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Aug 9, 2018 · Last update 2 mo. ago.

Why did America choose to target Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

What was behind this decision?
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America wanted to test this new weapon on a human population
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Hiroshima and Nagasaki were big manufacturing and military strongholds in the Second World War
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Bigger cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto weren’t targets as they were not militarised
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The original targets were actually Hiroshima and Kokura
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America wanted to test this new weapon on a human population

America could have targeted a non-civilian or low population area to demonstrate the power of this new weapon to the Japanese forces, instead they chose to drop the bomb on two highly populated urban areas without warning. The intent can only have been to observe the damage caused on a real life population of a city. That makes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki more reminiscent of a weapons test, as they could have equally followed earlier military thinking of dropping these bombs on famous uninhabited Japanese land marks, such as Mt. Fuji. The cover up of the scale of the bombing in Japan for decades after the War is a further demonstration of American guilt and recognition of the scale of this unacceptable war crime.

Hiroshima shockingly demonstrates this, it had not been targeted during the conventional bombing of the US Air Force, and was regarded as a suitable place to test the effects of an atomic bomb. According to Alex Wellerstein, historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology, "Hiroshima is compact, if you put a bomb like this in the middle of it, you end up destroying almost the entirety of the city" [1]. At the time of the atomic bombing Nagasaki was the site of an Allied prisoner of war camp. Targeting this area with an atomic bomb shows not only the American’s appetite for destruction but also the complete lack of empathy and disregard for the Allied captive soldiers. Nagasaki was otherwise a major port and site of engine and torpedo manufacture, but not to the scale of Hiroshima or Kokura. Even Japan has since compensated British POW’s for their experience during the atomic bombing, when will America stand up on this issue?

Yokohama on the other hand was removed from the atomic bombing shortlist, as it had been heavily damaged following a conventional firebombing campaign. America wanted to see the effects of this new weapons for what they were and this would be difficult in heavily damaged cities. Under the pretence, and propaganda, of saving lives by discouraging Japan from continuing the war, America purposefully tested atomic bombs on civilians in cities unscathed by the war, willing to completely eradicate the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The US even sent observing planes to detail the destruction, this was clearly a weapons test, definitely a war crime and arguably genocide, this should be remembered as such by all sides, and reparations should be made.

bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a6652262.shtml#:~:text=Hiroshima%20was%20chosen%20because%20it,also%20an%20important%20military%20base. [1] npr.org/2015/08/06/429433621/why-did-the-u-s-choose-hiroshima newyorker.com/tech/elements/nagasaki-the-last-bomb telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10235314/British-POWs-who-survived-Nagasaki-bomb-sought-for-compensation-offer.html

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D H
Sep 15
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DH edited this paragraph
America could have targeted a non-civilian or low population area to demonstrate the power of this new weapon to the Japanese forces, instead they chose to drop the bomb on two highly populated urban areas without warning. The intent can only have been to observe the damage caused on a real life population of a city. That makes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki more reminiscent of a weapons test, as they could have equally followed earlier military thinking of dropping these bombs on famous uninhabited Japanese land marks, such as Mt. Fuji. The cover up of the scale of the bombing in Japan for decades after the War is a further demonstration of American guilt and recognition of the scale of this unacceptable war crime.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were big manufacturing and military strongholds in the Second World War

America had already bombed Tokyo so badly there wasn’t much left to bomb there. Hiroshima, which was largely untouched by the US air force's fire bombing campaign thus far, was the centre of Japanese shipping and housed large military supply depots at the time. Nagasaki was the home to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries one of the main centres of steel and arms manufacture, and the dockyards at Nagasaki were the site for Japanese Navy’s ship building factories. Both cities represented major strategic targets for the Allies during the war and hence became the sites of the Atomic Bombing campaign.

Hiroshima, being the first main target, was the site of most military significance to the Americans. Hiroshima was home to the headquarters of the Second General Army, Chūgoku Regional Army, and the Army Marines in Ujina Port. The city housed large warehouses containing ammunition and supplies and was also a key port for Japan. Hiroshima, with its wealth of factories and facilities, was one of the main military targets the Americans could have chosen.

