Role in Japan’s war machine made Hiroshima targets of Nagasaki’s A-bomb

The United States dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the closing days of World War II, nearly 77 years ago. Another town, Kokura, was also a target, although the industrial town, now part of Kitakyushu, eventually had a chance to escape.

A common denominator among these three cities is that they grew through their role in supporting Japan’s war efforts, and in each of them are individuals dedicated to passing on the history of their hometown to succeeding generations. so that tragedies do not repeat themselves.

August 6, 1945 marked the first time a nuclear weapon was used as an offensive weapon in human history. The uranium bomb nicknamed ‘Little Boy’ was dropped from a B-29 bomber and exploded over central Hiroshima at 8.15am, decimating the city and killing an estimated 140,000 by the end of this year .

Photo taken on May 3, 2022 shows the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. (Kyōdo) == Kyōdo

Hiroshima developed as a military capital with clusters of troops and facilities after the Imperial Japanese Army stationed the 5th Division there during the Meiji era (1868-1912). The port of Ujina served as a gateway for troops and a major hub for the movement of collected materiel across the country for shipment to battlefields outside Japan.

According to the summary of a meeting at the US government’s Target Committee, where possible atomic bomb targets were discussed, Hiroshima was assessed as “an important military depot and shipping port in the middle of an urban industrial area. “.

“It is a good radar target and its size is such that much of the city could be badly damaged,” the document said.

Eiji Takebayashi, an associate professor at Hiroshima University of Economics, teaches about the history of the Hiroshima War and visits era-related places, including a former army food factory, to reflect on it with his students.

Eiji Takebayashi, an associate professor at Hiroshima University of Economics, stands in front of the former Imperial Japanese Army food factory in Hiroshima, western Japan, July 20, 2022. (Kyodo)

“The atomic bomb was dropped in the course of the war. We should shine a light on the city’s history as a military capital so as not to repeat it,” Takebayashi said.

We now know that after Hiroshima, Kokura was the next target. A B-29 bomber loaded with a plutonium bomb reached the skies over Kokura three days later on August 9, but poor visibility forced the aircraft to head for its secondary target, Nagasaki.

According to an official history compiled by the city of Kitakyushu, the target was the Kokura Army’s arsenal. It was an ammunition factory that manufactured small arms, ammunition and explosive balloons. The US military had targeted the city in Fukuoka Prefecture early in the planning process.

Yukihiko Shigenobu, director of the Kitakyushu City Peace Museum, says US strategy has evolved over time from destroying factories to “destroying the cities themselves”.

Yukihiko Shigenobu, director of the Kitakyushu City Peace Museum, gives an interview on July 20, 2022 in Kitakyushu, southwest Japan. (Kyodo)

The final phase of the war saw indiscriminate bombing of Japanese cities, the well-known example of which was the bombing of Tokyo in March 1945.

“The logic behind them was to crush the will to continue the war by burning the lives and livelihoods of non-combatants along with their history. The atomic bombing was probably its logical extension,” Shigenobu said.

The B-29 heading for Nagasaki dropped the “Fat Man” at 11:02. Its detonation at around 500 meters above the ground claimed around 74,000 lives by the end of that year.

Nagasaki was targeted “probably because it had flourished as a military port and as a town of munitions industry after Mitsubishi set up its factories there”, Noboru Sakiyama, director of the Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum, told Nagasaki.

Noboru Sakiyama, director of the Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum in Nagasaki, gives an interview on July 11, 2022, in Nagasaki, southwest Japan. (Kyodo)

The conglomerate’s munitions factory that produced torpedoes and a shipyard where the Yamato Musashi-class battleship was built were all in Nagasaki. The city also had a thriving coal industry.

“If a military base or installation is built, that place will be the first target of attack in the event of war. Having a munitions industry makes money, but it is the citizens who suffer in the end,” said Sakiyama, who is the son of survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bombing.

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