Sunday, August 9, 2015

The bomb that ended the war

Today is the 70th anniversary of the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. This time, the target was Nagasaki, a shipbuilding and repair center. The bomb, codenamed “Fat Man,” was delivered on a B-29 flown by Maj. Charles Sweeney and his crew.

The first atomic bomb on Hiroshima demonstrated America’s capability to deliver massive destruction. This second bomb proved the U.S. capable of repeating the destruction as often as it took to bring about Japan’s surrender.

In a radio address on this date, President Harry Truman spoke to the American people and also warned Japan:
[W]e knew that our enemies were on the search for [the bomb]. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster, which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first. 
That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production. 
We won the race of discovery against the Germans. Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. 
We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
The response came quickly. Emperor Hirohito and Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki decided to seek an immediate peace with the Allies. On August 15, the emperor announced his country’s surrender in a radio broadcast. The formal surrender ceremony came on September 2.

My dad, stationed on board the USS Hector in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, got news of the second bomb while at work on another ship. Like the report on August 6, he remembered a lot of celebration:
I was on another ship when I learned about the second A-bomb. After a lot of shouting the crew also quit for the day.
Sources: Frank L. Dolan’s personal account; Commander Service Squadron 10 War Diary, August 1945; “The American Experience” (

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The first atomic bomb over Japan

Today's date marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, the first of 2 of these weapons used against Japan. The destructive blast obliterated everything within a 2-mile radius and caused unimaginable destruction over 5 square miles of the city.

As the leader of the United States, President Harry S. Truman made the final decision. The alternative favored by MacArthur and other top military advisors, was a massive invasion of the Japanese homeland. However, the projected cost of such an operation was a staggering million Allied causalities.

Hiroshima was the chosen target since it had been largely untouched by recent bombing raids, and it also provided the U.S. a location where the bomb's effects could be measured. While Truman preferred a strictly military target, some of his advisers believed that destroying an urban area would break the enemy’s will to continue the fight. Hiroshima was a strategic military target, as well. It provided a major port and supported a military headquarters.

The bomb, codenamed “Little Boy,” was dropped on Hiroshima from a B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay, flown by Col. Paul Tibbets. This was the first nuclear weapon used in wartime. “Little Boy” was quickly followed three days later when the plutonium bomb, "Fat Man," was detonated over Nagasaki.

My dad, Frank Dolan, was stationed on Saipan, neighboring the island of Tinian where the bomb was assembled and from where the B-29s took off. He remembered well when the announcement came of the successful bombing of Hiroshima:
I was with a crew on a ship doing welding. At the announcement, all the men threw up their hats in rejoicing. And, they quit work for the day!