Hiroshima, Japan August 6, 1945, an intense flash gives way to a huge mushroom cloud that rises over the city, followed by a fireball that destroys five square miles and results in 140,000 deaths. The devastation was the result of the atomic bomb dropped by the B-29 bomber Enola Gay piloted by then Colonel Paul Tibbets. In 2000, Tibbits told NPR about the bombing:
“We all got ready for the final bomb run,” Tibbets told author Bob Greene on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition during an interview on Aug. 4, 2000. “I gave them the countdown; I did the seconds. Then, the next thing that happened, the bomb had left the air plane and we all went into a very steep turn . . . We made our turn, we leveled out, and at the time that that happened I saw the sky in front of me light up brilliantly with all kinds of colors.”
“At the same time I felt the taste of lead in my mouth. And where we had seen the city on the way in, I (now) saw nothing but a bunch of boiling debris with fire and smoke and all of that kind of stuff. It was devastating to take a look at it.”
Tibbits, who retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general in 1966, never expressed any regret about the bombing. He told NPR that the suggestion that the atomic attack was morally wrong was “hogwash”:
I thought to myself, Gee, if we can be successful, we’re going to prove to the Japanese the futility in continuing to fight because we can use those weapons on them. They’re not going to stand up to this thing. After I saw what I saw I was more convinced that they’re gonna quit.
Japan didn’t surrender immediately, and three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan. The Japanese surrendered shortly thereafter, ending the war.
In 1997, Tibbits met Mitsuo Fuchida, who became a U.S. citizen after the war, led the devastating surprise Japanese air strike on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The two men talked briefly about their roles in the war and Fuchida told Tibbets, that he did what he was supposed to do. He said ‘”the Japanese understand what you did more than Americans ever will.”
Today Japan marks the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by renewing calls for a nuclear weapons free world and urging leaders to follow the example of President Barack Obama and visit the bomb sites. It may be a good idea for people to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, those visits should start at the USS Arizona Memorial.
Yes, remember Hiroshima, but remember Pearl Harbor Day as well.
Image Credit: 1. Bomb blasts: By Nagasakibomb.jpg: The picture was taken by Charles Levy from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.Atomic_cloud_over_Hiroshima.jpg: Personel aboard Necessary Evilderivative work: Binksternet (talk) – Nagasakibomb.jpgAtomic_cloud_over_Hiroshima.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12204929 2. USS Arizona Memorial: By DoD photo by: PH3(AW/SW) JAYME PASTORIC, USN