimidating power will not work … especially in the NANJING MASSACRE!.. Japanese were merciless in killing people… i suggest that would be a great lesson to Japanese military!!!

  33. 33
    your name says:

    That was good information

  34. 34
    Kqsdasf says:

    Answer to why the US dropped the second bomb: because one bomb obviously was not enough to do the job, which was to end the war. It was the emperor's fault for not being responsive enough to surrender after the first bomb. If we didn't drop the second bomb, then the first bomb would have been for nothing, because the war would continue.

  35. 35
    katie says:

    how has the atomic bomb changed world and american history today?

  36. 36
    Isabelle says:


  37. 37
    kenton says:


  38. 38
    LCDR KCK says:

    My great uncle was on a boat with an unknown number of companies who were all told they wouldn't be returning. Only after turning around they were told they were to be the first soldiers to land in Japan. These bombs and the Russian decloration saved his life. He is still alive in Lancaster PA and tells this story everytime we see him.

  39. 39
    Frank says:

    They should have dropped 2 on Tokyo.

  40. 40
    azib says:

    hey Americans,did your lord told you to kill people ??

  41. 41
    hellokitty says:

    i really dont get world war 2

  42. 42
    Paul Le says:

    The second bomb was necessary because the Japanese miscalculated that we only had one bomb and we found out about it via decoding the messages. They themselves had worked on the atomic bomb themselves but with the lack of resources and research, they had a very difficult time of perfecting it and therefore they decided that we only had one bomb and thus continued the war as usual. It was that same mistake that got them into thinking into action that Pearl Harbor should be attacked, because they thought we were very weak to fight back, only that they anger the sleeping giant.

    The second bomb was to give the Japanese impression that we had stockpiles of atomic bombs. In reality, we ran out of the bombs and more atomic bombs would be coming in the month of September. However, the Japanese decided of how many bombs we had and were going to employ, they decided not to take that chance of having their nation obliterated from the sky by the increasing lethality of the atomic bomb.

  43. 43
    Bruce the third N friends (#regan/bush84) says:

    WW2 WAS ESSEnTIAL TO OUR LIFES today. If it werent for wW2. we wouldnt be the; samE,

  44. 44
    m says:

    anybody know what happen to plane after dropping atomic bombs.
    did they escape blast radius or not??

  45. 45

    [...] Truman declares that the United States will use the A-bomb to get peace in [...]

  46. 46
    JR says:

    We dropped both the bombs to ensure obliteration of their military installations which they used to prepare bombs to kill us….we dropped two bombs because we were pissed does anyone recall Pearl Harbor occurring while their ambassador was in peace negotiations with US officials… They didn't even care about the fate of their own guy. If you need further convincing that we should have dropped two bombs please watch Tora…Tora….Tora! It is quite historically accurate. We dropped millions of leaflets over Japan warning civilians to evacuate cities located near the military installations so they had an opportunity to leave.

  47. 47
    JR says:

    For those who do not get World War II it is simple …..dictators attempting to take over what is not theirs and killing starving and torturing humans as a means to get that done. We as a free country do not take kindly to that as well as many other nations who joined with us in beating down those who would try to rule the world.

  48. 48
    JR says:

    PS my Dad was on Iwo Jima

  49. 49
    Trav says:

    I think the bombing was necessary because the Japanese refused to surrender. They had their famous suicide bombers and they were killing others, as well as themselves. And like many people said, they were given chances to surrender before the bombing, but yet refused.

  50. 50
    shaukat awan says:



