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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cool Japanese Photo #4 - 1945 Nagasaki

I would assume that nowadays, weaponry that contains fissionable material is safe to move around, as the shell is probably lead-lined and will stop radioactivity from coming out to harm people within its environment.

And… while I know this is 1945, and the dawn of the atomic age is about to unloaded in all its gory upon first Hiroshima and then Japan, it still blows my mind that the two US military personnel involved in the transportation of the Fat Man bomb bound for Nagasaki are not better protected… like maybe wearing an Army regulation shirt…

I mean, you almost expect the guy staring at the camera man to have a cigarette dangling from his lips.

This is another one of those photographs that is supposedly never seen, or more likely, rarely seen by the public. I have no idea who owns it, who took the image and why it was being distributed around the Internet to fall into my hands. 

The photo shows the Fat Man atomic bomb being transported towards the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, nicknamed Bockscar that will, in a few days, drop its payload upon an unsuspecting city of Nagasaki, killing between 45,000-75,000 people in the initial blast… and an estimated 80,000 deaths over all in the next few days…

This Nagasaki bomb, pictured above was more powerful than the one used on Hiroshima, but because of the location of its detonation confined by hillsides to the narrow Urakami Valley, it did not kill as many as in Hiroshima days earlier where an immediate 70,000–80,000 people were killed with an additional 70,000 injured.
Here's the Fat Man exploding over Nagasaki... photo courtesy of the US National Archives.
The nickname Fat Man refers generically to the early design of the bomb, which was also known as the Mark III. Fat Man was an implosion-type nuclear weapon with a plutonium core.

The Fat Man had a fission of one kilogram (2.2 lb) of the 6.19 kilograms (13.6 lb) of plutonium contained, which was expected—( in the pit, i.e. of about 17% of the fissile material present. 1 gram (0.035 oz) of matter in the bomb is converted into the active energy of heat and radiation, releasing the energy equivalent to the detonation of 21 kilotons of TNT or 88 terajoules. The explosion is said to have generated heat estimated at 3,900°C (7,050°F) and winds that were estimated at 1,005km/h (624mph).

A ground view photo of the atomic bomb exploding over Nagasaki. Photo courtesy of Corbis.
The Little Boy atomic bomb that exploded Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 was a uranium-based weapon (uranium-235) that exploded with an energy of 16 kilotons of TNT (67 terajoules).

Say what you will about why the U.S. should not have used such a terrible weapon (twice), but it officially believes that with the U.S. and her allies winning the Pacific Theater battles, an eventual invasion of Japan would need to take place… one in which the Allies were afraid would involve a never-say-surrender attitude from the notoriously stubborn Japanese who would, it was felt, begin utilizing its common citizenry to sneak attack Allied troops.

Therefore… to avoid large allied losses and losses to Japan's non-military personnel via a ground-based attack, the U.S reasoned that an atomic bomb or two would bring Japan's leaders to its collective senses and end the war.

It did.

A Japanese survivor of the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki. I know... holy fug... photo courtesy of Corbis/
And, even though the two atomic bombs killed some 160,000 Japanese people—including women and children and the elderly, the actions are justified by the Allies as that an invasion force on land would have killed the same number of Japanese and a large number of American and allied soldiers—not to mention the cost of running a war.

Plus they had already built the bomb, so why not use it rather than let it go to waste.? I'm being sarcastic.

This elementary school in Nagasaki took a beating, but it's one of the few buildings still standing... though it is highly doubtful anyone inside survived the heat and radiation. Photo courtesy of Corbis. 
Two more Fat Man bombs were detonated during the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Some 120 Fat Man units were produced between 1947 and 1949, when it was superseded by the Mark IV nuclear bomb. The Fat Man was retired in 1950.

Cool photos - well, they are regardless of the topic, as they are an excellent reminder of just how insane war is. As an aside, I do wonder what the incidence of cancer was amongst the U.S. military personnel who worked with the bombs, not knowing the 'fallout' from being around it?

Have you ever wondered how someone decommisions an atomic or nuclear weapon? 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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