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COUNTDOWN TO HIROSHIMA: August 4, 1945 (X Minus 2 Days) | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

COUNTDOWN TO HIROSHIMA: August 4, 1945 (X Minus 2 Days)

Sixty-six years ago at the end of July and early August, US policymakers and President Truman made fateful decisions that meant the use of two atomic bombs against Japanese cities was almost inevitable—virtually unstoppable. Then film footage and other evidence of the true effects of the bomb were suppressed for decades. We’ve been living with the nuclear after-effects ever since, from Hiroshima to Fukushima.

Starting July 25, and related to publication of my new book and e-book Atomic Cover-up, on that film’s suppression, I began offering a daily record of what transpired leading up the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. (For more, including video, see my personal blog.  Or contact me at epic1934@aol.com)

On this day in 1945:

—On Tinian, Little Boy is ready to go, awaiting word on weather, with General LeMay to make the call. With the weather clearing near Hiroshima, still the primary target, taking off the night of August 5 appears the most likely scenario. Secretary of War Stimson writes of a “troubled” day due to the uncertain weather, adding: “The S-1 operation was postponed from Friday night [August 3] until Saturday night and then again Saturday night until Sunday.”

—Hiroshima remains the primary target, with Kokura #2 and Nagasaki third.

—Paul Tibbets, pilot of the lead plane, the Enola Gay, finally briefs others in the 509th Composite Group  who will take part in the mission at 3 pm. MIlitary police seal the building. Tibbets reveals that they will drop immensely powerful bombs, but the nature of the weapons are not revealed, only that it is “something new in the history of warfare.” When weaponeer Deke Parsons says, “We think it will knock out almost everything within a three-mile radius,” the audience gasps. Then he tries to show a film clip of the recent Trinity test—but the projector starts shredding the film. 

Parsons adds, “No one knows exactly what will happen when the bomb is dropped from the air,” and he distributes welder’s glasses for the men to wear. But he does not relate any warnings about radioactivity or order them not to fly through the mushroom cloud.

—On board the ship Augusta steaming home for the USA after the Potsdam meeting, President Truman relaxes and plays poker with one of the bomb drop’s biggest booster, Secretary of State Jimmy Byrnes. Truman’s order to use the bomb had simply stated that it could be used any time after August 1 so he had nothing to do but watch and wait. The order included the directive to use a second bomb, as well, without a built-in pause to gauge the results of the first and the Japanese response—even though the Japanese were expected, by Truman and others, to push surrender feelers, even without the bomb, with Russia’s entry into the war on August 7.

Greg Mitchell’s new book (also out as an e-book) is Atomic Cover-Up: Two US Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made. He also co-authored, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.  Email: epic1934@aol.com

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