    Interviewer : Abdul Ghaffar Aamir
    Daily Pakistan Observer Islamabad Pakistan
    Allama Muhammad Yousuf Gabriel, Well-known Critic, Scholar, Poet, Philosopher and Scientist. His life has been a life dedicated to study, (on the principle of knowledge for the sake of knowledge), and constant search for truth. He has vast knowledge of Science, Philosophy, Scriptures and History, and has a universal outlook.
    A symbol of Universal Peace, a Model of Simplicity, Sincerity and devotion, a Colossal Giant of Ancient and Modern Versatile Learning, a Philosopher, a Scientist , a Linguist, a Theologian A Poet, and Orator; Allama Yousuf Gabriel, has a Mission to save this world from the Nuclear Ruin " the painful and disgraceful atomic doom of Adamites" as he calls it. Claiming ordainment of his mission in a vision in 1942 he stands unique in the fact, that he has struggled for knowledge to this day without a teacher or a school and his intellectual achievement appears as an example unique in the history of intellect. He is born in Pakistan, but his English writings would be envied by many a great writer, and when he speaks, many an English philosophers would envy the vigour, the eloquency and sincerity with which he expresses his views. Yet until he speaks, you would consider him a shepherd contemporary of Francis Bacon or Charles Darwin. Following is the text of the interview which he kindly gave to us.
    Your date of Birth?
    17th February 1917. In Village Khabakki, Distt Khoshab, Valley Soan Sakaser in Awan Family. The date on which the world, according to Bible
    had seen the Noah's deluge. I was destined to see a deluge but with the difference that while Noah's deluge was of water, the world today expects a fiery deluge of Atomism.
    Your Mission?
    To warn this world about the dreadful hazards of nuclear fire, and to point out the causes of the appearance of the atomic hell, so that by the removal of the causes the effect would be removed. You will be surprised to know that the entire study is based on the Quran and is corroborated by Atomic Science and the Philosophy of Atomism. The Quran in its 104th Chapter named Al-Homaza, a Chapter which consists of the most 38 words, has characterized the Philosophy of Modern Atomism, and has characterized the nuclear Phenomenon, giving out the former as the cause of the latter in a way which is no possible for a human intellect. In fact, no modern Philosopher has hinted at the cause of the trouble as the Quran has, and no Scientist cold be so brief, yet so comprehensive and exact in characterizing the Nuclear Phenomenon as the Quran has. Bertrand Russell communicated to me his dismal surmise, saying, “Since Adam and Eve ate the apple, man has never abstained from any folly that he was capable of, and the end is the Atomic bomb". He affixed to his surmise an exquisite photograph of Atomic Bomb explosion. Yet how I miss Russell, I miss Einstein; I miss Sir James Jeans, who could really appreciate my work.
    How many pages contain this interpretation?
    Not pages, but volumes. Fifteen in English, known as “Gabriel’s Extinguishing the Atomic Hell Series". It exceeds in material as well as about both the major works of Darwin and Gibbon Following are the volumes in English:-
    1. Abridged edition of the Quranic Design of the Neutralizer of the Atomic hell. Pages 37.
    2. Baconian Hell that is the Atomic Hell and its Quranic Interpretation. Pages 72.
    3. The Quran Covers a Philosophy confined to the present day science. Pages 112.
    4. Quran Predicts and averts the atomic hell. Pages 500
    5. Atomic Energy for Peace a Curse. Pages 100.
    6. Quran versus Atomism, Ancient and Modern. Pages 500.
    7. An Essay on Bacon's Life in reference to his Philosophy. Pages 176.
    8. Quran versus Sir James Jean's “The Mysterious Universe" Pages 300
    9. Democritus enkindles, Abraham extinguishes the Atomic hell. Pages 230.
    10. Quran sounds its Nuclear Warning about the atomic hell. Pages 162.
    11.The Case of the Atomic-energy-for-peace in the Court of Lord Justice Science. Pages 30.
    12. Atomic hell, the logical Consequence of Baconian Philosophy. Pages 50.
    13. Atomic hell, Baconian Philosophy, Anti-Christ, Quran and Abraham. 23 pages.
    14. Relation between the Quran and the Bible. Pages 50.
    15. Gabriel’s Islamic Bomb. Pages 100.
    And there are fourteen volumes in Urdu that comprise the atomic topic, and four hundred articles published in the English and Urdu dailies and journals of Pakistan, America, Britain etc./ the economic systems of Islam , Capitalism and Communism in comparison, my poetical works and a few other volumes on various topics.
    You say, the Quran has treated the Philosophy of Atomism and Atomic Science, but the Quran is not a text book of Science, it is basically the book of Religion?
    There you are mistaken. The Quran has twice claimed to contain every example that is concerned with man. The Nuclear Havoc and the Nuclear Doom of mankind is the greatest problem ever faced by humanity. No doubt the Quran is not a text book of Science, but the Treatment of Atomic Science by the Quran is a marvel to open the eyes of a Physicist like Einstein.
    What do your volumes contain?
