World War II: Second Atomic Bomb That Ended the War | HistoryNet

World War II: Second Atomic Bomb That Ended the War

6/12/2006 • Aviation History, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Premium

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.

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

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