Similarly, Nagasaki was home to an extensive shipbuilding industry, since the Meiji period the city had become the centre of Japanese heavy industry, especially shipbuilding, being controlled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a prime contractor of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Nagasaki Harbour was a target of great military importance as both naval and merchant ships were repaired here, and two munitions factories, the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Torpedo Works and several other factories were located nearby. In addition 90% of the cities inhabitants were employed to work in the port's storage and shipping facilities, making the city's civilians directly part of the war effort, making Nagasaki such a major target in the American atomic bombing campaign.

npr.org/2015/08/06/429433621/why-did-the-u-s-choose-hiroshima latestly.com/lifestyle/festivals-events/if-i-had-foreseen-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-i-would-have-torn-up-my-formula-in-1905-albert-einstein-1952194.html web.archive.org/web/20041011111052/http://www.nuclearfiles.org/redocuments/1946/460619-bombing-survey1.html

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DH edited this paragraph
Similarly, Nagasaki was home to an extensive shipbuilding industry, since the Meiji period the city had become the centre of Japanese heavy industry, especially shipbuilding, being controlled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a prime contractor of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Nagasaki Harbour was a target of great military importance as both naval and merchant ships were repaired here, and two munitions factories, the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Torpedo Works and several other factories were located nearby. In addition 90% of the cities inhabitants were employed to work in the port's storage and shipping facilities, making the city's civilians directly part of the war effort, making Nagasaki such a major target in the American atomic bombing campaign.

Bigger cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto weren’t targets as they were not militarised

During the time that the atomic bombing of Japan was being deliberated, Tokyo was no longer a major target because it wasn’t a major military stronghold, but also due to the heavy destruction already waged there with conventional bombing tactics. Operation Meetinghouse was the name given to the US air raid campaign carried out against Tokyo, it is widely recognised as the most destructive bombing raid in human history. Even Truman made a note in his diary at the time of the atomic bombings expressing his disapproval of bombing Kyoto and Tokyo, as he intended “the target [to] be a purely military one”. [1]

Likewise Truman considered Kyoto as off of the target short list, writing that the city, widely known as the cultural capital of the country - being the old capital of Japan, should be spared the atomic bomb. In spite of the widespread destruction caused by the atomic bomb and its capacity to kill so many civilians Truman seemed somewhat unaware, or possibly misinformed. From his own writings he didn't seem aware of the scale such bombs would have, writing "military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children" [1]. It seems at least by Truman's own justifications that the smaller cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the most likely targets to cause the maximum military and minimum civilian damage.

Tokyo and Kyoto were seen by Truman as the opposite, and he seemed willing to overlook the fact that the civilian rich Tokyo had already been raised to the ground by conventional weapons. Truman justified this by stating: "even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto] or the new [Tokyo]" [1]. Despite this Truman and the American military seem the most savage, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, choosing to spread the destruction already waged on Tokyo by fire-bombing campaigns to the largely untouched cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the name of minimising casualties.

wired.com/2011/03/0309incendiary-bombs-kill-100000-tokyo patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2019/07/declassified-1945-documents-regarding-nuclear-strikes.html [1] trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/fulltext.php?fulltextid=151

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D H
Sep 15
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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.wired.com/2011/03/0309incendiary-bombs-kill-100000-tokyo/ https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2019/07/declassified-1945-documents-regarding-nuclear-strikes.html [1] https://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/fulltext.php?fulltextid=151

The original targets were actually Hiroshima and Kokura

Although Nagasaki has become infamous as the site of the second atomic bombing of Japan, the proposed site of this bombing was actually Kokura. The bombing of Hiroshima originally had a secondary target location of Kokura, in case the pilot was unable to accurately locate Hiroshima. On August 9th 1945 the Americans planned to bomb Kokura with Nagasaki as a secondary target following the pilot's inability to locate Kokura.

On August 9th 1945, just three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, a B-29 bomber took off from a US air-base in the East Pacific island of Tinian at 3:47 am. This American warplane was carrying a five tonne nuclear bomb the US military had dubbed “the fat man”. The plane arrived over Kokura at 10:45 am, but due to the level of smoke coverage from the firebombing of neighbouring city of Yahata the previous day, the crew were unable to clearly locate Kokura’s military arsenal, the specific target for the bombing. After forty-five minutes of circling Kokura trying to locate their target the pilot set course for the secondary target of Nagasaki.

Having thus far been airborne for 8 hours, the B29 entered Nagasaki airspace with only two hours of fuel left, and conditions were not clear above Nagasaki either. However a break in cloud cover allowed for clear sight of the targeted Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works, the bomb was dropped and detonated at 11:02 am. While Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura, and Niigata were all shortlisted as candidate cities for the atomic bombing of Japan, it was actually a quick change in weather that allowed Nagasaki to join Hiroshima as the site of one of the most tragic war crimes in history.

newyorker.com/tech/elements/nagasaki-the-last-bomb nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-kokura-nagasaki-american-luck-20200809-766brxwpbjdhjgpi7s633elo5u-story.html blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2014/08/22/luck-kokura worldwarwings.com/how-the-second-atomic-bomb-missed-its-true-target

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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/nagasaki-the-last-bomb https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-kokura-nagasaki-american-luck-20200809-766brxwpbjdhjgpi7s633elo5u-story.html http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2014/08/22/luck-kokura/ https://worldwarwings.com/how-the-second-atomic-bomb-missed-its-true-target/
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