    A world in itself. The Quran has characterized the Philosophy of Atomism and has given out Hotama (the Atomic Hell) as its fruit and has scientifically characterized it in its 104th Chapter named as Homaza. It is the basis around which the entire relevant part of the Quran has revolved. The Quran's view about this modern Baconian, Science-guided, ever-increasing and Infinite Material Progress and its end is explained. The History of Atomism along with the parallel History of Religion is traced. The views of the early authentic, original commentators of the Quran about the chapter Al-Homaza are quoted. The Philosophical Chapter of Sir James Jeans, “The Mysterious Universe" is presented in a dialogue between the Quran and the Scientist. Quran itself speaks. The textual atomic science and relative part of Radio-biology is treated. The relation between the Quran and the Bible is also shown. And so on so forth.
    Have these volumes been published.
    Two books and two booklets are published by others are yet unpublished.
    My plan was to write all and then publish. I will now try.
    Will you easily get the publisher? Do you expect some difficulties?
    Difficulties. Yes. A great and universal as is the theme, and indeed various. Firstly the views of the Quran are radical and uncompromising with this peculiar culture of peculiar material progress, while the mankind is inextricably involved therein Secondly, the subject of Atomic Science is too complex and is completely known to a few even among the Atomists themselves. Thirdly, he pungency of the name of the Quran to the Non Muslim World, a world that owns the Scientists and Philosophers most capable of subjecting this work to scientific and philosophic scrutiny, while the world of Islam, the followers of the Quran involved in its won problems is being helplessly dragged behind the progressed nations towards the Atomic Hell. Fourthly, lack of my own means. Fifthly, retributive influence of the impending punishment for materialism which has hypnotized the humanity so that they would ignore my warning, nay even world not like to hear me. Yet it is my conviction that I will succeed in my mission.
    How do you know that you will succeed?
    I know because I was assigned this mission, recommended by Saint Al-Khedhr and approved by Abraham in a vision in Mussayyib a place in Iraq, in the year 1942, my 25th year, the year in which the Italian Physicist Enrico Fermi opened the gate of Atomic Hell on mankind by his successful realization of Uranium Fission Chain Reaction in Chicago, USA. I was then nearly an ignoramus, for, I had in my early years absconded from the School in disgust, never to return. But after the vision an irresistible urge for knowledge, knowledge for the sake of knowledge kept me to the year 1982 in incessant endeavour, day in day out like a man possessed. It was a painful ordeal which no John Bunyan could have a heart to narrate. Languages, Urdu, Persian, Arabic and English I learned. Literatures Histories, Philosophies, Sciences, Scriptures, Quran and Bible I learned to the highest order. All without a teacher or a school. There are hundreds yet alive who could witness that I had absconded from the School in my early years and thereafter I never went to a School. I continued my studies always along with my labor of livelihood. I discovered the subject of Hotama (the atomic hell) in the Quran in 1961. In 1972 I began to write till completion of my entire work.
    Supposing you fail to get your work published?
    Nothing could save a mankind that is being dragged straight to the atomic Johanna. The scientists have been led to the discovery of atomic bomb. The philosophers have not understood the real cause of the appearance of the atomic bomb. The philosophers and the scientists have made their appeals to mankind that were both vain and in vain. They appealed the mankind to forget their quarrels in order to avoid the atomic war. It was in vain, because the quarrels have increased. And it was vain, for the real cause lay somewhere else. My appeal to the mankind is to read my work and understand it and act according to it and save themselves and their posterity from the painful and disgraceful doom in nuclear fire.
    Do you not think, it is primarily the duty of the Muslims to publish a work which is based on the Quran?
    You are not wrong. And if the Muslim Ummah realizing their duty would like to arrange the publication of this work, they could do it in no time. It in no time. There is strong, deep-rooted faith in and love for the Quran in the heart of Muslims and there are wealthy oil Sheikhs, there are millionaires, there are governments, yet the Non-Muslims world too could not feign indifference in this matter. They to are equally involved in the net and there is no other way out except this one.
    Any message or advice?
    Yes. Teach every one the hazards of Atomic Fire. Let them know and then decide in favour or against it. The greatest fact which I have t communicate to this mankind is that because the sins given out by he Quran for the punishment in Hotama hell of the next world, and the causes of the appearance of the Atomic hell on earth are the same, therefore they who deserved the punishment in this present atomic Hell, even if they escaped it, they will find the eternal Hotama hell awaiting them in the next world. And the Atomic Hell of this world is the representation of the Hotama hell of the next world. Terrible Indeed. Will they then not consider?
    Adara Afqar e Gabriel QuaideAzam Street Nawababad Wah Cantt Distt Rawalpindi

Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy