Japan // Kyushu //

August 9, 1945


In the early twentieth century Nagasaki became an important naval base with huge munitions factories, which made it an obvious target for America’s second atomic bomb in 1945. Even so, it was only poor visibility at Kokura, near Fukuoka, that forced the bomber, critically short of fuel, south to Nagasaki. The weather was bad there too, but as the Bock’s Car B-29 bomber flew down the Urakami-gawa at 11am on August 9, a crack in the cloud revealed a sports stadium just north of the factories and shipyards. A few moments later “Fat Boy” exploded. It’s estimated that over 70,000 people died in the first seconds, rising to 140,000 from radiation exposure by 1950, while 75,000 were injured and nearly forty percent of the city’s houses destroyed in the blast and its raging fires. Horrific though these figures are, they would have been higher if the valley walls hadn’t contained the blast and a spur of hills shielded southern Nagasaki from the worst. An American naval officer visiting the city a few weeks later described his awe at the “deadness, the absolute essence of death in the sense of finality without resurrection. It’s everywhere and nothing has escaped its touch.” But the city, at least, did rise again to take its place with Hiroshima as a centre for anti-nuclear protest and hosts many ardent campaigns for world peace.

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